The Golden State Warriors will be put to the ultimate test when they face the defending NBA champion Lakers on Monday night. So far this season, the Lakers have hit the ground running with an 11-3 record, and once again, look like clear cut favorites to repeat in 2021.
Here are 3 keys to a Warriors victory against the Lakers.
Over the last three games, the Warriors have averaged 16.7 turnovers per game. Which is much more than Steve Kerr would like to see from his team. If the Warriors want to emerge victorious against the defending champs, they must take care of the ball to maximize their offensive possessions. The Lakers are a good defensive team that is anchored by Anthony Davis. In fact, the Lakers lead the entire league in defensive rating (1.011). If the Warriors want to complete the upset, they must find a way to limit Davis’s impact on that side of the floor and limit careless turnovers.
Prioritize Transition Defense
Lebron James and Anthony Davis is one of the most lethal tandems in the league. Especially in transition. The Lakers currently average 20.6 transition points per game on 56% shooting. With that being noted, the Warriors success tonight will largely depend on their ability to get back defensively. Locate the ball. And of course, stop the ball carrier. Although that task is easier said than done, I believe the Warriors can accomplish that goal through communication on defense, and understanding defensive assignments. Forcing the Lakers into their half-court offense is the best chance at victory.
Here are three observations from the Warriors 104-95 loss to the Indiana Pacers.
Kelly Oubre Finally Has His Break Out Game
There’s no doubt that Kelly Oubre has struggled offensively through the first 9 games of the season. He is averaging career lows in field goal percentage (35.3%), 3PT percentage (17.2%), and player efficiency rating (7.91). But last night against the Pacers, it appears he might’ve found his niche within the offense. He wasn’t settling for step back three pointers. He wasn’t driving through double teams in the paint. But most importantly, he played within the flow of the game, and it led to his most productive game in a Warrior uniform. Oubre ended the game with 17 points on 6/11 shooting, while also converting 3/7 from beyond the arc.
Role Players Step Up Once Again
I don’t know if you noticed it or not, but Stephen Curry’s first field goal attempt didn’t come until the 4:03 mark in the first quarter. By that time, Kelly Oubre already had 7 points, Draymond Green was orchestrating the offense, and the Warriors had built a 18-9 lead. One of the biggest questions surrounding the Warriors was whether or not they could compete when Steph doesn’t have his superman cape on. In this game, Wiggins, Oubre, Wiseman, and Green proved they can collectively contribute when needed.
Don’t Enter Andrew Wiggin’s Paint
Andrew Wiggins was accumulating blocks left and right against the Pacers on Tuesday night. He ended the game with 5 blocks, and was creating a world of havoc for Malcolm Brogdon, who was on the receiving end of two of them.
As you can see above, Wiggins was very impressive on the defensive side of the ball last night. In the first clip, he locates the screen, fights through it, and uses his length and athleticism to complete the tough closeout. Wiggins has been tremendous defensively all season. He leads the team in blocks this season (1.8) and has proven he can guard the league’s toughest assignments when he puts his energy into it. If Wiggins continues to play like this defensively, he could find himself in the running for DPOY.
Steve Kerr enjoys coaching his guys despite the defensive inconsistencies the Warriors have been struggling with to begin the regular season.
After the Warriors 108-101 loss to the Clippers on Wednesday night, Kerr expressed his confidence that the team is far from reaching their peak.
” I love our guys. They are great great guys. They’re competing like crazy, they’re absorbing things, they’re getting better everyday, and it’s fun to see them every morning when I come into the gym. This is a really good group and we’re going to improve quite a bit over the course of the season.
Well, he has a point. Each game the Warriors have shown improvement. Against the Clippers, it was their effort on the defensive side of the ball. The Clippers struggled to find an offensive rhythm and gave up a season high 19 turnovers. In fact, each of the Warriors starters recorded at least one steal in the game for the first time this season. It seems like the Warriors are finally learning how to utilize their size defensively. Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre may not be producing much offensively, but defensively, they’re wreaking havoc on opposing offenses. Pressuring the ball, forcing tough shots, closing passing lanes, you name it.
