Which Warrior of the future caught your eye in the loss to Phoenix Suns?

Poole, Mannion, and Wiseman gave us all plenty to chew over as the Warriors enter their All-Star break vacation.

Yesterday was an important day for the two active stars the Golden State Warriors employ. First, former defensive player of the year Draymond Green celebrated his 31st birthday.

Additionally, two-time MVP Stephen Curry was selected third from a talented pool of All-Star starters and will team up with his old rival Lebron James Sunday in the exhibition. Per the Warriors site:

Curry will make his seventh All-Star Game appearance (all starts), matching Rick Barry’s franchise record for All-Star starts and trailing only Paul Arizin (10 appearances) and Barry (eight) for most All-Star selections in Warriors history. Curry made six consecutive All-Star appearances from 2014-19.

But there was also a GSW basketball game played last night, with neither Curry nor Green on the court as they got an early jump on All-Star vacation. That forced the Warriors to unleash their rookies and G-League developmental projects in a regular season game that ultimately could have playoff seeding ramifications in a competitive Western Conference.

Normally we’d see these youngsters getting their feet wet in a summer league or preseason game, but these are strange times. Let’s take a look at how these young cats balled (or didn’t) in the 120-98 b̶e̶a̶t̶d̶o̶w̶n̶ learning experience they took from the Phoenix Suns.

Wait, Jordan Poole and Nico Mannion can contribute NOW?

There has been no position more scrutinized for GSW this season than their backup point guard situation, and with good reason. Veteran PG Brad Wanamaker was brought over from a playoff Boston Celtics squad in order to provide steady playmaking and defense. While the defensive chops have been there, his offense has been comically TURRIBLE.

I didn’t fact check this next tweet but it FEELS right:

So when the Warriors recalled their 2019 first rounder Poole from the G-League alongside their 2020 first rounder Mannion, there was palpable intrigue over their current abilities. Last night they showed us flashes of what they’re capable of.

Poole came off the bench to lead all scorers with 26 points in a hot shooting performance: 10-of-16 from the field and nailed half of his 10 attempts from beyond the arc. Two of the three-pointers he nailed were a couple feet from beyond the arc, territory that normally belongs to the Splash Bros.

Last year there were concerns over Poole pressing too much and fumbling opportunities because of youthful impatience, but he looked mature and in control last night. He toggled his pace to toy with defenders, hit catch and shoot jumpers, and attacked the paint with vigor.

Mannion started the game and had his hands full with one of the greatest point guards of all time Chris Paul. Yet the rookie played with zest and creativity, leading the team in assists with 6 (and turnovers with 5). He shot a rough 3-of-10 from the field, but showed his range as all three were from beyond the arc.

Meanwhile Wanamaker scored 7 points on 7 shots, with 3 assists and a block. Not bad in 17 minutes of play, but certainly not an exciting outing on a night that his younger competition provided promising sparks. TO BE CONTINUED…

James Wiseman has some homework to do

Wiseman, the #2 pick in the 2021 draft spent much of the night getting spun around like a top on defense as the Suns worked the youngster over.

That’s just tough for the 19-year old big man. Centers have to defend the paint with instincts and intimidation; here it’s clear JW isn’t quite comfortable mirroring the footwork of his opponents AND he doesn’t know when/how to get physical to muck it up. That should come in time as he gets more experience.

On the offensive end, things didn’t fare much better as he struggled to 5-of-14 shooting.

Although that shot profile is ugly, he still showed glimpses of his potential, whether connecting with Mannion on a spicy lob or getting downhill like this:

Despite his struggles, he still turned in a 11 point, 11 rebound double-double with 0 turnovers and only 3 fouls. That shows that even in this baby deer stage of development, he’s still capable of contributing…even if it’s in a blowout loss (sigh).

Moving On

Okay that’s about as much as I care to think about from this final L before the All-Star break. I’ll need some time over the weekend to digest this first half of the season: was it good? bad? ugly? What do you good people think?