Warriors can't trust 2nd unit yet, but don't have to (yet)
Golden State hits the road to check in on their old pal, Chris Paul, and his Suns
The Golden State Warriors made it look real easy for half of their previous game, and the other half of it looking like poo poo. Stressful to watch.
Right now, the defending champions are easing into the regular season, and it shows. After missing portions of the preseason, both Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are on minutes limitations; Andre Iguodala is golfing and checking his emails occasionally. And because of those realities, the Warriors aren’t really positioned right now to chase wins.
But how long will coach Steve Kerr let the slack go? This is game four coming up, and though the Phoenix Suns are disintegrating, it is still one of last season’s top teams. These games count just as much as the end-of-season chase, but the Warriors are hoping that player development pays off down the road. I still find myself wondering how much longer they’ll leave their second unit out there on their own.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (2-1) at Phoenix Suns ()
WHEN: Tuesday, October 25th // 7pm PDT
Injuries: Donte DiVincenzo (left hamstring strain) didn’t come on the trip, and Andre Iguodala (left hip injury management) is out till further notice.
Know what you know and what you don't know
The biggest question I have right now is why Kerr is keeping the second unit so separated from the starters, so here’s my guess.
Golden State knows what they have with their starting unit. The most recent championship just proves that it works, but the base truth was established long ago: this is a killer combination. The Warriors are definitely pacing themselves too - well aware of the marathon ahead of them in their chase to repeat. The team overall is slightly positive, averaging a Net advantage of 2.2 points per 100 possessions. Not bad. But there’s a huge dichotomy when you slice up the lineup data to just look at the starters versus everyone else; per Anthony Slater of The Athletic:
Through three games, their established veteran starting lineup — Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, and Kevon Looney — has crushed opponents by 43 points in 41 minutes. All other lineup combinations are a cumulative minus-29.
The obvious solution is to do more mixing. Kerr’s current approach of running heavy non-starter units out there is unorthodox for a reason. So why do it, if it’s costing the team wins?
Looking behind those small sample sizes, there’s some moments of good stuff happening. Jordan Poole is working on his playmaking chops. James Wiseman still has plenty to figure out on the court, but for all his flaws, the Warriors have found a way to turn him into an effective weapon.
So if we can safely assume that the Warriors know what they have in their starting unit, then you can pretty easily see why they’d spend so much capital on figuring out the parts that they don’t know as well. Beyond that, those second unit elements are less established, more likely to swing strongly in one direction or the other. So of course Kerr wants to prioritize doing everything he can to help them swing the right way as they develop.
As much as it looks like a “sink or swim” situation, there are a bunch of little things that Kerr and the Warriors are trying to figure out right now. They can do that because they’re comfortable with what the big picture looks like right now, but they likewise know that this roster needs to work under the bright lights of the playoffs eventually. With the important parts in place, they’re tinkering.
Where is Chris Paul’s leadership?
That’s about all I have to say here. The Suns are in shambles. Their biggest free agent tried to leave and then sounded grumpy that he had to come back, they fell apart in the playoffs, and are bringing little confidence or hope. But hey, at least that one guy is scoring a lot?
I predict that the Warriors will win, because that’s what winners do!