Preview: Iguodala (knee), Lee (Covid protocols) out as Warriors host Grizzlies
Damion Lee joins Poole, Wiggins in Covid protocols; team signs G League standout to 10-day contract
When the Golden State Warriors lost to the Memphis Grizzlies during last season’s play in tournament, it felt significant. Though Golden State was unlikely to advance deep into the playoffs, it was still jarring to seem them fail to get past a young Grizzlies team led by highlight reel youngster, Ja Morant.
And then again this season, the revamped Warriors took their first loss of the year at the hand of this same Memphis team, despite a hefty 36-point performance from Stephen Curry.
Time for some revenge.
… Well, as much as it can be time for anything when the team adds two more critical rotation players to their injured list. Still no Klay Thompson, and to pile on, it looks like Damion Lee — who was fantastic starting in place of Jordan Poole in the last game — has joined Poole and Andrew Wiggins in the NBA’s Covid protocols.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (25-6) vs Memphis Grizzlies (19-13)
WHEN: Thursday December 23rd, 2021 // 7:00pm PDT
Meet the new guy
I’m not sure how many minutes he’ll be playing, but thought we could all use a bit of insight into the Warriors’ newest addition, Quinndary Weatherspoon. Weatherspoon was added to the roster early yesterday under the league’s new replacement player program. Under this program, the Warriors can meet the NBA’s minimum of 13 available players for tonight’s game, but the salary and associated cap taxes won’t apply to Golden State’s payroll.
Weatherspoon played for the San Antonio Spurs for the past two seasons, logging only about 200 minutes (over the course of 31 games). As shown in the clip above, he’s a slasher with a quick first step, and a nice well-rounded game.
Here’s his last five games in the G League. The combo of scoring and rebounding is intriguing.
With both Poole and Wiggins out (and now Lee), the second unit will be a bit wobbly - but the Warriors have demonstrated that they’re willing to take gambles on players. Right now, they mostly just need healthy players to eat minutes.
With Lee joining the health and safety protocols, and Iguodala hampered by what appears to be a semi-chronic case of old man knees, the Warriors are almost certainly headed back to the well for additional replacement players; if not today, then soon.
Checking on on the 5-man units
I got a request the other day to take a look at some of the Warriors most-used rotations, so let’s do that. Now that players are coming in and out of the lineup, there’s no better time to take a look at the relatively stable early season happenings.
When looking at these roster combinations, it’s important to understand that these values don’t just exist in a vacuum. The coaching staff has specific uses for each player, and must balance the positive and negative synergies as they mix and match combinations of available personnel.
The most used grouping is the starters.
Playing 341 minutes together, this is far and away the most common five-man grouping. The NBA has this group listed with a Net Rating of +8.0 (meaning they’ve averaged eight more points than their opponents per 100 possessions).
For perspective, Cleaning the Glass has this same unit at +7.3 Net, which is about average. So the starters aren’t blowing teams out of the water, but they are definitely in the positive territory. Coach Steve Kerr has always liked to lean on these starter minutes with a “big” center, but by having Kevon Looney and Draymond Green as the frontcourt in these minutes-eating lineups, allows the team to still play fast and loose. It’s fine, but not dominant.
Swap out Looney for Otto Porter and you get Kerr’s second favorite unit, and one that is significantly more lethal. As mentioned above though, there are a lot of reasons that Kerr hasn’t run this unit out more often, but when it is deployed, it works. Let’s switch to Cleaning the Glass to remove garbage time, but here’s the same data (five-man units, sorted by time/possessions) — check out the percentile rank on the second-most used lineup. With Porter instead of Looney, the Warriors second-most used crew is in the 80th percentile, with a +14 Net:
How does this compare to previous seasons?
Well, the first thing you’ll notice is how much more distributed these five-man units were last year - indicative of Kerr searching for viable combinations much more than he has done this season.
Also, check out the very top line showing the team’s overall impact and percentile rank. This year’s roster has been much more successful overall, as compared to last year’s team that was continually experimenting but overall finding a whole lot less traction. This year’s team is +9.7 per 100 possessions, last year’s roster was barely breaking even at +0.4 Net.
The Griz are good
With rising star Ja Morant out for an extended period, the Memphis Grizzlies went on a big run. They’re now sitting in 4th in the Western Conference, and feel as likely as any team to be one of the toughest outs in the playoffs this year.
It was really the Warriors offense struggling against the Memphis defense that has been at the forefront of the last two losses. In the play-in out, it was Draymond Green’s late airball floater that became somewhat symbolic of the Warriors’ offensive struggles, but even in the earlier meeting this season, the Grizzlies held the Warriors to a mere 19 points in the 4th before eeking out a win in overtime by holding Golden State to just 5 points.
This is going to be a tough one.