Fun but flawed, Warriors feel like the old times
Golden State opens preseason with win over Denver, and every little victory feels sweet again
There’s a certain stress that comes with only counting a championship as the sole meaningful measure of success in any given NBA season - and it can overshadow all the little “wins” in the midst of the season.
While a ring may still be the ultimate goal of the Golden State Warriors this season, there’s enough for this roster to play for so that falling short of that ultimate prize wouldn’t automatically brand the year a failure.
For fans that grew up rooting for that wayward squad in Oakland, it’s a comfortable return.
There’s an unfettered joy that Stephen Curry brings to basketball, and welcoming it back into our lives this weekend was refreshing. No longer shackled by the “Championship or bust” canticle, the Weaponized Joy (patent pending) is free to spread; only instead of All-World players that can single-handedly conquor a game, Curry leads an unheralded squad this time around.
It’s going to be real fun!
The good from the first preseason game
The new Warriors play fast and fun. Steve Kerr has assessed the tools at hand and opened the throttle on Golden State’s well-worn offensive schemes. Younger, faster, and with meaningful bench depth again, the Warriors appeared to back up all that earlier talk about playing faster.
Oubre’s energy and length
Kelly Oubre was a near perfect player acquisition. Not only can he fill some of the offensive and defensive gaps left in Klay Thompson’s absence, because the Warriors hold his Bird rights, this is an audition that could lead to a more extended stay.
In his Warriors debut, Oubre (10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 blocks in 22 minutes) did a little bit of everything on offense, and was one of the energy-setters on defense.
It was a good thing too, as Andrew Wiggins was relatively silent (8 points, 1 assist in 19 minutes). In the military they have a saying about redundancy: “two is one, and one is none.” It’s exactly that sort of mindset that helps place Oubre’s value for the Warriors. One of the big knocks on Wiggins over the course of his career has been his tendancy to pull the occassional disapearing act.
Having two players as versatile as Oubre and Wiggins is a great pairing because they can both cover for each other in a lot of different ways.
Paschall, Bazemore, and Wanamaker off the bench
Though J.R. Smith’s “we got a squad now” qiup didn’t age well, it’s a fantastic statement of belief. The knowledge of the overall talent pool on any team is no secret, and while we are all succesptible to varying degrees of deslusion, the Warriors bench looked good on Saturday.
The newly acquired bench duo of Brad Wanamaker and Kent Bazemore felt like a steadying presence off the bench - something the Warriors have sorely missed since so many of the OGs like Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala left (and yeah, I know. It hasn’t been that long).
Kerr has talked a lot about prioritizing defense for this season, and without Curry’s firepower, the second unit for the Warriors will have to be one of the more stalwart benches in the league. Warriors fans are likely already familiar with Bazemore’s frenetic defense, but check out Wanamaker:
Tim Kawakami @timkawakamiI wasn't going to be the first to say it, but @anthonyVslater makes the point here: Wanamaker's defensive approach and quick hands are a little reminiscent of Iguodala: https://t.co/fQIipgw0b4
Looney looks good
Kevon Looney started, and though he didn’t stuff the stat sheet (8 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists in 18 minutes) that’s not really his game. Most importantly, his lateral movement seems to be restored. After getting stolen out of the NBA Finals by an untimely injury, Looney’s frustrating on and then off again return season last year was a bummer for the fan favorite.
Having Looney back at full capacity was one of many concerns for this team coming into the season. So if he really is as healthy as he seemed on Saturday, that’s a huge, meaningful boost to the Warriors entire season. Looney, much like Draymond Green, is one of the rare big men that really can switch all the way down to reliably cover wing players.
The biggest hole is already filled
Nikola Jokic is nearly impossible to stop. It’s a big part of why the Denver Nuggets are considered to be in the upper tier of the league. So, sure, it isn’t a total shocker that he went off for 26 points and 10 rebounds in just 23 minutes, but you’d hope the Warriors can do something to slow him down.
As good as the wing defense on Jamal Murray looked (just 4 points and 4 assists in 24 minutes), the defense on Jokic was… not awesome.
Thanfully, we’ve got former defensive player of the year, Draymond Green returning soon, as well as James Wiseman our rookie that is bigger than Gobert. So there’s help coming to shore up the paint.
The bad from the first preseason game
Curry’s off night
I’m not worried or anything, but Curry did not have a great night: 10 points, 1 rebounds, and 3 assists. Anthony Slater had this in his recap on The Athletic, and it does a good job of showing just how deeply engrained we have all become to the idea of teammates always looking for Curry or Thompson when they get going.
With so many new faces on this team, Curry will need some time to integrate everything. For now though, it’s clear that there’s room for growth in this regard.
Lack of high threat three point shooters
Golden State went 11 of 40 from deep on Saturday. Curry was 2 for 7, but you know that’s not a pattern. Wiggins was 2 for 6. Paschall, a player that seemed to have abandoned his re-worked shot mechanic, went 0-2. Oubre was 1 for 7.
Here’s the long-term concern. As we’ve seen with the Houston Rockets, there’s a high variability that comes along with taking a lot of threes (and it appears that Golden State will be doing exactly that this season). Oubre and Wiggins are both career 33% shooter from beyond the arc; Bazemore, one of the more accurate outside shooters other than Curry is around 35% on his career.
Taken together, this is a dangerous combination. We’ve got a team that says it’s going to take a lot of threes, but it’s composed of players that aren’t demonstrated experts in that regard.
Maybe it’s a problem, maybe it isn’t, but for a team that will be seeking offense outside of Curry’s adroit hands, it’s a concern that was on display.
LATE EDIT: Wiseman lob!
We’ll talk more about this in the morning, but James Wiseman has arrived!
Oh man, I hope he doesn’t foul so much that his minutes are limited, because this guy looks like a whole lot of fun: