"The threat is stronger than its execution" - Warriors' shooting will free Stephen Curry
Warriors head to LA for first look at new look Lakers as preseason winds down
With the preseason beginning to wind down, I find myself starting to look forward. The Golden State Warriors will play their penultimate preseason game tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers. But with enough of a snapshot of how this roster could fit together, the Warriors may start playing with an eye on opening night.
WHO: Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers
WHEN: Tuesday, October 12, 2021 // 7:00pm PST
The strategic offseason adjustment: MOAR OFFENSE!
Jordan Poole leads the Warriors’ scoring so far in the preseason: 38.5 points per 36 minutes!
There’s a famous saying in chess that says “the threat is stronger than its execution.” It means that the comparative power of having an option to attack is often more dangerous than the actual attack itself. It forces the opponents to defend things that don’t exist - just the idea of them are enough to cause a reactionary scramble.
Ever since Klay Thompson went down, and Kevin Durant left, Curry - even at his absolute best - was often struggling against the full-team focus as defenses knew exactly who and what they had to worry about. And with a team payroll heavily weighed down by the top end talent, Golden State’s solutions were… imperfect. Just look at these issues from last season:
The Warriors had the league’s sixth-highest turnover rate and were last in offensive rebounding. As a result, they had fewer true shooting attempts per possession than any team in the league
With the lessons learned from the past two seasons, Golden State has undergone a strategic revolution. Historically, the entire bench’s value was derived from a simple premise: bleed as little as possible while Curry sits.
The history has been rocky, and the takeaway lesson from those experiences has led the Warriors to take a couple of fliers with their free agency moves. Otto Porter jr., and Nemanja Bjelica both come with plenty of question marks, but as a pair you cannot fault the shooting. Through three games, Porter is 10 of 17 from deep. Bjelica is 6 of 10.
But lest we forget the man of the hour, it’s really Jordan Poole that has led the increase in threat pressure. He’s taking over 10 threes per game (hitting them at an extremely reasonable 43.8%). The end result is that this roster is really set up to free up a Curry that has spent the past few years training through a gauntlet of double- and triple-teams.
And this is why you’ll start to see the Warriors making little edge moves, signing guys to 10-day contracts just so they can eventually send them to their G League affiliate, resting main players. Cutting a guy like Langston Galloway so that he can quickly go seek out a place on the edge of another roster.
Based on early preseason returns, the state of the Warriors firepower won’t be an issue this season.
Another key component is Bjelica. Like… what if Al Harrington could pass like Andrew Bogut?
It’s not just a comparison to last season. Outside of the Splash Brothers, the Warriors have had trouble courting free agent shooting specialists - due to a lack of priority or availability, who’s to say?
But last season does appear to have been enough to convince Golden State’s front office that a strategic shift was needed. Intentionally gone are Kelly Oubre and Kent Bazemore; defense-first “3 and D” guys. In their place, the Warriors have imported a bench of shooters to lean into the proven defensive reserves of Andre Iguodala, Kevon Looney, and Juan Toscano-Anderson.
Poole has 75 points in 69 preseason minutes. And he’s playing alongside a guy that has taught me to believe that crazy rates are sometimes sustainable. Combined with a revamped cast of supporting firepower, this roster is poised to free Curry by reducing the gravity he causes - punishing defenses that collapse too hard towards him in a way they haven’t for a while.
And this is all before Klay Thompson steps back onto the court.
On the flip side of the coin from the Warriors preseason, the Los Angeles Lakers have done a great job of figuring out what doesn’t work.
Compounding their issues, it sounds like rising talent, Talen Horton-Tucker will be out with thumb surgery, joining Trevor Ariza (ankle surgery) on the Lakers’ long-term injured list. Kendrick Nunn is out with an ankle and Malik Monk with a right groin strain. That lengthy injury list is far from ideal, but on the bright side, it will give the world its first look at the Lakers new Big Three.
What happens when a player that relies almost exclusively on his athleticism loses that edge? Sure it’s just preseason, and none of these statistics will ever count, but Westbrook has been a huge part of the Lakers’ problem. Appearing in two games, he’s racked up 15 turnovers (to 9 assists) and is 4 of 19 from the field
But this is a LeBron James team. Preseason may be interesting, but a test spin of their new lineup with Davis at center, with James and Westbrook on the wings is what really matters.
It’s unfortunate that Los Angeles will find themselves so short-handed just as their core becomes ready, but this is a no excuses basketball league.
I’m up in Canada right now, so may or may not have access to TNT to watch this game. But my guess is that the Warriors will indeed rest a veteran or two tonight.