At the beginning of the season, the Warriors goal was to become a top 10 defensive team. Not only because they have the size and length on the team to do so, but also because they have to be if they want to be competitive against contending teams. Tonight they did that. Unfortunately, they didn’t get the winning result.
The Warriors are still trying to figure out what their identity is on both sides of the ball. They know the type of team they want to be, but now it’s about figuring out how to get there with this roster. As the season goes on and chemistry is built, I completely expect the Warriors to improve as a team and learn how to close out tight games. For now, the Warriors will just have to live with the growing pains, and Steve Kerr is fully aware of it.
The Golden State Warriors will head back to the bay area 2-2 after the team’s grueling four game road trip. After starting the season 0-2, it seemed like the Warriors season was over before it even started. But after the team’s impressive 116-106 victory over the Pistons, it appears the Warriors might be hitting their stride.
Here are my 3 takeaways.
Wiggins Has Most Productive Night Since Joining GS
Andrew Wiggins played a terrific game against the Pistons. He posted 27 points while shooting 47% from the field. He led the team in rebounds (7), and exploded for 17 points and two blocks in the fourth quarter, helping the Warriors seal a much needed victory. But most importantly, he was able to carry the offense when Stephen Curry and Kelly Oubre were off the court. An element the team has been missing through the first three contests. There is no doubt that Wiggins is the Warriors #2 option in Steve Kerr’s offense, and him shooting the ball consistently is essential to the Warriors success. With that being said, this game should give Wiggins a confidence boost moving forward.
The Warriors Fail to Crash Defensive Glass
The Warriors effort on the defensive glass was awful despite their outstanding energy on the defensive side of the ball. James Wiseman picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter and was forced to sit a majority of the half. And let’s just say, the Pistons took advantage of that opportunity. In fact, they had a field day on the offensive boards against Kevon looney and Eric Pashcall (16/4). In the first quarter alone, the Warriors were out-rebounded 8-1 on the offensive glass, and gave up 10 second chance points because of it. The Warriors were able to generate missed shots, but their lack of intensity rebounding the ball is what kept the Pistons in the game. Despite holding them to just 38% shooting. Becoming a top-10 defense this season was one of the team goals the Warriors highlighted this season. If they want to achieve that goal, they have to commit to crashing the glass and limiting second chance points.
The Bench Comes Up Big
The Warriors bench situation has been one of the biggest question marks surrounding the team this season. Steve Kerr made it clear last week that it would take about 20 games to figure out his rotation. Tonight he may have found the winning formula. Damion Lee, Brad Wanamaker, Eric Paschall, and Kevon Looney provided productive minutes off the bench and were able to extend the lead with the starters on the bench. They all finished close to double digit points, besides Paschall, who led the second unit with 10 points. The Warriors success will be largely impacted by the performance of the second unit. Unlike years past, the Warriors don’t have the luxury of having multiple all-stars to split up the scoring load. With that being said, I fully anticipate Kerr sticking with a similar rotation against the Portland TrailBlazers on Friday night.
Here are my 3 takeaway’s from last nights preseason loss to the Kings.
Andrew Wiggins Offensive Struggles Continue
Expectations for Andrew Wiggins are at the highest they’ve been in the last couple of years. Especially now that the Warriors know Klay Thompson won’t be stepping onto the court until 2022 at the earliest. Without Klay’s elite 2-way presence, the Warriors will rely on Wiggins to help fill that void at the #2 spot. But through two preseason games, he has struggled to find a rhythm. Wiggins throughout his career has averaged 20 PPG, but has failed to reach that point total through the first two games. In fact, Wiggins has only scored 20 points total through two games. He ended last night’s game against the Kings with 12 points on 3/12 shooting, 1-5 from beyond the arc, and overall, he didn’t look aggressive when he had the ball in his hands. Now to be fair, it is only Wiggins 14th game on the Warriors and it is preseason, but I was hoping he would try to assert himself more as the 2nd option behind Steph. That wasn’t the case. If the Warriors want to compete, they need Wiggins to perform better on the offensive end.
