Preview: Warriors, Bulls going to battle shorthanded
Green, Lee questionable for Golden State; Chicago's Vucevic out with Coronavirus
When I start to write a preview, my first step is generally to check out the basic stats for each team using basketball reference and the NBA advanced stats team page. And let me tell you, dear reader, that my eyebrows raised when I started poking around this Chicago Bulls team. This game is going to be a good one!
The Golden State Warriors are the top of the class right now. With the best net rating, the best defensive rating, and the third ranked offense, there isn’t much that the Warriors aren’t doing well right now. But Chicago is right there in all those aspects too: they’re fourth in net rating, and sixth for both offense and defense. In other words, this is a for real top ten team in the league this season (or at least they've played like one in the first few weeks). A real test.
On the injury front, both teams are without critical big men. Bulls starting center Nikola Vucevic tested positive for Covid, and will be out tonight (and beyond). Draymond Green is currently listed as questionable with what the team is referring to as a thigh injury, but after how he left the last game, I’d be pretty surprised if he plays tonight. On the other hand, I’m (baselessly) expecting Damion Lee to be available.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (10-1) vs Chicago Bulls (8-3)
WHEN: Friday, November 12, 2021 // 7:00pm PDT
If Draymond Green can’t go…
As Green caught the ball and turned to go up for his shot midway through the 3rd quarter, it looked like the opponent’s knee banged into the side of his knee area - just as Green was loading for his jump. The team keeps referring to it as a “thigh contusion” but to me, it really looks like knee-to-knee - even after I went back to look at the play.
Here’s a screen grab:
Now, not only am I not a doctor, I’m also not especially fit, or young… But I have played a ton of basketball in my time, and as soon as I saw the play I was worried. When you get knee-to-knee on the side of your leg, it sucks real bad. Green managed to take both free throws before limping off to the locker room, and hopefully he’s back soon.
Green is one of those players whose impact is much broader than a box score. His per game averages demonstrate his well-rounded impacts 7.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.3 assists, but what Green does, and what he means for this team goes well beyond the quantifiable.
So please, take these numbers with a grain of salt. I was looking at the on/off splits on Cleaning the Glass (which excludes garbage time) with an eye towards identifying who should fill in the gap left in Green’s absence. Remember, the colors indicate percentile rank (so where the value falls in relation to the other players at the same position in the league), and the plain numbers are the numerical impact per 100 possessions when the player is on the court.
That minus 4.2 is the lowest since his rookie season, and as someone mentioned to me on Twitter, this could definitely be explained by Green’s role changing this season. In order to help bolster the bench units, coach Steve Kerr has separated Green’s minutes from Curry so that Green can shore up some of the experimental bench rotations.
Ironically, it’s some of those bench players that are going to be at the center of how well the Warriors survive games without Green. Andre Iguodala has been phenomenal, and that’s my guess for who gets the start in case Green isn’t available.
But back to the bench.
While Green’s net impact numbers may have suffered a bit (again, keep in mind it’s still real early, and weird statistical things happen), it has served the intended purpose. You can see the individual player impacts above for players like Gary Payton II, Nemanja Bjelica, and Otto Porter, but look at the Kerrsian model working its magic for this year’s bench units.
Golden State is obviously missing a major element to their formula, playing without Klay Thompson. But every team’s season is defined by how well they can flexibly adjust on the fly. The squad has weathered absences of Damion Lee, Otto Porter and Andre Iguodala. While they’re going to sorely miss Green on both ends, this team has been getting a lot right this season - they just need to keep adjusting and flowing.
At least until this guy comes back.
Meet the new look Bulls
With the additions of Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso to pair with existing rising star Zach LaVine, the Bulls have stormed onto the scene. At time of writing, they’re tied for the best record in the Eastern conference and as discussed at the top of this article, the stats all point towards them being one of the five best teams so far this season.
But not all is rosy in the windy city. Already dealing with what appears to be a season-ending injury to promising second-year forward Patrick Williams (wrist), the timing could not be much worse for their starting center to be out. Without Vucevic, they’ll likely turn to… ok, I’m kidding. I have no idea. I’m too far removed from their team to make any good guesses, and just because the depth chart doesn’t strike fear in many hearts doesn’t mean these aren’t dangerous players.
But man. That core of wings and ball handlers they have is fun!
This is the start of a big road trip for the Bulls, with both LA teams waiting their turn after tonight’s game. Two of the Bulls three losses came back-to-back against a very good Philadelphia 76ers and you just know that they’ll be looking to measure themselves up against Stephen Curry’s Warriors.
Statistically, the Bulls are a weird team. They aren’t especially efficient when it comes to shooting, they don’t play fast, but they are elite at taking care of the ball and forcing turnovers.
DeRozan, Caruso, LaVine, and Ball are going to be a lot to handle, but the Warriors will be ready. I’m excited for what should be another really fun basketball game.
I just scratched my hardcore itch last night at the Infirmities and Reagan Youth show, so let’s soften it up and look ahead to tomorrow when my daughter and I will be hitting up an all ages show together to see Grumpster (who I’ve shared here a few times before), playing with Moore Family, and this band - Small Crush.
Soft and groovy. Happy Friday, everyone!