Warriors are playing rotations with an eye on the post season already. Hopefully it all works out!
Two games into the NBA season, and it’s clear that coach Steve Kerr and his Golden State Warriors are still ramping up. Andre Iguodala is still yet to be seen, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are on minutes limitations. But that only partially explains the team’s loss on Friday to the Denver Nuggets.
The Warriors’ famed “two timeline” plan is going to get a bit messy from time to time, and this is one of those times. The defense cratered last game without Green on the floor, and it’s emblematic of some much deeper concerns about the viability of running out so many of the younger players for development while also winning enough games to maintain a high seeding - but that’s a question for later.
For now though? It’s only game three, let ‘er rip, coach!
WHO: Golden State Warriors (1-1) vs. Sacramento Kings (0-2)
WHEN: Sunday, October 23rd, 2022 // 5:30pm PDT
Blog Buddy: Kings Herald
Injury updates: Still nothing on Iguodala and at this point, just assume no news until he is back to at least being questionable to play. PBJ is on the mend, but is going to find it tough to crack the rotation, per Anthony Slater:
A way-too-early look at what is/isn’t working
It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, but the core of the Warriors rotation is still extremely solid. Fresh of off their championship, there’s been no drop off here. The familiar faces are familiar for a reason, and Dub Nation can rest assured that it will be mostly the same faces at the center of the fray when push comes to shove. If that’s all you care about, you can stop reading here.
But the two timelines are converging this season in a way that they haven’t before. Players like Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga, and James Wiseman no longer get to just hang out on the edge of the party. In the first two games Kerr’s rotation pattern has shown clear first- and second-unit delineations (as opposed to emphasizing mixed units where the starters are more slowly phased in and out).
Two games is way too early to identify long-term patterns, but let’s go ahead and take a look at how things are going anyways. Just for fun.
Against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Warriors got away with it because their opponent wasn’t able to take advantage of the opportunities. But the Denver Nuggets wore their stretchy-waist pants and ate well against a second unit that Golden State is hoping will eventually be able to better withstand such an assault. There are a bunch of players out there that have meaningful roles to play come playoff time.
Draymond Green highlighted some of the guidance that he was giving to Wiseman mid-game (worth a watch if you missed this), and again, long term concerns aren’t going to be addressed for a while yet. That said, getting roasted by DeAndre Jordan and Jeff Green in the year 2022 isn’t a great initial litmus test result.
Presumably, the simple solution of mixing rotations is off the table for now. The Warriors are going to be covering for limited minutes for Green and Thompson for another week or two - and who knows when Andre Iguodala will dust himself off and rise back into the rotation like the Undertaker. So there are going to be some bumpy moments.
Offensively, the concerns are less severe. Jordan Poole has proven capable of driving the offense when Curry sits, and even though his scoring output hasn’t been great over the first two games, I’m not worried (plus, he’s dishing out assists at nearly twice the rate compared to last season). Paired with the hyper athletic duo of Wiseman and Kuminga, the offensive end should be good to go.
Right now Poole is being asked to do more - as Kerr and the Warriors often request of their best players. These recent struggles are precisely why I believe Kerr is right to be patient. See what develops with Poole as a play maker, it’s a skill that Curry has in spades, and one that the team always sorely misses whenever Curry (and to a lesser extent, Green) step off the court. Maybe Poole’s best assets are more suited to a score-first guard, but the chance that he could turn into more - and what that would mean for this franchise moving forward - is worth a bump or two during the regular season. If it makes sense to abandon the approach, a decision can be made later.
For now, it’s just been a tough two games for the bench units. And that’s only partially because Poole hasn’t scored well in the first two games of this season. He’ll figure it out.
Defense is another matter. Because of how skilled everyone is these days, there’s been an arms race on both sides of the ball. Now, defenders need to do much more than just stay in front of their man - it’s a huge machine of inter-related parts that are churning around each other like a complicated engine. One misfire or part out of place, and the system crashes. Here’s one good example of that happening against the Nuggets. A fairly basic offensive set, but just one advantage created is enough to earn an easy dunk (something that the Nuggets were able to do often).
Well, for now, there’s not a lot to do but be patient. Development by it’s nature is a process - and one that takes time. Still, it will be interesting to see how far Kerr is willing to push this. The obvious first step is mixing the starters and bench together a bit more, but maybe that’s too obvious. In other words, Kerr and his staff have clearly taken this unorthodox approach intentionally. For better or worse, the coach has demonstrated his patience time and time again - especially when it comes to things like rotation patterns. He blinked a bit in the 4th quarter against Denver, putting Wiggins in to shore up the subs, which may indicate that they’re already well aware of the problem. Will the team let Poole revert to being a play finisher? Or can these early learning experiences help the players develop more quickly than any other way?
The end goal of this season is still a championship, but secondary to that is the ongoing pressure of the second timeline coming into being. Right now, these two timelines exist next to each other. Catching that next wave up to where the OG players are at is a priority that Golden State is willing to endure some costs to see come to fruition.
“Life couldn’t be any better fellas, to be honest.” Klay Thompson’s appearance on All the Smoke starts off with him seated (barefoot) on what looks to be one of the world’s comfiest chairs. He’s bobbling a basketball on his knee. The sort of offhanded subconscious move that brings comfort, almost like a parent absentmindedly bouncing their baby on their knee while chatting with friends. Rocco the dog ambles in as Klay talks about gratitude for a life that finds him looking through his fireplace and being able to see his boat while contemplating what it all means coming off a championship.
Thompson goes on to discuss the challenges of rehab - how difficult it was to be stuck watching “instead of getting buckets.” I am an unabashed fan boy when it comes to this dude. Please do yourself a favor and watch this. Treat it like a movie, or a delicious bag of chips that you are going to come back to over and over again till it’s all gone.
The story Klay tells about getting busted with a dime bag of weed in his driveway is great (for those that don’t know, a dime bag is 10 bucks worth - a very small amount). The group’s discussion quickly pivots to how crazy it is that you can legally get the stuff delivered to your house. But there are a ton of other moments that make this a mandatory watch/listen. His shoes are off in both the literal and proverbial sense.
Well, it is the Sacramento Kings. For whatever reason, this isn’t quite a rivalry, but it seems to be a little extra personal every time these two teams face each other. I’m excited to get my first look at the new Kings squad with Mike Brown at the helm.
I have a ton of love for Kings fans. Much like older Warriors fans that have watched years and years of mediocre basketball, Sacramento fans have learned to survive on a steady diet of misplaced hope. But every now and then a special player comes through. Led by De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, and Harrison Barnes, there’s some hope that Sacramento could make it back to the playoffs this year (well, the play in tournament, but whatever). They’ll be playing fast, and have the added insight of being coached by a guy that is as familiar with the Warriors as anyone.
Unfortunately, it’s still Sacramento. The parts just aren’t coming together perfectly, and the Clippers made easy work of their porous defense last night. Now, Sacramento will be coming in against the Warriors on the second half of a back-to-back.
I’m giving the Warriors the nod in this one. Keeping an eye on the bigger goals, it still feels like they’re going to work a little extra hard to pick up a win after almost coming back against Denver.