Discover more from Dub Nation HQ
Warriors counting on health, not the buyout market
One last game against the Nuggets, as Golden State looks forward to a post All Star reset
Like a High School senior approaching the end of the year, there’s been a listlessness to the recent Golden State Warriors losses. On the bright side, the All Star break is coming up right after this game! The flip side is that first, the Warriors have to take on the Denver Nuggets. There aren’t many “big” centers that a team has to worry about in the modern NBA, but the Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic is one of them.
At time of writing, the Warriors hadn’t submitted an injury report yet. It will be interesting to see what the team chooses to do for this game. Maximize development time for the youngins and rest for the old heads? Or chase a win and try to go into the break on a high note?`
On Denver’s side, they’re playing without Michael Porter jr., and Jamal Murray, but have won three in a row and have found some good players around the edges this season.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (42-16) vs Denver Nuggets (32-25)
WHEN: Wednesday February 16th, 2022 // 7pm PDT
Warriors counting on health, not the buyout market
Allowing 104.4 points per 100 possessions, the Warriors still own the league’s stingiest defense. But your eyeballs are right: they’ve been struggling lately. Via our friend Joe Viray, Golden State’s defense over the last five games has been abysmal. At a generous 115 points per 100 possessions, the Warriors have had a bottom eight defense during that span. Small sample size? Sure. But also representative of a frequent fan concern, given the roster construction.
The current change is mostly related to the absence of Draymond Green. The team’s best defender (heck, the league’s best defender), and second-best player, he hasn’t played a game since January 5th due to a back problem. Given all that, it’s no surprise that the defense has fallen off a cliff.
Still, of the five centers that GM Bob Myers listed off yesterday, it’s hard not to notice that two of them are out with injury till further notice, two are already used in the rotation, and the other one is a skinny rookie. After getting lit up by the likes of Hassan Whiteside and watching helplessly as Ivica Zubac put up 18 points and 8 rebounds in just 23 minutes, it’s not all that crazy to look for some additional help.
After standing pat at the trade deadline, the next avenue to add help would be the buyout market — where both Goran Dragic and Robin Lopez are said to be available. Not so fast, says Myers:
So the Warriors are indicating that they’re not opposed to adding the right player, but it also sounds like they’re aware that a guy like Robin Lopez isn’t a solution at center. A stop gap? Sure.
Lopez would fit in well as a passer and could eat 10-20 minutes against opposing centers. But how much better? Keep in mind that any addition is going to add millions of dollars to an already enormous team payout. This is the limit of owner Joe Lacob’s financial edge.
And Lopez might be better suited to the team’s primary needs, but the Front Office is comfortable with what they’ve built - the compromises required to build the rest of a roster squeezed into the couch edges around your fat primary salaries.
The flaws are known.
But that’s little comfort. Everyone knows how the team got here with this roster, the big question now is what to do.
Golden State’s answer is to do nothing. Well, not literally nothing, the players are doing what they can to get their bodies right, and the All Star break is right around the corner. Kevon Looney said after the last game, “I’m not exhausted, but I’m ready for the break” and he may as well have been speaking for the whole team.
There are 23 games after the break, and it doesn’t sound like Draymond Green, or James Wiseman will be back right away. Who knows what to make of Andre Iguodala’s extended absence. That’s a lot of the same status quo over a long period of time.
But maybe that’s all they need. That’s the plan, anyways.
Nuggets the next team to put Warriors plan to the test
When these two teams met earlier in the season, it ended in a three point Nuggets win — a game where Jokic went off for 22 points and 19 rebounds. The Warriors were without Green in that game too, but given the recent arrival of DeMarcus Cousins, it could be the all too familiar sight of the Warriors hosting a party at their rim.
In the last game, it was the point of attack defense that was the culprit. Curry talked about it:
“There were a lot of possessions tonight where one guy is doing the right thing, two guys weren’t, the other two are just watching. A lot of breakdowns. Paint open. Being locked in on the game plan. The one-on-one defense, everyone has to take that responsibility. We didn’t talk a lot tonight.”
and Kerr added:
“It was on-ball defense,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “They spent the whole game at the front of the rim. We couldn’t guard our man.”
Those two issues are connected.
The Warriors have been able to survive this far without a big center by applying extra energy. But all that running around is a whole lot more complicated without Green supporting the effort by solving problems all over the place. If the Warriors are going to stick with the plan, then it’s got to be able to withstand these sorts of challenges. Losing the the Nuggets without Green isn’t an indictment of the viability of the Warriors plan, but it doesn’t help.
Golden State is slipping back from the first place Phoenix Suns, and the Memphis Grizzlies are inching closer from the third seed. The Warriors bought themselves some wiggle room, but time’s going to quickly run out on assembling this particular puzzle.