Warriors Offense Stagnant Without Steph
The Warriors looked great during the 28 minutes Stephen Curry was out on the court. The other 20.. not so much. As Anthony Slater noted, the Warriors offense was “vulnerable” whenever Steph was taken off the floor. In the opening quarter, Steph scorched the Kings with 11 quick points, starting the game off 4/5 from the field. After that, the lead was erased within minutes, as the Warriors second unit struggled to execute in their half court sets. On top of that, nobody on the Warriors other than Stephen Curry and Marquese Chriss could provide a spark offensively. Steve Kerr said his goal is to play Steph around 32 minutes per game, but that may not be an option if they cannot find ways to minimize damage when Steph is on the sideline.
Defense Takes A Step Back
Steve Kerr has made his expectations of being a top 10 defense very clear this offseason. Against the Nuggets, the Warriors showcased their ability to be a top 10 defense. But the question is, can they do it on a consistent basis? So far this preseason the answer is no, and here’s why. There were a lot of plays against the Kings where the Warriors gave up open 3-point looks because they were overplaying assignments, rotating late, and ball watching. In the first quarter, Andrew Wiggins gave up back to back 3-pointers to Buddy Hield because he was watching the ball on the other side of the court, allowing the skip pass to sail over his head. Then later in the game, Brad Wanamaker gave up back to back trey balls to Kyle Guy because he was caught up overplaying his assignment. Those types of mental errors won’t propel the Warriors in the defensive top 10, or the playoffs for that matter. But like I stated before, it’s only preseason, guys are adjusting to the new system, and of course, short handed with the absences of Draymond Green, James Wiseman, and Eric Paschall.
We are officially 8 days away from the NBA draft as speculation regarding the Warriors #2 pick continues. At this point, there are no inklings on who’s at the top of the Warriors draft board. But, it’s safe to assume that James Wiseman, Anthony Edwards , and Lamelo Ball are at the top of it.
Each player has extraordinary talent that would instantly contribute to the Warriors roster. Here are some of the pros and cons of each prospect.
Let’s be honest, James Wiseman is an athletic freak that would instantly give the Warriors the size, length, and athleticism the Warriors were lacking last season. There’s no doubt his 7 foot 6 wingspan will benefit the Warriors on both sides of the floor. Wiseman averaged 3 blocks per game during his short stint at Memphis, showcasing his ability to protect the rim and alter shots in the paint. His speed, agility, and quickness allows him to guard the perimeter on defensive switches. That’s not to mention that Wiseman held opposing teams to 33% from the field during his 69 minutes of collegiate play. That type of production defensively would be huge for the Warriors, who thrive on generating defensive stops and scoring in transition. Wiseman enjoys playing above the rim, and Golden State’s potent offense full of nonstop player movement and off-ball screens should give the rookie plenty of opportunities. Especially as a lob threat.
November 12th, 2019 was the last time James Wiseman competed in an organized basketball game. Yes, you read that correctly. Wiseman only played 69 minutes for the Memphis Tigers before being suspended for 12 games due to issues with his eligibility. Instead of serving the suspension, Wiseman elected to sit out and to focus on the draft, entirely unaware that the pandemic would further delay his name being called. With that being said, there will be a 13 month gap between Wiseman’s last college game and his NBA debut. It raises concerns about how far he is in his development, and how quickly he will adapt to the next level because of it. Now don’t get me wrong, Wiseman has all of the tools to become a lethal rim protector in this league, but the Warriors are in win-now mode and may choose experience over raw talent.
