Six games to All Star break, Warriors messy plan coming to fruition
Wiseman stalls, but Golden State has many irons in the fire - as they (mostly) intended
It’s hard to call what the Golden State Warriors are doing so far this season “unexpected.” There’s a designed impetus with how this roster has thrived this season, even if many didn't expect it to all look so good so soon. With occasional bursts of excellence up and down the depth chart, the Warriors astonishing rebirth was warmly incubated by a front office that took some risks. But they knew what they had here. A viable core, some integral newly added components, and all the little pieces around the edges that were able to fit better because of lessons learned.
There are just six games until the All Star break and the Warriors are sitting pretty. Top defense, and the league’s best rating - all while playing without Draymond Green recently.
Tonight, Golden State will face an Oklahoma City Thunder team that is just starting a rebuild. Future fortunes aside, the Thunder have been one of the league’s worst teams this season, but as Zaza Pachulia will tell you, nothing’s easy in the NBA.
On the injury front, it’s still pretty much status quo. Andre Iguodala and Otto Porter are possibly venturing closer to returning (but no promises), Bjelica’s back is still acting up, and Draymond Green and James Wiseman are on the shelf until further notice.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (40-13) at Oklahoma City Thunder (17-35)
WHEN: Monday, February 7th, 2022 // 5pm PDT
It’s messy, but it’s working: Warriors contingency planning
What will you do when the plan doesn’t work out? That’s one of the primary questions that sustainability professionals are asking when consulting on supply chain issues. There’s a parallel with some of the current chip shortage issues, but the bottom line is that if you can, it is much more advisable to have multiple plans, rather than just one.1
The Warriors have that. As shown in the team’s most used five-man units, this is a squad that doesn’t just have lots of options; they have lots of options that are all working out pretty darn well:
Unfortunately, the team’s primary plan — where Wiseman would have returned in training camp and worked his way into the rotation — didn’t pan out yet. But the Warriors built in redundancies, and they’ve got a whole list of alphabet plans beyond Plan A.
This isn’t unique, every team is shuffling contingencies and priorities as they try to develop talent. But for Golden State this season, their success has been heavily tied to how well Plans B, C, and D have been working. But the Warriors have been working a lot of different angles to get to this place.
Andrew Wiggins earned his first All Star nod because of how well he’s playing. Coach Kerr recently called him “a machine” because of his scoring and defense (both as an individual and team defender). That’s one iron in the fire that is working out nicely.
Then there’s the internal development. Kevon Looney has slotted in as the team’s starting center — an extremely risky move given his size. But it’s worked out well as Looney has developed into one of the NBA’s best rebounders, and having his veteran savvy screen setting and clean up work all over the court have also greatly contributed to the team’s strong position. Even as the return of Wiseman gets more and more murky, Looney has grown ever more stalwart.
Both of those players are just 26 years old, portending a long future here, assuming that works out for both sides.
Then there’s Jordan Poole. After generating some early buzz for Most Improved Player, he his some bumps with his shooting and the chatter died down. But look at his trajectory. According to Cleaning the Glass, he’s shown a reliable upwards trend, even as he takes on more usage. In particular, his scoring efficiency (PSA (Point Scored per 100 Attempts) in the table below) improvements are notable; an unreliable scorer as a rookie, an average one in his second year and then downright efficient in year three.
And lest we forget, Jonathan Kuminga is playing fantastic too. A 19 year-old athletic ball of potential that the team took with the pick attached to that Wiggins trade has the coach giddy at the rookie’s play, and he’s not wrong; it’s hard to overstate how well the rookie has been playing.
After the team’s last game, Kerr pointed out how advanced some aspects of Kuminga’s game are. At just 19, you can see that he’s a student of the game and understands the fundamentals at an advanced level:
"He's a really interesting player because he's got really good footwork down on the low block, we've seen a couple step throughs and drop steps and he's so powerful and he jumps so high that all he needs is a tiny bit of an angle on his defender and he can score easily," Kerr said of Kuminga. "He's had some plays in transition, crossover dribbles, inside-out dribbles where he's gone right around his guy, so I feel like he's had a lot of skill work in his growth as a young player coming in here…”
But the fundamental takeaway from Kuminga’s season is that the team has felt increasingly comfortable using him at center. Much of this is related to Green’s absence (as well as that of Wiseman), but there are other options like Juan Toscano-Anderson. Take a look at Kuminga’s playing time this season.
Of course, none of this would be possible without the core. Curry has been phenomenal (for years), even as he works through the worst shooting slump of his career this season. Fellow Splash Brother, Klay Thompson is finally back on the court, and rounding into form nicely. In the win over the Kings, he had a very Klay-like 10-minute stretch where made six straight 3-pointers, and poured in a quick 20 points.
The Warriors aren’t just a team with a plan, they’re a team with a whole bunch of plans.
The Warriors have a fairly interesting stretch of games coming up, but will have certainly penciled this one in as a win. Just six games to go until the All Star break. Six more chances to put the league on notice that Warriors basketball is back — oh, and the future is bright here too.
When the computer chip manufacturing shortage was foreshadowed a few years ago. After a big storm impacted chip manufacturing, many companies were quickly trying to diversify their supply chain. Unfortunately, it was soon found that there were no viable back up options. Mostly due to the level of expertise required to manufacture such specialized products, you can’t “just build a new factory.” What was started by a large storm, got smacked by Covid just as it was recovering. This is like an NBA team (say, the Lakers) that only have Option A, and are pretty screwed if that option isn’t available.