Plan Z: Warriors continue on without Curry, Wiseman
After three days off, Golden State takes on Spurs amidst roster issues
The Golden State Warriors return to action after a nice three day break, with the end of the season clearly in sight but plenty of obstacles between them and their goals. Stephen Curry’s leg is mostly okay, but reports are that he’s going to be out for most, if not all, of the rest of the regular season. So that sucks.
Curry is the primary issue, but far from the only one. Moses Moody is nursing a sore shoulder, Andre Iguodala is so far from playing that no one even includes him in the injury updates any more. And now, another significant setback in the career of James Wiseman.
“Status beyond uncertain.”
WHO: Golden State Warriors (47-23) vs. San Antonio Spurs (27-44)
WHEN: Sunday, March 20th, 2022 // 5:30pm PDT
Forget about Wiseman (for now)
As disheartening as the news is about James Wiseman, it probably doesn’t matter all that much for the contending Warriors. Wiseman was down in the G League working on simple things like conditioning, and catching the basketball. Similar to the idea of bringing on some out of work seven footer, Golden State could clear some room on the roster, but if the newcomer isn’t better than Jonathan Kuminga or Nemanja Bjelica then the front office is unlikely to eat the millions of dollars that it would take.
There will be plenty of time for hand wringing and second guessing later. Everyone knows that the front office built this season’s roster around the assumption that Wiseman would return at some point, that his value would be assessed and playtime adjusted appropriately — and the place holders have withstood the strain of covering the center position well enough.
The sliding scale has slid back often enough that Wiseman’s return was reduced to a freebie. Not ready by preseason, or the start of the regular season, or even Christmas. All the rumored return dates had breezed past and as impressive as the occasional glimpses were, there was plenty of rust.
Long term? It’s concerning.
The history book of big men with knee injuries early in their careers doesn’t have a happy ending. Wiseman will make $9.6 million next year and then the team holds an option for around $12 million in the final season of his rookie scale contract. It’s all part of the math, but for a team that we just spent the last breath talking about not bringing in a new minimum contract because of the cost, it’s going to matter; and the stakes on Wiseman are much higher.
But for now? Just forget it and move on.
Curry’s absence is the much bigger issue. According to Cleaning the Glass, Curry’s on/off impact is in the 98th percentile, nearly three times higher than the next Warrior.
Curry’s absence is going to be a huge deal. There’s only two players in the league with greater on/off impact this year — a continuing trend in Curry’s career. In his absence, the Warriors will look to some new and old faces to carry the load while Curry rehabilitates for most of the team’s remaining 12 games.
To scrape through this final leg of the season, Golden State is going to lean on their defense. It makes sense, with Draymond Green back in the fold, and Andrew Wiggins natural play style inclinations, this feels like the right area to focus on.
For those that don’t want to click, here’s the salient part of Kerr’s message:
'Nobody’s gonna fill those shoes. But we can do some things execution-wise. We want Wiggs to be more aggressive, want Jordan and Klay to continue to be aggressive. If we run our stuff well and play good defense, we’re going to generate offense.'
According to pregame reporting, defensive backcourt ace, Gary Payton II isn’t quite ready to make his return yet, but with Wiggins back available, Green back, and Klay Thompson finally beginning to look like his old self with more frequency, it’s a good plan given the circumstances.
Even with Curry, the Warriors have been a middling team lately:
So now the team that has spent the last two seasons waiting on their core players to get healthy finds themselves circling the runway. The main cogs are sort of back, and sort of not. Unfortunately, that’s been the case all season.
As the waiting game drags on, Golden State finds themselves short-handed yet again — an all too familiar position, but one they’ve been finding more and more comfort with out of necessity.
Remember that this is the same San Antonio Spurs team that the Warriors beat in a late comback last month — a game played without Curry or Wiggins. Finding that same magic is something the Warriors are going to be working on during these final games, so at least they’re starting against a team that’s already proven beatable.