Anthony Edwards is a shifty athletic guard that can score on all three levels of the court. He utilizes great body control when he is attacking the paint. He has a quick first step and is a handful to guard in the open court due to his solid body frame and overwhelming strength. That’s not mentioning his ability to bully smaller guards in the post. The Warriors could benefit from a guy like Edwards because of his freakish athletic ability, strength, agility, and nonstop motor. Edwards would lead the 2nd unit and provide the Warriors with much needed bench scoring. Something the team lacked last season. Also, Edwards has the physical traits to become a decent perimeter defender when he puts in the effort. He averaged 1.3 steals per game at Georgia and at times, was able to generate blocks with his athleticism and defensive instincts. (0.6 Blocks per game)
Edwards didn’t exactly shoot lights out from 3-point land during his time at Georgia. In fact, he only converted about 29% (72/255) of his attempts last season. As we all know, the Warriors offense is designed to space the floor out with outside scorers. So, his ability to knock down corner threes would be crucial to the Warriors success. With that being said, that doesn’t mean Edwards wouldn’t be effective on the Warriors if his 3-point shooting doesn’t improve. It just means he would need to adjust his shot selection to better fit his role. Much like Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala had to during the teams five year finals run.
Lamelo Ball is probably the biggest name in this entire draft because of his raw talent, and off the court stardom. Ball, who played last season in the NBL, isn’t a stranger to professional basketball. In fact, he has played professionally against grown men since he was 16. Ball has elite court vision and ball handling ability. His ability to create his own shot is what makes him such a lethal offensive weapon. There’s no question, the Warriors could use another ball handler, and Ball wouldn’t be a bad choice. At 6’ 7” Ball has the size and length to get to his favorite spots with ease. He has a quick shot release and has no problem shooting over smaller defenders. But most importantly, Ball is lethal in transition, and can make opposing teams pay with his pinpoint accuracy and ability to finish above the rim.
One of the biggest knocks against Lamelo Ball is his inconsistent jumpshot. His form is far from fluid, and his release point is low. Also, Ball shot poorly from deep last season, only converting 25% of his shots. (While averaging 6 attempts per game) Ball would need to adjust his shot selection to be effective in Golden State. Another question about Ball’s fit on Golden State is his motor on defense. In the past, Ball has played some lazy defense. He appeared to be disinterested on the defensive side of the ball. The Warriors pride themselves on the defensive side of the ball. They thrive when they generate stops and get out in transition. Ball has the physical tools to become a decent on ball defender, but he needs to be engaged each time down the floor. Ball would likely lead the Warriors 2nd unit if they take him #2 overall
Golden State finds themselves in a unique position. Why? Because they aren’t your typical lottery pick. They already have the foundation of their roster put in place. Therefore, they aren’t obligated to make a selection. In fact, there are rumors floating around that Bob Myers has already tried trading the pick. But if they don’t, they will likely choose the prospect who will fit the teams scheme best.
Andrew Wiggins was once viewed as a generational talent. Now, he has the reputation of being overpaid. Wiggins is scheduled to make $29.5M this season in Golden State. The top overall pick in 2014 has not lived up to expectations thus far in his career. But, I believe he can make positive strides in Golden State.
Here are a couple of reasons why.
Wiggins Style of Play Translates Well in Steve Kerr’s System
It is no secret that the Warriors offense thrives best with athletic wings. I mean, look at their track record with Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, and Kevin Durant. With that being said, Kerr’s system relies heavily on nonstop player movement, misdirection, transition buckets, and a multitude of off-ball screens. Therefore, the consistent motion in Kerr’s offense should maximize Wiggins offensive abilities because he won’t be in a stagnant offense. Let’s face it, Wiggins is an athletic freak who has a ton of layers to his game. He can finish in transition, defend smaller guards on switches, and is serious threat with the ball underneath the hoop. Additionally, Wiggins improved defensively during his time in Golden State, and proved he can defend the league’s most potent scorers when he alters his defensive mindset.
