Preview: Chriss sits, Green returns - Warriors ready for softer opponent in Bulls
After getting shellacked by two of the best teams in the league, Golden State hopes for a return to their old form
The season hasn’t gotten off to a great start for the Golden State Warriors. After Klay Thompson’s season-ending injury just prior to training camp, the absence of Draymond Green and James Wiseman due to Covid, and then some truly poor shooting and defensive performances against two of the top teams in the NBA, it has been an absolutely brutal start to the 2020-2021 campaign.
So now the Warriors are desperate for a taste of winning as they enter a very winnable two-game stretch: against the Chicago Bulls tonight, followed by the Detroit Pistons in a couple days.
Though Marquese Chriss will sit this one out with a vague “leg injury,” the return of Draymond Green is expected, and should do a lot to bolster the collective basketball IQ and fighting spirit of the team.
Very Sad Update
We are very sorry to give you this update.
Warriors center Marquese Chriss has suffered a broken right leg (fibula) and will miss remainder of the season.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (0-2) at Chicago Bulls (0-1)
WHEN: Sunday, December 27, 2020 // 5:00 PM PST
How much can the return of Draymond Green fix?
Without Draymond Green, the defense and offense have been awful. While some of this is certainly due to wretched shooting (the Warriors rank dead last in the league with a team-wide effective field goal percentage of 40.9%), they’ve badly missed the vocal floor marshalling of Draymond Green.
Green - who has been serving as Curry’s relief valve on trap pressure since sometime around the 2014 playoffs - is expected to make his first appearance of the season. A classic “glue guy,” Green has averaged around 7 or more assists in four of the last five season, while also serving as the fulcrum that an effective defense can pivot around.
The Warriors need all of that, and the best version of Green would go a long way towards allaying the growing concerns of a team (and fan base) that just watched their team give up the most points over the first two games of the season… while also scoring the least points of any team.
Like my golf game, there’s a lot to fix here.
Beyond just yelling at people, Green’s individual impact is going to be most welcome for a team that has been softer than a peeled grape on the defensive end.
While some of this is just statistical noise, it’s fair to point out that the Warriors two opponents so far this season have not met much resistance. Between the Nets and Bucks, the Warriors defense is currently allowing nearly 50% of attempted three-pointers - yet another category where the Warriors are dead last, according to basketball reference. The Bucks and Nets are good, but any team hitting 50% on their threes is going to be tough to beat.
If Green can shore up the defense, while also yelling at people to encourage better defensive rotations everywhere, it would be a huge victory. The shrewd defensive ace should also help with another major concern with Golden State’s defense: fouling.
Kent Bazemore leads the charge with 9 fouls per 36 minutes, followed closely by Kevon Looney (6.5 fouls per 36), and Juan Toscano-Anderson (5.5 per). It’s a team that needs to start defending without fouling - a central tenet in Draymond Green’s predictive-defense philosophy.
Side note: Wiseman (4.4 fouls per 36 minutes), and Eric Paschall (2.3 fouls per 36) are both a lot lower on the foul rate rankings, than I had expected.
Small sample size theatre - some perspective on Golden State’s rocky start
There is something weird going on with Stephen Curry right now.
After his return from a broken (non-shooting) hand last season, Curry only played one game, and went 3-12 from deep. Over the first two games of this season he is 4-20. Those numbers work out to 25% and 20%, respectively.
But let’s add some perspective here.
That’s a grand total of three games. Thirty-two threes.
Three games, coming back after an extended break. Three games of playing with an entirely new squad, and one bereft of all-stars and heady veterans - a team that is trying to discover a new identity while also dealing with an assortment of players that are trying to find their own way in the league.
Curry will be fine. I don’t know that anyone that has truly been following his career could think otherwise.
Adding more fire to the “small sample size” flame, let’s take a moment to understand how Curry’s game is different this season (so far).
Firstly, note that his shot attempts per possession (a good way to adjust for different pace of play) is as high as it’s ever been. In other words: Curry is getting enough shots.
So the problem isn’t shooting attempts for Curry.
Next, let’s go look at Synergy (thanks Subscribers, for helping afford LGW writers a fun new writing resource!!):
According to Synergy data, Curry has controlled 47 possessions this season, accounting for just 39 points. Just 0.83 points per possession, well below average.
Of those 47 possessions, only 7 were in transition; leaving a solid 40 possessions of half-court offense for us to look at. Here they are:
First, notice that the transition category is all good. Same goes for pick-and-roll as a ball handler. Those are his two highest frequency play types, as well as his most efficient scoring chances so far.
The problems/opportunities show up in all the other categories.. but how many of those are just small sample size weirdness? Curry has demonstrated that he can shoot well off screens and hand-offs - they just haven’t been falling.
If there’s one gripe, it’s that Curry hasn’t had any identifiable isolation plays called for him. It’s a feature of Kerr’s offense that is drawing a growing number of critics. But looking at the offensive profile for Curry, just remember he’s only taken 38 shots this season; nearly 50% of his plays are precisely the pick-and-roll that the internet is clamoring for.
Da Bulls - Chicago facing a steep climb out of irrelevance
The Chicago Bulls are not in good shape. Much like the Warriors, they started off their season with a couple of blowout losses. But unlike the Warriors (who were pummeled by elite Nets and Bucks teams) the Bulls lost to Atlanta Hawks by 20, followed up by a 19-point smashing at the hands of the Indiana Pacers.
Their best player is…Lauri Markkanen? Zach LaVine?
Looking at the statistical profile, there isn’t much to say about the Bulls. Much like the Warriors, two blowout losses, two games into the season lead to an ugly result. The Bulls have bottom tier defensive and offensive rankings - shooting poorly while also allowing opponents to score efficiently.
It’s exactly the sort of easy target the Warriors need right now.
I think the return of Draymond Green will fix a lot of what’s been ailing the Warriors. Combine that with a patsy opponent, and I predict that the Warriors pick up win #1 of the 2020-2021 season this evening.
We also get our first look at the froncourt pairing of Green and Wiseman. I don’t even care about anything else tonight. This should be fun!
Finally, the shooting slumps break. I predict that Curry gets hot finally, and one of Oubre/Wiggins follows suit.
Most importantly: Warriors win!