You test me? I test you! Warriors, Clippers eyeball each other with future in mind
Iguodala, Lee still out for Golden State; Clippers without Batum, Leonard
Looking at it, this stretch of schedule was supposed to be an early test. Or maybe not so early, considering that the Golden State Warriors are about a quarter of the way through the regular season. But regardless of the timing, it feels like the Warriors are the standard-setters.
If you parse out the rest of the season using the current winning percentage, this year’s Warriors team would end up with a record of… 73-9. And while that’s not the goal, it serves as a reminder of just how well Golden State is playing.
For injuries tonight, the Warriors are mostly unchanged from their last game - both Andre Iguodala (knee) and Damion Lee (personal/having a baby) are out. Kuminga and Moody have both been recalled from the G league (but Moody is a bit banged up). The Clippers will be without Leonard for most of this season, and have also added Nic Batum to their “not available” list as he is in Covid health and safety protocols.
So both teams are bit short-handed, but both teams are also pretty darn good as currently constructed. It's a test for everyone!
WHO: Golden State Warriors (17-2) at Los Angeles Clippers (11-8)
WHEN: Sunday, November 28, 2021 // 12:30pm PDT
WATCH: NBCSBA (?)
Blog Buddy: 213 Hoops
Is Andrew Wiggins an All-Star?
When I’m not sure what to cover in these previews, I generally just go blankly stare at a a bunch of statistics, looking for anything that captures my interest. Today, that means that we are going to look at Andrew Wiggins.
As any of our longtime readers will know, I was skeptical (to put it gently) about the trade that brought Wiggins to Golden State. Too expensive, not good enough, and an inefficient cog that the Warriors’ offense most definitely didn’t need. Boy was I wrong. After showing immediate improvement upon arrival to the Golden State dynasty, Wiggins quickly showed that he could indeed thrive as a tertiary scorer and primary on-ball defender for the Warriors.
But he didn’t just slot in. He played better. Way better.
Now it’s a couple of years into his residency, and the shores of Wiggins Island have never looked more inviting for fans. This is what caught my eye while analyzing the team data - check out his efficiency (Synergy calls it “excellent” and I’d agree):
He’s scoring 31.1 points per 100 possessions - that’s the second-best such mark of his career. But that’s not the whole story. He’s had higher volume scoring years on his way to a per game scoring average of around 20 points per contest. He’s been scoring plenty throughout his career - what’s changed this year is the efficiency.
Digging a little deeper, Cleaning the Glass shows him in the 82nd percentile for efficiency. This is points scored per 100 attempts, and the leap is so huge, I went ahead and stuck it into a graphic to better conceptualize the scale of this leap. In his entire career, he’s never hit higher than the 54th percentile (meaning he’s been a whole lot closer to average or even below average) - not this year:
Whether or not there’s been some great awakening of the aggressive beast, I don’t know. Maybe it’s the growing familiarity with coach Steve Kerr’s offense, or more comfort in playing alongside a fully powered Curry and Green while knowing that Klay Thompson’s emotional return is imminent… maybe it’s the 5G vaccine pumping through his blood… Whatever the cause, it’s a remarkable jump in the area that has been one of the greatest concerns.
Ok, no, there’s surely a more mundane reason for this newfound accuracy. One of the explanations that I find more plausible is that Wiggins is finally more free to pick and choose his spots. On this team, it’s as much about Wiggins having the discernment in picking when to attack as it is about the plethora of open possibilities offered up while Curry, Green, and Poole slice and dice the defense.
No longer forced to artificially take shots in Minnesota, or carry the bench unit while Curry sits, Wiggins is absolutely thriving here, and you just love to see it.
How are the Clippers doing?
Much like the Warriors missing Klay Thompson and James Wiseman, the Los Angeles Clippers have had to forge on into the season without Kawhi Leonard, and are now playing without Nic Batum. Not doing quite as well as the NBA-best Warriors, the Clippers have still managed to go 11-8, good enough for 5th place in the Western Conference.
The Los Angeles plan is to hang on as well as possible until their superstar comes back from injury. For the Clippers, this means a long haul approach, since Kawhi Leonard isn’t expected back until close to the end of the season.
In the interim, Paul George is leading them admirably. They’ve got the 2nd-best defensive rating, and an average offense that gets the job done. They played the Warriors close in this season’s previous meeting - a two-point Clippers loss in a game where Curry went off for 45 points.
But it feels to me like the tables have turned. I’m not sure that this game is a test for the Warriors, but rather for the Clippers. They hung with Golden State in that first matchup by going small, but the Warriors are playing better as a team right now, and if the Clippers over-prioritize slowing Curry down (and who can blame them after he slapped 45 points on them last time they met?) that just opens the floor up for the rest of the Warriors roster to cut into the underbelly.
Day game at Staples? Curry won’t shoot well. But the Dubs have plenty of other weapons.