His Contract Will Be Hard To Deal
The pandemic has put a ton of financial strain the entire league. There is no start date for next season, which means GM’s around the league don’t know what the salary cap will look like. With league revenues declining, it’s hard to imagine that a GM would be willing to take on Wiggins remaining salary. ( $94,738,170M through 2023) The Warriors find value in Wiggins contract because it makes more logical sense to pay an explosive wing player opposed to paying close to $100M for a ball dominant point guard in D’Angelo Russell. Especially with a backcourt featuring the Splash Brothers.
Trading for Andrew Wiggins helped fill the Warriors void at the wing position. At this point, I don’t think trading him away will do the Warriors any favors. This league is driven by athletic wings who have many facets to their game. I strongly believe Wiggins athletic ability will translate well on the court alongside the Warriors big 3. But, the only question that still lingers is Wiggins’ defensive motor. Can he play hard-nose defense at a consistent rate? Will he be able guard dominant wings like Lebron James and Kawhi Leonard throughout a 7 game series? I guess only time will tell. But if I had to bet on a culture to help evolve his game, I would put my money on Golden State.
It’s apparent that nobody knows what Bob Myers intends to do with the #2 overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. All we know is he has a ton of assets at his disposal if he wants to re-bolster the team’s frontcourt this upcoming season. Which they should do. But how?
The Warriors are lacking a true shot blocker in the paint. In fact, they’re lacking a true 7-footer on their roster. Alen Smailagic, is currently the tallest player on the team (6′ 10″), and has only competed in 14 games for the Warriors. Marquese Chriss, who started 21 games last season, lacks size at 6′ 9″ and has was limited against elite centers last season. With that being said, Chriss will still be a crucial rotational piece for the Warriors, but he isn’t a guy the Warriors want to matchup against Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic for 30+ minutes per game once the playoffs roll around.
Anthony Slater had this to say on the latest edition of the Warriors Plus-Minus podcast.
“If they watched the west playoffs, they better know that they need another center. Particularly, a big center who can bang with other big centers because they don’t currently have that”.
He is absolutely right. The Warriors do need to add size, muscle, and athleticism to their frontcourt if they want to have a shot against AD, and Jokic. But the question of how the Warriors plan to do it still isn’t specified. They can fill that need through the draft with potentially James Wiseman, they could utilize the $17.2MM trade exemption before it expires, or they could do what they’ve done in the past and fill that need through free agency.
Here are a couple of thoughts on each of those scenarios:
Drafting Wiseman #2 Overall
The decision likely will be impacted by the NBA’s unpredicted salary cap next season. Golden State is already over the luxury tax and could be disinclined to jump the gun on a rotational piece. James Wiseman is an intriguing prospect who could propel the Warriors to new heights. But drafting him at #2 would instantly make him the 5th highest paid player on the team. Which is a big investment on a player who only competed in 3 collegiate games. Especially for a team with a narrow championship window and high expectations heading into 2021.
Utilizing the $17.2MM TPE
There have also been reports that Golden State may elect to let the $17.2MM trade exemption expire unless they’re approached with a “special opportunity”. If that’s the case, I don’t see the Warriors making a move because the trade market is so unpredictable right now. We don’t know what the salary cap situation will look like next season, the amount of games each team will play, or if fans will be allowed back into arenas next season. All of these factors play a vital role in the Warriors ability to scope the trade market. But, don’t count the Warriors aggressive front office out if someone talented becomes available.
Utilizing Free Agency
Honestly, I think this will be the route the Warriors will take to find frontcourt depth. The center free agent class is deep this offseason and I predict the Warriors will try to sign a proven veteran to the MLE. Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, and Dwight Howard are all considered to be on the Warriors radar this offseason. They would save the Warriors money, and the resources needed to fill some of the other gaps on their roster. The Warriors have proven in the past that they don’t need a big name center to win championships. I fully expect them to have the same mentality heading into the draft and free agency.
