The reigning champion Golden State Warriors have a bulletproof starting lineup headlined by one of the greatest players in NBA history and performing at a more dominant level than ever before. With unimpeachable winning credentials, the platonic idea of a role-playing center and former no. 1 which has positioned itself as a perfect two-way complement. Line up the Warriors against teams in the West for a seven game series and they might be the favorites. At the same time, they currently have a 4-7 record which puts them in 12th place in the conference, keeping them out of even those fantasy playoff spots.
These are strange times for Next Dynasty. Many of the big questions surrounding the Warriors’ post-Durant revival have been asked and answered. Yet at the nuts-and-bolts level, you can feel the pressure of a team mounting a championship defense with just five reliable rotation players—six if you count the struggling Jordan Poole, who has posted one of the worst combined reduction marks in the entire league so far. The stars are aligned for Golden State, but the Warriors have to go right these days just to take care of regular season business. They’ve already lost four games — out of 11 overall — in which Stephen Curry has scored at least 30 points. It took 47 from Steph earlier this week, dramatic changes in the team’s back half, and a shift in the home game’s lineup to lead to a three-point home win over the Kings.
It’s standard procedure for a championship team to slowly ebb and flow in subsequent seasons, the glow of its successes fading and the hunger for competition growing. However, in this case, the Golden State Warriors are playing hard and logging heavy minutes because the rest of the roster has no choice. With a battle-tested lineup of Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney fully on the floor, Golden State outscored opponents by 72 points in 123 minutes, according to NBA.com. In 408 other The Colts have lost 109 points in minutes played against any combination of players this season.
Some of these groups hold up better than others, but there is a common theme: the lower the lineup composition, the worse the performance tends to be. It’s not enough to just throw Curry in there with Golden State’s green whirlwind hopefuls; James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody struggled, Steve Kerr shifted the minutes of Kuminga and Moody and pulled Wiseman from the rotation.
It should be noted again and again that Kuminga and Moody are only 20 years old and Wiseman is 21. Neither of these is the final word on their careers or development at this point. Golden State, however, bases its entire rotation logic on the idea that the team’s youngest core will deliver in the current season. Stocking the bench with rising talent was an admirable attempt to prepare the franchise for life after Steph, or at least after Steph’s prime. However, by relying solely on the offseason to fill out the second division, the Warriors have drawn even more of a line between players who manage NBA basketball on a nightly basis and players who are not yet up to the task.
In the lead-up to the 2018 draft, Green — who will help defend another title as he advises the front office on who the team should select in the final round — offered a gem of wisdom that is a piece of Warriors history. “There are 82-game players,” Green said, as It was said “Then there are the 16-game players,” Warriors assistant GM Larry Harris said. Draymond needed the latter — a teammate he trusted to capture not just one series, but four. A player who can survive and walk. The Warriors are in a different place in 2022. What they need, desperately, is the 82 game players. This is a team that needs help getting through a long December road trip. He needs more realistic ways to protect Curry, Thompson and Green’s minutes—not stretch a playoff run just to rack up a run of run-of-the-mill regular-season wins. If any of the team’s key players are going to miss even a few minutes in less than a few months, any roster work will be needed.
Golden State wants more than the next generation of Warriors can provide, frankly. Although Lamb is very new to the team’s concepts, he should be, with Kerr relying on three lottery picks in Ty Jerome and Anthony Lamb, and things are already tough. Directed literally to the right places. In particular, Jerome and Lamb are not 16-game players Or 82-game players; Because of their two-way contract, they can only be active for 50 of Golden State’s regular season games and are ineligible to participate in the Finals unless their deal is changed. They’re a way to tread water and spend an extra 20 to 30 minutes on the bench with painfully limited options.
It’s clear that current champions are unfinished projects – too much internal growth or external resolution between now and the end of the season. The return of Donte DiVincenzo (who is expected to return on Friday) from injury may help the paper with some problems, but the project of the 25-year-old guard still feels a little difficult, as the hunter will find his way with a new team. . Andre Iguodala will be back at some point, and he could make a real difference as a court boss for some of the younger Warriors. He appeared in just 31 games last season and shouldn’t be projected beyond a limited regular season as he nears his 39th birthday. Maybe there’s a better way to do it with JaMichael Green (who joined Wiseman as DNP-CD with the Kings this week) or stretching Looney’s minutes at a minimal cost? Even these seemingly possible – and even preferred – solutions speak to where the fighters are now and how easily this can be avoided.
After all, this situation is at least partially created by the Golden State itself. The Warriors have effectively dismantled a bench that will help the team make the playoffs in 2022 and gauge how ready Wiseman, Kuminga and Moody are to compete. Obviously, the Warriors could use now-Raptor Otto Porter Jr. or now-Blazer Gary Payton II (although he’s still recovering from offseason surgery) to hit the bench again after doing that thing in the NBA Finals. Yet under the circumstances, he could feel like a vital source of institutional knowledge on a secondary without even Juan Toscano-Andersen (now a Laker) or Damion Lee (now a Sun). Meanwhile, Golden State’s 15th and final roster spot remains open.
Golden State will inevitably play better than this. But why, exactly? And how much? The Warriors won’t lose much from their rotation, but they need them badly. There will be opportunities for Wiseman, Kuminga and Moody to become something closer to the players the team needs — even if they weather a few nights rolling down the road. There will be trades available to the Warriors if they want them, including deals that force Golden State to choose between the present and the future. The Warriors have options, and most importantly, they have time. It’s early in the season for Golden State to play the ropes for a few more months and hope to find their way. The Warriors have yet to deny what they had: a defending champion three weeks later, who really didn’t look the part.