Preview: Klay in, Green out (Porter, Payton questionable) against the Grizzlies
Golden State has entered Phase Two: 43 games until playoffs
With the return of Klay Thompson, the Golden State Warriors have stepped foot into phase two of the season. Now the team has 43 regular season games to incorporate Thompson and figure out their rotations and lineup patterns. Unfortunately, that plan has hit a little stumbling block from the outset. It appears that the calf injury that kept Draymond Green out of the last game is serious enough to warrant leaving Green at home rather than flying out to Memphis for tonight’s matchup against a dangerous Memphis Grizzlies team.
Green being out is a big enough problem on its own, but the potential loss of two of the team’s most impactful bench players against a team as good as the Grizzlies is no small issue either.
We’ll see. Notably, the Warriors have a tough back-to-back coming up on Thursday and Friday, against the Milwaukee Bucks, and Chicago Bulls, respectively — two extremely strong teams. So any reading of the tea leaves surrounding these injuries should take the impending schedule into account.
For Memphis, they’ll also be dealing with some roster issues. Most importantly, Dillon Brooks is out with an ankle injury. Center Steven Adams is also listed as questionable at time of writing.
This is going to be a challenge for both sides. The Warriors are soaring on an emotional high from Thompson’s return, while Memphis has been the hottest team in the league of late, fueled by Ja Morant - winner of the last two consecutive Western Conference Player of the Week honors.
Should be a good one!
WHO: Golden State Warriors (30-9) at Memphis Grizzlies (28-14)
WHEN: Tuesday, January 11, 2022 // 5:00pm PDT
WATCH: NBCSBA; NBATV
Examining the impact of Klay Thompson’s return
If Draymond Green is a swiss army knife, then Klay Thompson is a saw. You know exactly what he’s going to do and how it’s going to happen. A frequent criticism of coach Steve Kerr’s movement-based offense is that it often times can devolve to a bunch of “meaningless” passes to non-threats before the offense gets bailed out by the brilliance of Stephen Curry.
Thompson’s return is about more than just adding another shooter. He is literally the player that this offense has been designed around. “18 shots in 20 minutes. Nothing's really changed," he quipped in his post game interview. And he’s right.
Like parents leaving the kid’s room exactly how it was when they left for college, so too has Kerr maintained the Warriors’ offensive identity in Klay’s absence.
It’s a system that loves a good jump shot. Take a look at the team’s play frequency, via Synergy.
Coach Steve Kerr knows that this team knows who they are, he’s built them like this.
“We have 43 games to figure out who we are, figure out our rotations and what our chemistry will be like.” — coach Steve Kerr
So this next phase is going to be all lab coats and bunsen burners for the Warriors. They know what they want to do, now it’s just going to take some experimenting to figure out how best to do so.
We’ve already got you covered with our detailed recap, and DNHQ has Explained One Klay, but there’s one play in particular that I want to highlight here. Much like Curry, Thompson’s impact extends across the court; and it’s the two of them together that makes the Splash Brothers’ Voltron so deadly.
Please watch this one a few times, and note how the core of the Cavs’ defense gets hung up on the possibility of what exactly Thompson is going to do — it’s just enough of a hesitation to allow Andrew Wiggins to glide in for a couple of easy points.
It’s subtle, but Jarrett Allen gets caught looking at Thompson just long enough for the Curry/Wiggins play to reach critical mass.
And this is going to be important moving forward, this is what Kerr was talking about “our rotations and what our chemistry will be like.” There are a number of players that are about to find life on the NBA court a whole lot easier. And the Warriors season has been as successful as it has so far because there are some valuable contributors around the edges if this team.
In the last game, Poole scored 14 points off the bench. While not a huge night for him, it’s an important feature for a team that may need to continually shuffle their rotations. Back to Synergy again, here’s a sorted list of the Warriors most frequent jump shooters — all of which are only going to find more opportunities, and more space now that Thompson is in the mix.
Poole already has found traction alongside the starters as well as the bench. Playing with Klay Thompson in the rotation is like putting fancy race car tires on a fancy motorcycle.
Looney had a career-high 18 rebounds. Gary Payton II provided his usual spark with nine points and six rebounds. Who knows where the ceiling is for this roster? Each game will have new combinations and learning that happens, win or lose.
Memphis Grizzlies are the real deal
Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies have been on a tear lately. Ever since meeting in the play-in tournament last season, it feels like there has been a little extra kick of spice whenever these two teams meet. But forget the interrelationship, even in a vacuum, Memphis is a handful… that just so happened to catch their loss against Golden State.
The old guard never likes seeing the young newcomers outpace them, just ask LeBron James. And Memphis is setting a pace right now. It’s a little bit dated, but from the last update, the Grizzlies have the best Net rating, 2nd best defense (and 4th offense) in the past 15 games or so.
But maybe more importantly in this star-driven NBA, Morant has been putting the league on notice for a while now. I’m not entirely sure what that looks like, but two consecutive player of the week honors, combined with a bunch of highlight plays seems like a solid foundation.
But what’s even more wild about Morant is that this isn’t some breakout. It feels more like a trajectory than a blip.
The 28-14 Grizzlies are currently sitting in 4th place, just one game back from the Utah Jazz — and firmly entrenched in the upper echelon of the Western Conference. It’s a bit early to call any two teams “on a collision course” but I’ve got a long list of teams I’d prefer to face in the playoffs over this Memphis team.
This is going to be a good game, and the Warriors are really going to miss Green’s defensive prowess. Still, with Klay Thompson back, I’ve got full confidence in Golden State.