Warriors close preseason against winless Blazers - and the final roster spot is wide open
Also, Klay Thompson returning to full practice?
All systems are go as the Golden State Warriors look to end a very successful preseason campaign tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers. After some extremely positive early returns, the general sentiment among fans is that all is well in Dub Nation. The only lingering question is that 15th roster spot.
Coming into the preseason, coach Steve Kerr said that the decision wouldn’t be made in the first game, but with no clear best choice so far, the decision feels very much up in the air ahead of tonight’s final preseason game. It’s coming down to the wire! Will it be Avery Bradley, Gary Payton jr., or no one at all?
There’s also this:
WHO: Golden State Warriors vs. Portland Trail Blazers
WHEN: Friday, October 15th, 2021 // 7:00pm PST
WATCH: NBCSBA (also available on NBATV)
Who gets the 15th spot? Anyone?
You really don’t want to come into the preseason with major unfilled holes in your expected rotation, so it’s kind of good that the most riveting positional battle during the preseason is so far down the depth chart. The Warriors have one open spot on their roster remaining (I’m presuming here that Mychal Mulder will get cut and re-signed to a two-way contract), leaving Avery Bradley and incumbent, Gary Payton jr. fighting for a place on the team.
As Eric Apricot outlined for DNHQ yesterday, Gary Payton’s immediate impact was hard to miss. 11 points in 12 minutes for his first appearance weighs pretty heavily compared to Bradley - a guy who has looked a step slow for most of the first four preseason games. Payton, a career 26.7% shooter from deep, hasn’t been able to find traction in the NBA, bonking around through four teams in his six years in the league.
But that isn’t necessarily a problem in this matchup. Bradley, is the better shooter on paper, sure, but with the Warriors’ newly discovered spacing, Payton may be the bigger on-court threat. Here’s a summary of his first two minutes on the court:
In the next 130 seconds, he scored six points — putting back an offensive rebound and twice finishing backdoor cuts at the rim.
Just based off the eye test, Payton can at least offer something close to the defensive impact of Bradley. He’s got my vote.
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) the Golden State Warriors don’t ask for my input on stuff like this… or anything, really. Nonetheless, there’s also the more straightforward solution to consider: do nothing.
Doing nothing saves the team somewhere around six million dollars or so - and allows them to painlessly add another coveted veteran later at minimal cost. Assuming someone like Marc Gasol could be lured out of retirement for a post season push, there’s an argument that this could be the wisest course of action for a team that is already setting piles of cash on fire via the NBA’s punitive luxury tax system.
So while the team would like to have an extra layer of point-of-attack insurance on the deepest end of their bench, you don’t have to squint too hard to see a guy like Damion Lee eating those minutes, or even rookie Moses Moody. Though solid enough neither of those players pencil in as defensive specialists, a job that the Warriors have frequently prioritized in their backup point guard.
Right now, it’s anyone’s guess. But one thing is for sure: the results tonight will definitely factor into the final decision, and both players know it.
Klay coming back soon, Wiseman update incoming
I posted the Twitter clip at the top of the article, and there’s not much else to say about Klay Thompson’s impending return. The news, as exciting as it is, doesn’t really update the previously established timeline for the long-awaited Splash Brother reunion. A return to full practice in the next month or so would seemingly be on target for a late December return. A joyous holiday gift, if Dub Nation is so lucky.
If anything, the absence of a setback is news.
In the limited available footage, it looks like Thompson’s shooting stroke survived the medical intervention just fine. Here he is smoothly nailing a bunch of threes while hardly jumping. So far so good!
Are the Blazers okay?
Golden State already defeated the Blazers 121-107 in their preseason opener, and Portland hasn’t been able to recover since!
Jokes aside, even in a meaningless preseason, the hope is that your team begins to find rhythms and player combinations that work. For a team like Portland (new coach, new rotation players, and a ton of pressure to win now), these warm up games are definitely far from meaningless - even if the wins and losses don’t count in the end.
Portland took a risk bringing in Chauncey Billups as their new head coach, but new schemes and coaching strategies aside, this is largely the same Trail Blazers roster that has been defined by their inability to advance in the playoffs.
So, it’s not a huge deal that their starters finally got on court together for an extended run only to get blown out by Phoenix Suns in their last game. A game in which Portland’s starters averaged minus -23.2 points per 100 possessions between them.
But it’s also not ideal. With Portland hungry for a win, and the Warriors down to the last little roster move, expect this one to matter a little bit extra to the Blazers.
I thought we’d change it up and share a band that I love that isn’t a full on punk band for once. I first heard of these guys because of a vinyl subscription I have, and just saw them a couple of weeks ago and got super into them.
Kinda grunge rock? Punk adjacent? I’m not good with labels, I just find that songs from Decent Criminal make me nod my head a lot.
Happy Friday everyone!