Thompson out, Looney questionable as Warriors visit Gobert-less Jazz
Also, how much more can Otto Porter do?
As I wrote in my last preview, the Golden State Warriors are pretty far down their list of contingencies. It’s a series of gambles that have worked well enough for the Warriors to hold onto the 2nd spot atop the West. Boasting the league’s best defense and Net Rating, Golden State is standing pat as the league watches the impending trade deadline with interest.
But unfortunately, one of the weaknesses associated with the team’s roster construction may undergo a stress test tonight:
With James Wiseman still out, Nemanja Bjelica nursing a bad back, and Draymond Green on the shelf till further notice, the potential absence of Kevon Looney is a big deal — and one that will put the team’s roster construction philosophy to test.
The Utah Jazz have roster issues of their own though, as Rudy Gobert is out with a calf injury, and heady wing, Joe Ingles is done for the season after sustaining a knee injury recently. Don’t count the Jazz out though. They’ve won three straight.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (41-13) at Utah Jazz (33-21)
WHEN: Wednesday, February 9th, 2022 // 7pm PDT
WATCH: NBCSBA; ESPN*
*note that ESPN will be running an all-women broadcast team tonight!
Appreciating Otto Porter jr.
Porter’s ride to Golden State was a twisty one. After a promising few years, he arrived to the welcoming shores of Golden State having only played… well, take a look yourself. Check out the total number of games played by Porter in recent years. I cleaned it up a bit because he floated around a bit during those lean years (data via from Basketball Reference). After three tough, injury-shortened seasons, Porter is just the newest reclamation project for a Golden State franchise that seems to be hitting the prize claw up out of the bargain bin with some regularity.
It’s those past few years that brought Porter here on a team-friendly deal. It’s a gamble that has paid off handsomely so far this season. Coming into tonight’s game against the Jazz, I’m not entirely clear if he’s available or not. With some beat reporters indicating Porter will miss both games of this back-to-back, I can’t help but notice that he’s not on the team’s injured players report.
But that’s on brand for Porter’s season. He’s missed 10 of the team’s 54 games so far; but when he’s available, he’s been a tremendous asset. Importantly, he’s been huge as a starter. It’s a move that the team is hesitant to make a long-term solution, but it sure is a nice Plan D.
Via Cleaning the Glass, he’s one of the team’s most efficient scorers. For most players, I tend to cut this chart off tighter than this, but Porter’s assist percentage and low turnover ratio are quietly feeding big food into the mouth of an offense hungry for players that can smartly move the ball and score.
Porter plays an average of just 20.1 minutes per game — though he is certainly good enough to cover more.
Part of what makes Porter glow so brightly in the Warriors universe is his efficiency. And that efficiency extends deep into what makes this iteration of the roster so special. The system coach Steve Kerr runs prioritizes efficiency and open looks via ball movement. Porter is scoring 120.6 points per 100 shot attempts (which is in the 90th percentile for players at his position), behind only the absurd season of Gary Payton. But let your eyes drift across to the right and you can see some of his other impacts.
Lots of assists and very few turnovers? That’s the Andre Iguodala / Shaun Livingston vibe that has strong precedence here.
But that’s all team stuff. The really cool part about Porter’s season is how he’s evolving in his return from injury. He now takes significantly more three pointers than at any other point, and it’s feeding into one of the best scoring seasons of his career.
The youth movement
With vets like Porter and Iguodala (and Green, now) going in and out of the lineup, it’s time for some of the next generation to start delivering. Though the team (and DNHQ) have talked a lot about there not being pressure on the rookies at this point, the reality is that the team is more than ready to get some help from the new guys.
So far so good as first Jordan Poole, and then Jonathan Kuminga have delivered memorable performances. If Looney can’t go, the center rotation is not-so-suddenly in dire need of some Kuminga minutes.
Kuminga plays an impressive game, killing everyone because of his athleticism and nose for the rim. Currently leading all rookies in points per minute, he’s been one of the team’s most prolific highlight reel players all season, dropping at least one or two new “wow” highlights per game.
And as much as I hesitate to even mention it at this point, given the delays, but it is getting increasingly hard for me not to think about what this squad will look like with James Wiseman out there alongside Kuminga — and whatever combination of lethal wing scorers that Kerr chooses to put out there alongside them.
The future is a complicated place, but no matter what, I can at least see that what this front office is working towards… it seems pretty darn viable if they can just get all these guys out on the floor at the same time.
The Warriors are far from healthy, but neither are the Jazz. Just four game until the All star break, this phase is more about experimentation and juggling players than anything else. Time to hit the lab and see what happens!