Thread the needle: Warriors dance between playoffs and keeping their pick as they host Kings
No Fox for a stumbling Kings team, but in this weird season, nothing is a given
Like many aspects of the season, the Golden State Warriors are finding themselves in a no-man’s land between success and failure, and that may be just fine for right now.
The Warriors are balancing between two realities. If they finish with a record in the top-10 of the league, they’ll lose their draft pick in the upcoming offseason. Currently holding the 13th-worst record, there’s no guarantee that the Warriors don’t race their way out of their own pick as they close in on the Western Conference playoffs. That chase is likewise walking on the edge of life with one shoe untied; the Warriors are holding the final spot in the league’s new play-in tournament. While they’re unlikely to fall out, the climb out of the dangerous play-in tournament is going to be challenging.
Against this backdrop of uncertainty, Golden State has an emerging solidity. A recent surge led by the bench - believe it or not.
The Kings are staggering out of the picture. Facing another late season implosion, the Kings are now playing extremely short-handed, most notable lacking their best player, De’Aaron Fox, who will miss the next 10-14 days because of the league’s health and safety protocols - the same reason that the Warriors are playing without Damion Lee and Kent Bazemore.
WHO: Golden State Warriors () vs. Sacramento Kings ()
WHEN: Sunday April 25th, 2021 // 7:00pm PST
Blog Buddy: Kings Herald
Oubre, Poole, Juan Toscano-Anderson, and the rest of the puzzle
Unless you are a crazy person, the first step in starting a new puzzle is the build the border. For the Warriors, these edges arrived previously assembled out of the box. With the four primary players locked in, Golden State already knows that the edges of their roster puzzle are already in place.
Partially because of untimely injuries, and partially because of emergent talent, there are starting to be some sections of the rest of the puzzle that is lining up nicely. Coach Steve Kerr said the roster would eventually be coming together, and he was right. The Warriors are looking more dangerous than they have all season, and while it’s still mostly about Stephen Curry being unstoppable (baby), the supplementary pieces are finally looking more helpful than detrimental.
Eric Apricot posted an Explain One Play yesterday that highlights a play by Mulder, but it’s a parable that could apply to any number of the Warriors margins - players that are starting to figure out (and even thrive) in the complicated Warriors offensive ecosystem.
With Curry, Green and Looney serving as the primary carriers… yes that’s right. LOONEY. Yup.
Here’s a full list of player on/off impact, via Cleaning the Glass. Note that like all plus/minus, these values aren’t solely about the player in question. Everything’s inter-related on a basketball court.
But you can see how valuable Kent Bazemore has been. All the more reason to miss his high octane basketball antics over the next week or two.
But scrolling further down the list, we see a growing roster of contributors that could easily be a viable bench solution after Klay Thompson’s return next season. Obviously, Toscano-Anderson is so beloved around these parts that it’s become almost a joke, but his contributions are no laughing matter.
Jordan Poole has been a revelation. After a middling rookie campaign, Poole has emerged as the bench’s scoring answer in a way that Wiggins never appeared comfortable with. This has been an item long on the Warriors’ wish list, and Kerr’s continued “joke” about Leandro Barbosa being potentially available to contribute say as much about his ability as it does about the team’s growingly desperate pleas for points off the bench.
Now, Game Score is a black box stat that is designed to capture a bit of everything, so like every all-in-one basketball metric, it’s a little busted - but it’s not meaningless. Poole has been around all season, however it was his late March to early April breakout that has firmly placed him in the Warriors’ plans moving forward.
The final element is mercurial wing, Kelly Oubre.
While a lot of attention has been placed on his move to the bench, Oubre has been balling out for a while now, even prior to moving to the bench. Another reason the move to the bench has been overly focused on is that Oubre’s minutes are rising; bench role or not.
One other aspect here is that as flashy as his offensive game is, I think Oubre should primarily be viewed as a defensive player. His offense is still far from efficient (way down at the 35th percentile for points scored per attempt), but just like we don’t criticize Curry for not blocking more shots, it’s important to understand the various value positions of Oubre’s overall game. Watch on this play how Poole and Looney fluster the offense, before Oubre pounces like the cat he is, and swipes the pass away.
All told, no matter how this season shakes out, the Warriors have found some peices that will fit into the middle of the existing defined edges of Golden State.
Oh no, Kangz?
Oh Sacramento… what happened now?
One of my favorite coworkers is a big Kings fan, and there’s something endearing about how much ennui he has for his favorite team. Despite looking strong in the early going, the Kings have yet again stumbled in to their comfortable mediocre pillows.
Already well out of the playoff hunt, the Kings have no lost star De-Aaron Fox, and intentionally or not, the tank is on in Sacramento. As usual , the Kings have some promising young talent, but will need to actively develop players like Kyle Guy, and Tyrese Halliburton - and then hang on to them once they are solidly good.
The Warriors are on a roll, and chasing their way as far up out of the 10th spot as possible. Winners of 7 of their last 10 games, and featuring thermonuclear Curry, I really like the team’s chances tonight. Epic destruction: 131 - 112.