Warriors attempt to bolster backup rotation behind Curry, finally

If we see it, Golden State sees it. Time to jiggle the handle!

Golden State Warriors ultra mega star, Stephen Curry is doing as much as he can, so the team is making a move that it hopes can ease his burden a bit. As reported late yesterday, it looks like the Warriors are recalling Jordan Poole and Nico Mannion from the G League a little earlier than expected.

Golden State is in the midst of one of the toughest stretches of the season, with nothing but the Western Conference’s top playoff opponents on the schedule for the next five games. The timing is weird enough to take notice of, as coach Steve Kerr was recently reiterating his desire for Poole to play the rest of the season - which ends no later than March 11 - with the G League squad. Poole has been doing damage, which is both sad for the rest of his team that gets left behind in the Orlando Bubble, as well as a huge boon for the Warriors bench.

Putting together the puzzle

Golden State’s halfcourt offense is the ninth most efficient in the league. The starting unit has earned the best net rating for a heavy minutes 5-man rotation in the NBA, and yet the team’s overall offensive rating of 109.6 is in the ninth worst in the league… something is going wrong in there somewhere.

Even without Klay Thompson or even Marquese Chriss, the Warriors offensive woes should not be as serious as they have been. With Stephen Curry drawing multiple defenders and Draymond Green available to steer the ball to cutting players, this is a team that has the nominal functionality to tear up defenses.

So when the wheels fall off with the bench unit, the Warriors have tried a number of options. Kelly Oubre wasn’t the answer (but this was during a portion of the season where everything was a struggle for him), and Andrew Wiggins just doesn’t seem like enough of a threat to initiate offense to drive the bench squad. Eric Paschall had a fantastic run as a small ball backup center earlier in the season, but the league woke up to that real quick, and Paschall may be hampered by a lingering knee injury. Either way it’s a bit of a moot point since the team moved James Wiseman to the bench and gave him the majority of the backup center minutes.

A lot of attention and ire has fallen on Brad Wanamaker, the team’s attempt at a free agent answer for the backup point guard question. Brought is as an advertised catch-and-shoot specialist, it’s been more like bait and switch - he’s shooting just 20% from deep, and his effective field goal percentage of 37% is in the bottom 2% of the league.

And the Warriors have used him. A lot.

Kerr has referenced Wanamaker’s defense as the primary reason he’s continued to hold the reins on the backup point guard spot. According to Cleaning the Glass, the on/off impacts (a very general stats that measures how the team performed with the player on vs. off the court) don’t really support this.

While on court with Wanamaker, the Warriors, as a team, are holding opponents to around 6 fewer points per 100 possessions. Unfortunately, Golden State’s own offense is producing around 10 fewer points per 100 possessions while Wanamaker is on the court.

To put it another way, Wanamaker’s defensive impact is in the 86th percentile (it’s a B), but his offensive impact is in the bottom three percent (which is a hard, hard F).

It’s time to try something else.

Will this be the solution?

This is a tricky question, because it digs deeper than just “yay, the Warriors are going to try something different!” Poole was taken in the first round by Golden State just one season ago, but has shown enough occasional flashes of brilliance to keep him around, even as the roster became replete at his position.

But as he demonstrated last year, Poole is really more of a combo guard. Able to handle the ball a bit and initiate his own offense, Poole getting sent to the G League bubble wasn’t at all a “no confidence” vote. Here’s General Manager Bob Myers, just recently:

"This is why he's down there, to be honest. It's to learn from these mistakes, and to get better," Myers told Santa Cruz Warriors play-by-play broadcaster Kevin Danna at halftime of Santa Cruz-Agua Caliente. "But the talent is there, and he's shown -- whether it's the scoring or the play-making, those are hard-to-find skills and skills that we liked when we drafted him.  

If you were dedicated enough to watch the Warriors’ previous season, it’s not hard to see how the vision of Poole could come together. He shined as the primary ball handler for a little while - right up until Covid cancelled the remainder of Golden State’s season.

At 6’5” he has the size to contend with shooting guards, but the speed and acuity to do a reasonable job on ball. A combo of say, Poole and Bazemore, with Wiggins, and Wiseman is a solid starting point for Kerr to tinker with. Poole doesn’t assist nearly as much as Wanamaker, but his ability to score will be a welcome change.

Nico Mannion is smaller, more raw, but also more of a playmaker. Though he seems slated for a deep spot on the bench, he’s been one of the Warriors better playmakers, assisting on an extremely healthy 60% of his teammates shots while on the court.

Together, they may not constitute the perfect answer for what’s ailing the back end of the Warriors depth chart, but it is time to try something else, as both statistics and eyeballs agree that Wanamaker’s struggle are unlikely to evaporate quickly enough to move the needle.

The Warriors have two quick back-to-back games tomorrow against the Blazers, and then Thursday against the Suns, so expect Poole to get quickly thrust right into the action.