Warriors hoping that the puzzle is coming together
The middle is still wide open in the NBA’s Western Conference, and with the Golden State Warriors hovering around .500, there’s plenty of room for hope… and concern. But even if everything hasn’t come together consistently, the blueprint of the warriors is beginning to emerge.
This is a big week for Golden State. First up tonight is the game against the recovering but dangerous Oklahoma City Thunder, followed by the Timberwolves and Nuggets, who play in Minnesota and Denver on Wednesday and Thursday.
Andrew Wiggins looks like he’s eligible to play, but the James Wiseman madness continues. Or maybe it’s not that weird after all, but definitely unfortunate.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (25-24) at Oklahoma City Thunder (24-25)
WHEN: Monday Jan 30, 2023 // 5pm PDT
LOOK AT: NBCSBA
The warriors are far from stable, but there are some gentle whispers of resolution floating in on the wind. The Warriors have won three of their last four games, and while there are still some lingering injuries to deal with, it feels like the pieces of the puzzle are falling together.
With their proven core of veterans, they’ll cover the majority of the minutes in any potential playoff series. According to Cleaning the Glass, the Warriors starting five unit is one of the best in the league. With a safe margin of +19.8 points per 100 possessions (the “Difference” column below), it’s in the 92nd percentile of all qualifying lineups. That’s pretty nice – before you even start counting the rings that are all out there at once.
For the Warriors to have the luxury of knowing that the starting five can compete with any team is a nice luxury — and one that Golden State desperately needs. However, especially in the regular season, you have to face a harsh reality: the five-man unit is nice and all, but it’s not enough.
If you look at the total number of minutes played this season, you might be surprised to know that Jordan Poole has led the team so far. Much of this is health related, but despite all the injuries, a pattern is emerging. Coach Steve Kerr doesn’t feel too bad about having favourites, but more often than not it’s for a reason.
Anthony Lamb is a special case. One of the team’s two-way contracts has a cap on the number of regular-season games he can appear in. and it’s far from clear whether the Warriors will choose to keep him or Ty Jerome in their final roster spot – whenever the time comes to establish that. One way or another, both Lamb and Jerome can’t be on the playoff list unless there’s a contract change or two.
Poole is a suspension in the playoff rotation. He’s had some shaky moments this season, but the team feels so comfortable based on his performances in the playoffs last year that they’ll give him plenty of room for error. One of the reasons the Warriors are seemingly so reluctant to add another big man is the unspoken assumption that when it comes down to it, Poole will come on the court over another big man. Actually, Poole is one of the league leaders when it comes to benchers finishing the game – He finished over 50% of the games he didn’t start.
Now healthy, Donte DiVincenzo has cemented his place as the team’s troublesome energy defender, stabilizing presence off the bench.
That brings us to seven or eight names.
As noted throughout the season, the Warriors are just looking for another man to emerge from the middle tier of the bench and command minutes. It looks like Jonathan Kuminga could transform into this guy right before our eyes.
Eric Apricot already broke his hot scoring to wrap up the third quarter of the team’s final game, but there are many crucial ways Kuminga can help this Warriors team.
You don’t need a graphic illustration to understand that the Warriors are a team dead last in free throw attemptsHe could use a guy pushing the rim like Kuminga. The image below is from Cleaning the Glass so it excludes the trash time but take a look at the overall shape of this image which shows the percentage of shooting attempts he was fouled on.
Not only is Kuminga above average (remarkable for such a young player with low minutes as he is), but look at the individual data points. He’s so hard to stop, sometimes catching so many fouls that the graphics are completely out of perspective. As one of my favorite old Golden State of Mind signature lines said: There’s nothing unusual, it just takes a bigger piece of paper. Kuminga stretched this paper wide in a game where he was fouled on 60% of his shots.
As the trade deadline approaches, it feels increasingly certain that the Warriors’ front office won’t destroy their future for short-term roster improvements. They may not have to if all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.
It’s time to pull yourself together and rack up some wins. Starting tonight!