Warriors out for revenge against a Grizzlies team that helped end their play-in tournament
Memphis is coming in on the tail end of a back-to-back, but this won't be easy
When they built Golden Gate park, designers wanted to make sure it was larger than New York’s Central Park. So they built the panhandle section - a long, narrow strip running along Fell street that would help San Francisco eclipse Central Park's size.
In a lot of ways, this is how the Warriors treated the offseason. But instead of a panhandle park section, they filled in the edges of the existing team design rather than doing anything drastic. By all indications, it was the right move. Golden State has stormed out to a 4-0 start that is somehow more impressive than it looks, and all the while, they’re setting up for a Splash Brothers reunion that will shake the league down to the foundations.
Not yet though.
First, they’ve got to handle business against a team that played a key role in derailing the Warriors’ play-in tournament bid last season, in a white-knuckled 117-112 win featuring a 35-point game from Ja Morant. Morant is on a tear this year, but the Warriors have a long memory and will be out for some revenge tonight.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (4-0) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (2-2)
WHEN: Thursday, October 28 // 7:00 p.m. PST
Poole party? Or slippery floor?
While we like to stay on the positive side here at DNHQ, I think my good buddy Daniel Hardee has that all covered. So I’ll embrace the dark side and draw your attention to some things around Golden State that maybe aren’t going so well. Now, let me first preface this by saying that everything is pretty darn rosy, on the whole, here.
That said, everyone needs to embrace continual improvement as a goal, and you can’t do that without poking a few holes in stuff.
We are all living in small sample size world. A strange and lovely place where anything can be true as long as you believe in it hard enough. But through the four games, throughout all the different opponents, it sure feels like the Warriors are starting off games a little flat.
Poole had a blistering preseason, and between the strong early returns and his late-season push last year, it seems like he’s trending in the right direction. Early returns this season, are unfortunately less than stellar.
Poole isn’t playing bad per se, but it’s not quite what we saw in the preseason. Over the first four games, he’s the team’s third-leading scorer, averaging 15.3 points in around 28 minutes per game. But the problem is efficiency. For a Kerr-system offense that prioritizes getting good shots and well-rounded players, Poole’s shooting percentages and occasional defensive lapses are a concern.
Cleaning the Glass has Poole’s points per attempt way down in the 33rd percentile, the bottom third of players at his position - that’s not great. Basketball is about a lot of different aspects, but the overall benefit of a player is contingent on them either being really well rounded, or elite in some aspects. For Poole, scoring is supposed to be his elite aspect, and right now, it has not been the case so far this season.
Now, I don’t think we can or should pin this on Poole exclusively, but take a look at the quarter-by-quarter scoring and defensive profile.
For me, I’m not too worried about all this - for a few reasons.
First of all, we have seen that Poole can contribute at an elite level. At his best, he a twisting force of scoring acumen that can punch a bunch of holes in defenses - especially alongside Curry.
But this isn’t the preseason any more. Teams are almost certainly including him as a point of emphasis in their pregame planning, the lights are brighter, and the pressure has ramped up now that game outcomes actually matter.
Secondly, look at the rest of the rotational impact on that quarter-by quarter scoring. Poole features heavily in a number of lineups. He’s logged the 4th most minutes, and based on the eyeball test, he’s still forcing teams to scramble to cover him, especially on drives.
Coach Steve Kerr, for his part, is playing it cool. The bad numbers for Poole are largely related to his subpar shooting from deep. But shooting 24% on only 29 shots is a lot less of a concern for a guy that hit over 35% of his 276 attempts last season. Also, as Kerr says in his response, the team views these games as a discrete whole. Putting Lee into the bench role may be just as much of the team’s plan as anything else - remember that Kerr started his career by asking Andre Iguodala to stabilize the bench rotation.
For now, it’s just something to pay attention to. As long as the team is winning, I expect Kerr to be extremely patient with Poole’s struggles. As should we.
Looking at this big upcoming homestand, it feels like this isn’t quite as soft of a schedule as it looked on first glance. For me, it’s a pretty big priority to accumulate as many wins as possible so that whenever Klay Thompson returns, there’s plenty of wiggle room to work out the hiccups.
Coming in on the second night of a back-to-back, and with the looming specter of last season’s play-in tournament game, this feels like a win. And when have my initial instincts ever been wrong?