No rest - Curry, Warriors hope to get back on track against Pacers
Also: Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, and the hole at center for Golden State
The Golden State Warriors are hoping that Klay Thompson will be available for their next home game; and Stephen Curry is within moments of setting a new all-time record. So the distractions are there.
The Warriors are off to a strong start and have vaunted into the championship tier after taking a couple of season off - but that does not mean that they’ve been without their struggles. Late game scoring, shot creation, and the lack of true center size have all been evident in the rare losses this season.
They’re starting off a back-to-back with a couple of early Eastern time zone games today. First up: the Indiana Pacers, a team with two solid centers (both of which have been tied to Golden State via the rumor mill).
On the injury front, Andre Iguodala returned after missing about two weeks… and now he’s right back out. Hopefully he can get that knee right and fully return shortly.
The only other update is a non-update. Looks like Curry won’t be getting that rumored day of rest after all.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (21-5) at Indiana Pacers (12-16)
WHEN: Monday, December 13, 2021 // 4:30 pm PDT
The hole(?) at center
As final final pieces fell into place this offseason, it became clear the the Warriors weren’t going to be filling the vacancy at center. They passed on Marquese Chriss, James Wiseman is still working his way back from knee surgery, and they chose to use their marginal roster spots on Chiozza and Gary Payton II. It’s left a hole at center that they’ve been plugging up admirably with a combination of Kevon Looney, Draymond Green with spot duty from Juan Toscano-Anderson, Nemanja Bjelica - and it’s mostly worked.
They’ve got the second-best rebound percentage, the league’s best Defensive Rating, and the best Net Rating. But still… When they run into one of the handful of players that can punish them for not having interior size, it’s jarring. And with Wiseman still an unknown commodity, people have started talking.
These Pacers are at the center of the swirling rumors after ham-fistedly hanging up a “For Sale” sign on their door. The Warriors swung right back, leaning on Front Office friend, Tim Kawakami to publish their rebuttal, saying Wiseman factors heavily in their future plans and stating that they are “absolutely not trading him.”
There will always be rumors floating or suggestions made that the Warriors can get better immediately if they put Wiseman on the trade market. Good players will become available that might fit the Warriors’ style. Nobody is sure what Wiseman can give the Warriors this season while they strive for the fourth title of this era. But the Warriors aren’t trading Wiseman. They absolutely are not.
Fans of any sport love to fantasize about fixing their favorite team’s roster, and the NBA community is no different.
Both Sabonis and Turner would help the team now, but these trade values are inherently linked not just to what the Warriors receive, but what they send out.
Andrew Wiggins has cemented his place here. Any deal that sends him out will be leaving a massive hole on the wing. And the same goes for Jordan Poole - who will surely find his name tossed into all sorts of trade demands based on his emergence this season.
Otherwise it’s largely contingent on a team like the Pacers desperately wanting to start a rebuild with a few recent Warriors’ lottery picks.
The opportunity cost — what it takes to entice the other team to pull the trigger — is going to be high. Let’s not forget that the non-Curry minutes have stabilized for the first time since Obama was President.
It’s been said that the Warriors losses have all come down to offense rather than defense. Against Joel Embiid (probably one of two or three big bigs that can meaningfully punish an undersized team), the Warriors were in that last game through the midpoint of the 4th quarter.
So even if we can imagine a player/trade that helps improve the Warriors immediately, it’s important to be cognizant of what it’s going to take away. Golden State seems way more comfortable than I was going into the season without a large center, and maybe they’re on to something - their top-ranked defense supports that stance.
Look at their Four Factors rank profiles, via Basketball Reference:
Top defense, elite defensive rebounding, and a defense that forces a ton of turnovers while also holding opponents to the second-lowest effective Field Goal percentage. This approach is working. Don’t let the occasional failures make you nervous. Not with Thompson on the horizon.
Kevon Looney and Bjelica have both taken some heat for their perceived shortcomings, but check out the rebounding rate. Looney is pulling down 13 rebounds per 36 minutes. Cleaning the Glass has Looney is the 71st percentile in defensive rebounding rate, and the 91st in offensive rebounding.
Finally, note the other names that pull down a lot of rebounds. Kuminga in particular is a player that may be ready to contribute in the near term should the team ever feel an urgent need for reinforcements down low.
And much like Thompson’s return, the resumption of Wiseman’s career is something that the Warriors are comfortable waiting on. Comfort aside, the Warriors are still winning lots of games as currently constructed.
This is going to be a challenge. The Pacers have won three of their last five, and between Sabonis and Turner, they’re exactly the type of structural challenge that has so many in Dub Nation wishing for better options at the center position. All told though? The Warriors are a much better team. Curry is closing in on that record, which seems to be clogging up the entire offense. Keep plugging away, Warriors. Help is coming.