Preview: Warriors one step closer to figuring this out as they head into Detroit
Old semi-nemesis Blake Griffin and the Pistons are next up for a Golden State team eager to find their stride
The Golden State Warriors are adapting. Coach Steve Kerr has simplified the offense a bit, tinkered with his rotations, but most importantly, some shots are finally starting to fall. It was barely enough to eek out a slim last-minute victory over the Chicago Bulls, and the Warriors are hoping to build on that faintest whisper of momentum.
Like Golden State is doing with James Wiseman, the Detroit Pistons are starting a 19 year-old rookie of their own: Killian Hayes, an intriguing young French player that has been playing with pros since the age of 16.
Golden State will be heading into action without Draymond Green for at least one more game, and Marquese Chriss is out for an extended period - leaving the Warriors a little thin in the frontcourt tonight. Still, this is a very winnable game, and Detroit will be playing their second game of a back-to-back; and their third game in four nights.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (2-1) at Detroit Pistons (0-2)
WHEN: Tuesday, December 29th, 2020 // 4:00 PM PST
The Warriors have so many problems/opportunities I don’t know where to start
While Golden State punched into the win column in their last outing, this Detroit game is not going to be as easy as nervous fans might like. None of these issues are insurmountable, but each will require some sort of solution if the Warriors want to be any sort of meaningful threat in the postseason. Normally, I’d pick out a key point here and elaborate, but for this game, I think the key point that the Warriors need to work on is reducing the number of glaring problems - thankfully, the solution to those issues are the exact same personnel.
Starting with the easiest problem: the shooting. Right now, the Warriors, as a team average, are shooting just 30% from deep, and 42% on overall field goal attempts. Compared to the rest of the league, those marks are 25th, and dead last (via basketball reference). Kelly Oubre’s historically bad start is leading the charge here, but he’s far from the only player that has had trouble making the ball go through the hoop.
For whatever reason, from Stephen Curry on down the roster, the Warriors shooters have had a rough go of it. Curry has flung up 35 threes, hitting just 9 of them (25.7% versus his career average of 43.4%)
Though not as profligate, Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins have both attempted 13 threes each, and are likewise well below their averages. Barring catastrophic events, players don’t deviate this much in a single year. The weight of historical averages are going to eventually swing the Warriors shooting back towards the mean - but right now, it’s a temporary problem, at least.
Those shots will start falling.
Though Kevon Looney, Eric Paschall, and James Wiseman have done admirably, the Warriors are also clearly missing Draymond Green.
Green, who missed training camp due to Coronavirus, and then has been held out of the team’s first three games by what the team is calling a foot issue, will miss today’s game. Coach Kerr has said that the hope is for the team’s best defender to appear in Friday’s game against the Portland Trailblazers.
Without getting into nefarious speculation regarding Green’s battle with Coronavirus, getting sidelined out of training camp, followed up by a problem with your wheels is going to make it hard to get back into game shape.
Draymond Green is the vocal floor general that also leads by example. The Warriors defensive efficiency is dead last in the league when it comes to opponent shooting percentage. Sure, a lot of that is the fault of the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, but the Warriors aren’t getting more personnel - the sooner Green can be out there marshalling the defense, the better. His wind being “in hell” isn’t great news.
You see, this is a new team in a way that Curry and Kerr haven’t really had to negotiate yet (forget about last year’s throw-away season). When Kevin Durant came here, he slotted into the team fairly easily. It was essentially the same team play sets, but with the added bonus of “lol it’s KD instead of Barnes.”
Now, the roster has undergone a chrysalis unseen since Mark Jackson’s departure - this is a team in search of reliable players, as well as a reliable identity beyond “Steph Curry does Steph Curry things.”
Kent Bazemore sat out last game with a DNP - coach’s decision, an indictment of his unsustainable foul rate, but he was also an indirect victim of Damion Lee’s fantastic game. The Warriors don’t have a set rotation yet, because there have been relatively few answers - and all too many questions.
This game is another chance for someone to emerge from the pack, but with Kerr and Curry involved, rest assured that the Warriors haven’t stopped trying to help everyone figure this all out.
The cool thing (well, to me anyways) is precisely how blank of a slate this team has right now. Curry’s usage and shot attempts are essentially set to maximum. He could attack differently - like we saw in his free throw hunting drives toward the end of the previous game - but Curry is pretty much out there doing Curry stuff.
Around him is this huge cloud of unknown basketball potential and acumen. Oubre’s shot has been misplaced, but as Daniel Hardee pointed out in his recap, Oubre led the team in rebounds (11) and tied for game high in steals (4). Eric Paschall and James Wiseman could be a revolutionary shot of athleticism that the franchise needs for their next phase. Anything is possible, and it’s glorious!
Blake Griffin’s Detroit Pistons: the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference
Our old acquaintance Blake Griffin headlines an odd assortment of talent in Detroit, but it feels more like he’s been sent to purgatory.
The Pistons have a new GM, and he made his stamp on the team strong and early with a noisy first offseason under his stewardship.
They jettisoned promising young frontcourt player Christian Woods, while handing 30 year-old Mason Plumlee a three-year, $24 million contract. The team seems intent on investing in marginal talent, they also brought in Jerami Grant from the Denver Nuggets on a three-year, $60 million deal. A successful role player, Grant will try to replicate some of that magic while also taking on a more meaningful, central role on the team.
Detroit drafted well, and everyone should be excited to watch 19 year-old Killian Hayes, but the Pistons are mired in that Sisyphean hill of mediocrity that pins a team into an existence as a perennial fringe playoff contender. Too good to tank, but not good enough to be a factor in the postseason.
Oubre makes a three, Wiggins turns in his best game of the season, and Curry’s shooting returns.
But the Warriors defense is proven to be soft, and frequent fouling of Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose keep the Pistons within sniffing distance.
Warriors win a close one for their second win of the season!