The road less travelled: Warriors links with Charlotte run deep

Damion Lee expected back as Golden State hosts LaMelo Ball, Kelly Oubre

Some of the most popular articles in basketball writing are silly free agency posts. Rumors about a certain player coming or going are the lifeblood of the click-based economy at the heart of that Vox site I used to write for.

Because fans care. They’re just as interested in what could happen as in what is happening. So no, the chatter around LaMelo Ball and James Wiseman - the player the Golden State Warriors picked one spot ahead of him - isn’t going to go away anytime soon. The timing, with Ball coming in to town within days of Wiseman being cleared to return to practice, just whets the appetite of our collective imagination even more.

It’s not just Ball though. Charlotte is one of the best offensive teams in the league, holding the 2nd best offensive efficiency at time of writing. The Warriors have the 3rd best defense so far too and are no slouch themselves when it comes to putting the ball through the hoop, so this matchup is shaping to be a fun contest. And that’s before we even get into the personalities (hello, Kelly Oubre!) involved, or if the road less travelled would have been better.

On the injury front, Golden State is expected to have Damion Lee available. Let’s go!


GAME DETAILS

WHO: Golden State Warriors (5-1) vs. Charlotte Hornets (5-3)

WHEN: Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021 // 700:pm PST

WATCH: NBCSBA


“Where is the sauce!?”

A point guard battle to savor.

I’ve been watching a lot of this show called My Kitchen Rules lately, and there’s this one Fremch judge on there that just looooooves sauce. It’s honestly one of the best parts of the show. Along the same lines, basketball has certain players that we all love more because they play extra saucy. LaMelo Ball and Stephen Curry are two of the sauciest point guards in the market right now, and we viewers are in for a treat as the former rookie of the year comes gunning for the master.

Ball is averaging around 20 points per game, along with around six rebounds and six assists, as he pulls the Charlotte Hornets towards traction and away from those cartoon running legs sounds that have defined the franchise in recent memory. He’s got that superstar vibe that has only amplified any questions about the Warriors’ draft choices two years ago.

He’s got a beautiful all-around game:

But Curry is the man who weaponized joy1 and revolutionized the league with a three-point fecundity that has brought him within sniffing distance of setting a new all-time record (and then spend a few more years breaking even further). He’s leading the league with 28.7 points per game though, and these 5-1 Warriors aren’t anywhere near ready to concede anything to an opponent.

The picture book of the NBA is resplendent partially because of these types of battles. The wily vet and his very personal battles holding off the young lions. We saw it when Curry came into the league and thoroughly dismantled the throne of Chris Paul: you cannot be the best point guard in the league until you beat the best at your position.

Curry is a tremendous talent, and it’s no shame to not be better than him. Nor do I think Curry is especially concerned about any legacy questions based off a single early season matchup. But everything I know about basketball tells me that these two dudes are eying each other; and we are in for some special efforts tonight.

A look at Draymond Green’s offense

I know our old friend Nate Parham would advise me to make this a whole separate article, but I just want to take a detour here for a moment and talk about something that deserves to be a major talking point in regards to the strong start to the Warriors’ season.

Green’s aggression (9.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 7 assists per game) are one of the brightest parts of Golden State’s early returns, and a tidal shift from his offensive scoring momentum - which had ground to a Tony Allen type of halt in the past couple season. Sure, he always was doing enough to be helpful, but some high profile misses combined with defenses doubling down on the pressure by leaving him open were beginning to become a team design consideration.

As Anthony Slater wrote in his fantastic piece, there’s a correlation here that was a growing concern last season:

In wins last season, Green averaged nearly nine points per game on better than 51 percent shooting. In losses, he averaged 5.4 points on 35 percent shooting. Even if there isn’t a target scoring number, there’s a direct correlation to the team’s success.

I wouldn’t be a spreadsheet nerd if I didn’t warn you all about small sample sizes here, but I cannot help but notice that Green’s scoring well, and at an efficiency that’s as good as it has ever been. From Basketball Reference, take a look at Green’s true shooting percentages. This season isn’t just a minor hiccup, this would be a significant step in the right direction if he can hold anywhere close to this efficiency.

Green as a threat to shoot is important for Golden State - even though he does so much other helpful stuff - because he controls so much of the offense and you need him out there on defense.

According to Cleaning the Glass, Green assists on around 29% of his teammates baskets while on court. It’s just about what Curry averages, and puts Green in the 97th percentile for his position.

But then there’s the pictures from last season. A wide open Green, completely ignored by the defense while Curry fights off a double team. Or that airball bunny floater that was the nail in the coffin in a critical play-in tournament loss.

Green, who famously yelled about not being a robot was pretty clearly getting a little lost in his own head. This is the same guy that put up 37 points in the playoffs. He’s got the abilities.

So it sure is nice to see him working with the new training staff on his offense. Here’s one look:

So there’s the mid-range floater, but you can also see his work on a basic post finish. These aren’t fancy moves, he doesn’t need to have a bottomless bag of tricks or anything… just a basic proficiency to take advantage of the spacing provided.

There’s a floor plan here in Golden State. With Curry and Green doing their thing and the new additions filling in some gaps around the edges, the team is doing more than just treading water while they wait for the long-desired Splash Brothers reunion.

Predictions

While it’s all good fun to wonder about what could have been, or what the Warriors could look like if they drafted different, this team on the floor is living in the now - and thriving. I think Curry outplays Ball, and the Warriors roster holds off Kelly Oubre, Gordon Hayward, and whatever else Charlotte has to throw at them.

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The “Weaponized Joy” patent is owned by Daniel Hardee.