Time to re-engage We Believe as Warriors forced to go small without Wiseman

James Wiseman will be out for a while (knee), Oubre (wrist) out too, leaving the Warriors short-handed yet again... but what if...

It’s never a great time to lose two starters, but the Warriors will be without rookie center, James Wiseman (for a while), and Kelly Oubre (who is recovering from a wrist injury sustained on this dunk). Unfortunately, the timing is not great, as the piping hot Denver Nuggets are coming into Chase Center tonight for a Nationally televised game.

Remember too that Eric Paschall is still on the shelf - due to be re-evaluated in a week - leaving the Warriors with a dramatically transformed roster.

But what if I told you that this is how a We Believe second movement could come to pass? If you’ll recall, it was a blockbuster trade that brought in Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson to Golden State for Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy (and the Warriors sent out Ike Diogu in that deal as well). It was a major shakeup for Golden State, and one that helped push them into the playoffs.

There’s no free agents coming in this time, but the team has been fundamentally shook, at least for the next couple games.


GAME DETAILS

WHO: Golden State Warriors (25-28) vs Denver Nuggets (34-19)

WHEN: Monday, April 12, 2021 // 7:00 pm PST

WATCH: ESPN; NBCSBA


We Believe: a look at what an extended Wiseman absence could mean for playoff race

Wiseman is a rookie. A promising and talented one, but the decision to play him more was more about the long-term value rather than immediate returns. Of course, you never want to see anyone hurt, and Wiseman was just finding his stride again. A tough pattern this season for a player that has pushed through more than his fair share of struggles. As Stephen Curry said, “It seems like when he takes a couple strides, he gets dealt a little adversity.”

It will be at least a couple of days before we get full clarity on Wiseman’s injury. Right now the team is referring to it as a “meniscal injury” and will continue to evaluate the options.

What it means for Golden State is that the team is about to get small. Probably not a great move against the Denver Nuggets, but who knows?

Because here’s the thing, when you filter out garbage time, all of the Warriors’ best lineups have a frontcourt combination of Looney, Green, and Toscano-Anderson.

Note that the top lineup, featuring what may very likely be Kerr’s starting lineup tonight, is in the 89th percentile for impact. That’s not a bad fall back option.

Obviously, Oubre’s absence makes some of these lineups impossible, but those are literally the top of the stack as far as 5-man Warriors units with a positive net rating.

The Warriors don’t have much left in the cupboard for these last 19 games but with coach Steve Kerr already tightening his rotations as the season comes to a close, the Warriors limited options still include some of their best options.

It’s a bummer because Wiseman did seem to be turning a corner and consistently playing well, but as the team ramps up a chase for a playoff spot, more of the Warriors established core being forced to play could actually help that pursuit.

The Warriors have been toying with playing small all season, when they didn’t replace Marquese Chriss, and now they’ve got no choice but to lean into it against one the the league’s best big men. Don Nelson would love this.

At time of writing, the Warriors are one game behind the 9th seeded Spurs, and only two behind the 8th seeded Grizzlies. With the Pelicans breathing down the Warriors’ necks, the playoff race is heating up.

Respect to the greatest - Curry is about to become the Warriors all-time points leader

As a kid watching Michael Jordan, the name I remember cropping up most frequently as the Greatest Of All Time was Wilt Chamberlain, and he still stands atop the points list for the franchise.

Curry has not so quietly been having one of the best seasons of his career - which is really saying something given the heights that he’s attained previously.

Curry is just 19 points away from overtaking Chamberlain, and becoming the Warriors’ all-time leader in points scored! He’s still going to go from there, but this will be a historic moment that you won’t want to miss.

Aaron Gordon and the new look Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets got Aaron Gordon for Gary Harris, a 1st round pick five years from now, and rookie R.J. Hampton. We’ll never know if the Warriors came close to landing Gordon or not, but he was one of the internet’s favorite targets for a trade that would flip the Warriors into win-now mode.

Gordon, who is under contract for one more year beyond this season before becoming an unrestricted free agent, has been a boon to the Nuggets - propelling them directly into an 8-0 hot streak upon arrival.

The Nuggets imploded last night and lost to the Boston Celtics on a wild game-closing 40-8 point run. They flew into San Francisco last night and will be facing the dreaded tail end of a back-to-back.

The Nuggets have one the of league’s best offenses, and boast a top-5 net overall rating. Last year’s Western Conference runner up, the Nuggets are a strong, experienced team with dreams of a championship.

If there’s a weakness (and it’s not much of one), it would be the Nuggets defense. Of importance to the Warriors tonight, the team gives up high quality looks to their opponents. Allowing 112.7 points per hundred possessions, the Nuggets are slightly below average defensively, but it’s really the opponent effective field goal percentage that stands out; Denver ranks in just the 38th percentile in this regard.

Also in the Warriors favor: the Nuggets do not draw a ton of fouls. It’s by far their statistical category, averaging under 17 free throw attempts per game, which is worse than 81% of the league. So there’s some strategic good news for a short-handed Warriors team that is going to need every advantage they can get tonight.

Prediction

Denver is going to be stinging from that loss to the Celtics, but maybe Boston unlocked a secret defense that coach Steve Kerr and the Warriors will be able to copy.

One way or another, I do predict that Curry is going to become the Warriors all-time franchise leader in points scored, and we are all extremely fortunate to have the honor of watching his magic.