Strap in for an interesting season: Warriors open training camp
Two players with Corona, some info on player roles, and Christmas day schedule!
The NBA comes rushing back into our lives after the shortest offseason in league history. While not all of the news today was great, there sure is a lot to digest - and just enough hints from coach Steve Kerr to start formulating some of the team’s rotations and depth chart. Plus, we got some early schedule details - including two marquee events for the Warriors first two games.
Bad news first - two players got the ‘Rona
The Coronavirus continues to ravage the United States, so of course NBA players are no exception. Remember that when the league first resumed for the Orlando bubble, 16 out of 302 players tested positive for COVID-19, roughly 5.3% positivity rate.
Golden State announced that two returning players tested positive for Corona, triggering the NBA quarantine and testing protocols, and pushing back the resumption of team-based practices back a bit to next Monday. As detailed by Anthony Slater for The Athletic, another Warriors player tested positive during offseason workouts as well.
Though privacy laws and NBA policy are keeping the identities of these players under wraps, since they have to quarantine for no less than 10 days, and then clear testing for two additional days, we should be able to infer who is missing early next week. This isn’t going away. The league sent out 139-pages on their safety protocols, but there is no bubble, so expect Coronavirus to be a factor this season.
Other leagues have resumed, and sort of wobbled their way through it. But unlike foootball or baseball, the NBA is much more susceptible to impacts from missing players. Three players missing from a football team for a game is managable, but NBA rosters don’t have the depth to absorb lost personnel, and their games will be played with greater frequency.
Above all, we just want everyone to be healthy, but within that context, Coronavirus could easily cause chaos in the league this season.
Kerr talks depth chart, Wiseman’s role, and the bench unit
With limited media availability, we still got some decent tidbits of news that will offer insight into how coach Steve Kerr views the new and returning players. With a drastically redesigned roster around the edges of Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, the Warriors are clearly going to look different this season.
Returning from last year’s broken season, Marquesse Chriss and Andrew Wiggins are forecast as primary rotation players - though Chriss will face plenty of pressure from a healthy Kevon Looney, as well as new top recriut, James Wiseman.
On the wings, the Warriors have done what they could with the tools available. While they obviously can’t replace Klay Thompson, the newly acquired duo of Kelly Oubre and Kent Bazemore will aptly fill in on the wings - just with worse shooting. But hey, at least the defensive side of the ball is covered, right?
And speaking of defense:
This is a big ask.
While the roster has seen a fair amount of turnover, this is still a Warriors team that ranked nearly dead last in defensive efficiency last season. Presuming that Draymond Green’s precipitous decline last season was just a weird blip, and that the new wings can defend at an elite level, it still leaves a large question mark at the center position.
As Eric Apricot wrote recently, even some of the greatest centers in recent memory struggled defensively in their first season, and while the Warriors do have solid alternative options with Chriss and Looney, they’re still likely to play Wiseman as much as possible - even if he’s getting torched.
Kerr also offered some details on the depth chart, indicating that it would be Oubre and Wiggins on the wings. With Curry and Green at their respective positions, that means that the center spot will be in flux for most, if not all, of the season. Kerr has previously shown some flexibility with matchup-dependant starters, but given the uncertainty regarding the tail end of the depth chart, expect plenty of roster shuffling.
How about point Wiggins?
This tweet set off a firestorm in our writers chat:
For that second unit, Kerr indicated that they’d be mostly working without Curry or Green (who he will play mostly together in order to maximize impact), so there’s a real need to identify who runs the bench squad.
The Warriors have a couple options for primary ball handler, with both Brad Wanamaker and Nico Mannion seemingly set as the de facto bench point guards, watch for Jordan Poole here as well. The team will also have a few key returning players to integrate into these units somehow, both Kevon Looney and Eric Pachall seem poised to shine off the bench.
I got eviscerated for this take, but personally I cannot see this working out. As a primary ball handler? Nah. Sure, let him initiate offense occasionally, but I would not stick Wiggins out there without a real point guard.
The rumor is that the full NBA schedule (or at least the first few games) will be released later today, but Golden State fans don’t need to wait, because the team’s first two games are marquee matchups that have already been leaked/released.
On opening night, the Warriors will face our old friend Kevin Durant, and his new team, the New Jersey Nets.
From there, the team will fly to Milwaukee to take on Giannis Antenkuopo and the Bucks on Christmas day:
We will have a ton of updates on our various social media channels, as player availability continues this week.