Warriors find answers by leaning harder on the core
Restructured Jazz come visit as Warriors refine their blueprint
Trade? Internal development? While looking for areas of improvement, there haven’t been a lot of easy answers for the Golden State Warriors this season. With mid-tier names like Jae Crowder, or perhaps a center that could play immediately (like Myles Turner or Jakob Poeltl) being floated as options it makes sense that coach Steve Kerr has turned towards his starters and asked for more.
Like a lot of workplaces, the Warriors rewarded their most reliable workers with more work. Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins have been shifted so that they can provide support to Golden States struggling bench units. It worked against the Los Angeles Clippers and will likely be heavily leaned on in the near future.
WHO: Utah Jazz (12-8) at Golden State Warriors (9-10)
WHEN: Friday, November 25th 2022 // 7pm PDT
No Action: always consider keeping the status quo
It’s sort of frowned on - or maybe it just feels non-intuitive - but when I do analysis at my day job, one of the mandatory options is always “no change.” For Golden State, the struggles were immediately apparent as the season opened. Limping out to a 3-7 start over the first 10 games of the season, Kerr announced some major changes. 6-3 since then, the biggest change has been tucking the newcomers further back out of the way. James Wiseman is developing - but down in Santa Cruz.
For the first time this season, Golden State has climbed up into the positive side of the league. More importantly, the team is playing better. A more focused approach to offense, and a tighter defense are starting to poke their head up after the team’s mediocre start. Watch the defensive engagement on this play below. It’s not just that Wiggins is an excellent man defender (which he is), there’s a whole defensive ecosystem behind him. Shifting, adjusting, hedging and then recovering. This is what an engaged championship defense looks like:
From a trade perspective, the Warriors find themselves in a sort of no-man’s land. The core is untouchable. Around that core… well hold on for a second. Let’s talk about the core more. Traditionally, there’s a defined core for these teams - and the Warriors do indeed have a big three (or is it four now?). But what about a player like Kevon Looney? Is Jordan Poole part of the core yet?
Going deeper down the bench, the team just invested heavily in Jordan Poole. Poole has struggled a bit to start the season, but still brings that explosive offensive punch that is worth a lot in today’s NBA. So who’s even left to trade?
Jonathan Kuminga is the most used recently, but Moses Moody has more total minutes played this season. Both look like they’ll be useful players now and in the future. James Wiseman’s biggest problem is that he’s currently the team’s fifth highest paid player, but still working on being good enough at basketball to help an NBA team. Would Joe Lacob and the Front Office feel comfortable pitching some or all of these players out into the wind for someone like Jae Crowder?
Reportedly - and I use the term loosely here in regards to these “rumors” floating around - the Warriors’ name has been getting whispered around names like Crowder. How much better is he than Anthony Lamb? If you were in charge, what assets would you flip for this guy, knowing/hoping Andre Iguodala is in cryogenic storage on the bench waiting for the post season?
The Suns have wanted to move on from Crowder for a while now, and the 32-year-old is in the last year of his contract with Phoenix after averaging 9.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists across 67 games during the 2021-22 NBA season.
Lamb and Ty Jerome have both averaged more minutes than Kuminga and Moody recently; and both are also on two-way contracts. With one roster spot open, there’s a chance that a player like Lamb can help all the way into the post season. The urgency here is more about turning the wins and losses around now though, and for that to happen immediately, the common wisdom is to look outside.
But if no trades are there? Or more likely, the Warriors aren’t all that eager to part with some combination of Kuminga and Wiseman for a journeyman that figures to slot into the deep end of the depth chart?
For now, the answer is to lean more heavily on the core. How much stress can be applied to these same players before it becomes too much? That’s a good question, but one that is unfortunately being pushed to the backburner like Wiseman, for now.
Jazz on the other end of the trade chatter spectrum
In Utah, they’re retooling on the fly. After trading Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, the team is somehow pretty much just as good as they were before. It’s not entirely clear which direction the franchise will choose, moving forward:
How much time Mike Conley misses following a knee injury over the weekend could impact Utah’s decision-making if there’s any subsequent drop in the Jazz’s competitiveness. Utah has so far signaled an intent to keep breakout star forward Lauri Markkanen plus franchise favorite Jordan Clarkson, and have established a high asking price for Jarred Vanderbilt, sources told Yahoo Sports, leaving Malik Beasley and Kelly Olynyk, along with Conley, as the obvious veterans the Jazz could move before the Feb. 9 trade deadline. Olynyk is known to be a favorite of Ainge.
These options are all on the table, but none of it matters today. Golden State is finally on the cusp of playing .500 ball after this season’s rough start. Every win matters, whether it’s in the final legs of the season, or the slow ho-hum start that fades into memory before the “games really start to matter” talking points drown them out.
Turkey chili is on the menu tonight, and so is another Golden State win!