For the past 5 seasons, we have witnessed the Golden State Warriors run through the Western Conference like a wrecking ball. But, my oh my have the tables have turned. Now, the Warriors find themselves on the outside looking in, and that’s a tough pill to swallow for Steve Kerr and Bob Myers. It’s evident that the roster needs improvement. Especially after enduring the 3rd worst winning percentage (.231 %) in franchise history.
With that being said, the dubs have a ton of assets at their disposal. They have the #2 overall pick in this year’s draft, a TPE worth $17.2 mil, and a top-3 protected first round pick from the Timberwolves in 2022. Which should be more than enough firepower to propel the Warriors back into championship relevancy. Still, Bob Myers has to be feeling the pressure, and nobody can blame him.
One glaring hole in the Warriors roster is at the center position. Right now, the only true centers on the Warriors roster are Marquese Chriss and Kevon Looney. Likely, that won’t be enough to eclipse the star-studded western conference due to the Warriors lack of size, strength, athleticism, and depth. In a recent interview, Steve Kerr expressed his desire to revamp the Warriors frontcourt.
The Warriors will have plenty of opportunities to fill that need once the offseason finally begins. With that being said, let’s look at a couple of Bob Myer’s options.
Draft James Wiseman #2 Overall
Top tier prospect James Wiseman is expected to be available at #2. His seven-foot-six wingspan and shot blocking ability would give the Warriors the size advantage they want at center, but it would cost them. Wiseman would instantly be entitled to the 5th highest salary on the team ($24.1 million through 2023). In three games at Memphis, Wiseman averaged 19.7 PPG, 10.7 REB, and 3 BLK per game on 76% shooting. Kerr has typically utilized the center by committee approach in previous seasons. So, is it worth it to pay a center over 7 million per year just to play around 20 minutes per game? I don’t think so. Especially because Draymond Green is expected to play the center position more this season.
Fill the Position W/ Proven Vet.
The Warriors core four alone should attract veteran free agents to the bay. Veterans like Marc Gasol, Hasan Whiteside, Aron Baynes, Dwight Howard, Javale McGee, Nerlins Noel and Kelly Olynyk are all set to become free agents this offseason. Instead of spending extra cap money on an unproven draft prospect, the Warriors could cash in on their assets and trade for a proven role player using the TPE. Also, the Warriors are lacking back-up guards, and could fill that need in the first round.
Everything up to this point is merely speculation. We don’t know what the salary cap will look like next season. We don’t have a draft date. And most importantly, we don’t know the start date of next season. For now, all we know is that the Warriors are on the hunt for a new starting center.
This is a huge offseason for the Golden State Warriors. Steve Kerr and Bob Myers have a lot of work to do if they want to return to championship form. One of the questions they must answer is whether Marquese Chriss has done enough in the blue and gold to secure a starting spot next season.
The Warriors have a ton of assets at their disposal if they want to make significant moves. They have the #2 overall pick, a $17.2 million TPE, and they have a lightly protected first round pick from Minnesota next season. That is more than enough to secure roster depth. If Myers chooses to do so.
Chriss started in 18 games for Golden State last season, and was quite impressive. He averaged 9.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game. That’s not to mention his field goal percentage (54.5%) led the entire team. His athleticism, high motor, floor running, and ability to play above the rim gave the Warriors a different edge offensively. Chriss would need to improve defensively. He had the 2nd worst defensive rating on the team last season, but showed improvement as his time on the floor increased. The Warriors already know what Chriss brings to the table and that could become a deciding factor come draft day.
On the other hand, Myers could elect to draft James Wiseman, whose name has been tied to Golden State since early last season; or trade the pick for a center that Golden State knows will contribute right away. The Warriors believe they have a three year window to contend with the Warriors core.
This season, teams have been experimenting with small-ball centers. The Rockets have gone completely small with PJ Tucker at center. Which has forced opposing teams like the Lakers to adjust. Could Golden State attempt to recreate this with Marquese Chriss?