When the question of whether the Golden State Warriors can win 70 games comes up, my default response is that they're currently undefeated to start the season without regular starting center Andrew Bogut in the lineup — they'll only get better once he returns.
However, it remains to be seen whether he'll be given his starting spot back once he's healthy.
We've already had plenty of discussions about whether Festus Ezeli has played well enough to remain the starter once Bogut gets healthy, similar to how Draymond Green held on to his starting spot once David Lee returned last season.
But the fact that the Warriors have yet to figure out with Bogut on the bring of returning is certainly interesting and they might not fully resolve the matter even once Bogut returns initially.
CSN's Monte Poole initially tweeted yesterday that Bogut is "expected to play" for the Warriors' game against the Detroit Pistons tomorrow, but hedged on that a little but in a full article about 15 minutes later by saying Bogut "could return to action Monday" depending on whether he passes the final step of the concussion protocol today (participating in full contact drills symptom free). Although all signs seem to suggest that he'll be cleared to play, both Poole and John Shea of the S.F. Chronicle report that Warriors interim coach Luke Walton is unsure about the next step of whether Bogut will start or how he'll be used. And, as described by Shea, part of that relies on head coach Steve Kerr, who is still pulling the strings behind the scenes.
"It’s probably more about easing him back in. He hasn’t played in a while now," interim head coach Luke Walton said. "That’s something that’ll be decided once we know he’s 100 percent."...Walton said it’ll be Steve Kerr’s decision when Bogut suits up.
The matter of who starts is almost irrelevant to me: regardless of who starts the game, adding an All-Defensive Second Team center to the rotation just makes the team even better and more flexible in adjusting to varying lineups.
Do I think there's merit to continuing to start Ezeli, seeing how he does game-to-game and bringing Bogut in only when necessary for the majority of the regular season to keep him fresh for another deep playoff run? Sure — bringing Bogut off the bench along with Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and (the good version of) Marreese Speights would be awfully imposing reserve rotation, especially mixed and matched with the starting unit. There's at least equal merit to the idea of building continuity with a single starting lineup and Bogut is the better fit offensively right now due to his ability to facilitate the offense.
Presuming Ezeli plays like this, the Warriors could probably win the title with either guy starting at C. I can't believe I just typed that.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) November 7, 2015
So even if the Pistons game itself is uninteresting, it looks like the use of Bogut could be something to watch.
Both Thompsons still trying to find a rhythm
- Jason Thompson got some early run against the Sacramento Kings last night, whether that be due to the feel goodness of being back in Sacramento or the inconsistent play of Mo Speights recently. But the question that some of us have had is why Thompson has struggled to crack the rotation to begin with and Matt Kawahara of the Sacramento Bee might have reported more insight into that than we had previously.
Thompson has found playing time limited to start the season. Entering Saturday, he had appeared in just three of Golden State's first six games, totaling eight points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes.
"There's a formula they have," Thompson said. "I think I'm going to be in the rotation with more time, but I'm kind of just learning the system, offensively and defensively. Being on one team for so long, you're not used to change."
- What might Thompson actually add to the lineup? Folks have talked about his defense already, but offensive rebounding is a strength that he might bring as well. In an article about Pistons forward Andre Drummond's rebounding prowess, Jordan M. Foley of Vantage Sports noted that Thompson was in the top 10 in out-of-area offensive rebounding last year. Not that offensive rebounding is a dire need for the Warriors, but his energy around the basket and running the floor was immediately evident last night and actually quite encouraging for someone who would likely only be getting only spot minutes anyway.
Jason Thompson fans in the house pic.twitter.com/0MuIo0BQqK— Diamond Leung (@diamond83) November 8, 2015
- Speaking of early-season struggles, Klay Thompson has gotten off to a slow start. Even though his last two games have looked a bit stronger on paper, he still showed signs of those same old mental lapses on defense last night. ESPN's Ethan Sherwood Strauss wrote before this weekend's back-to-back that his struggles are, "...hard to care about...the wins continue to stack up, but it’s a note of concern amid a lot of other positive information." Whether it's mental — as Strauss reports that Iguodala suggested — or physical, it would be nice to see Thompson return to All-Star form.
Klay 6-15 (mostly wide open), 3to, 3 inexplicable fouls on Belinelli jumpers— Mark Mora (@markiejay2) November 8, 2015
Can the Warriors get to 70 wins?
- With all of that discussion of the Warriors' untapped potential — Bogut returning and both Thompsons off to slow starts — it's easy to see how this team could make it to 70 wins this season: they're undefeated as-is and have a shot to improve as the season wears on. The San Jose Mercury News' Tim Kawakami, among others, weighed in on the question with an extensive schedule analysis. Again, their undefeated start is a key component to this — they're 5-0 against some of the West's top contenders — and if you look at the immediate schedule, 10-0 (at the very least) is a distinct possibility before encountering a truly challenging opponent.
@hoopshype new poll...how many championships do the GSWs need to win to make people believe they are that good?— Rusty Olson (@Rusty_Olson) November 7, 2015
- ESPN's Kevin Pelton also weighed in on the question of whether the Warriors could improve this season, listing reasons why they might not do so, including their crazy hot start. But the biggest factor may well be a matter of coaching choice, as highlighted the impact of Walton using smaller lineups in Bogut's absence.
In Bogut's absence, Walton has made heavy use of smaller lineups, with Draymond Green at center. Kerr saved those for the postseason, playing Green nearly as many minutes in the middle during the playoffs (236, per NBAwowy.com) as in the entire regular season (251). Just 10.1 percent of Green's minutes were at center during the regular season, according to lineup data from NBA.com/Stats, compared to 18.4 percent this season.
When Bogut is healthy, the Warriors might not want to wear down Green at center despite the effectiveness of those lineups, which have outscored opponents by 19 points in 23 minutes of action.
That question of how they will rest players throughout the season certainly figures into the equation of whether they can reach 70...and trading the 70-win milestone for a second championship is on the table, I'd definitely take the latter.
Steph Curry is awesome
- After the Warriors' win over the Clippers earlier this week, there has been plenty of discussion about Stephen Curry overtaking Chris Paul as the league's top point guard. ESPN's Bradford Doolittle wrote earlier this week that Curry is the top point guard, noting that, "What gets overlooked is that tracking data has him in the 98th percentile in scoring plays per pass over the past couple of years." Zach Harper of CBS wrote an extensive piece about Paul's "How soon they forget" comment during Wednesday's game and how Paul might derive motivation from people anointing Curry. Andrew Slecht and Alex Speers talked extensively about why Paul might still be the better point guard than Curry in their podcast. Brian McCormick wrote a really interesting piece about how Curry's dribbling skill is the result of "complex" vs. "complicated" drills.
- But maybe the most interesting thing to come out after that Clippers game was Seth Partnow's Nylon Calculus analysis of how Doc Rivers' coaching decisions might have contributed to the Clippers blowing their late lead. Partnow looked at how they get absolutely killed by dips around breaks between the quarters — they're losing major ground by playing reserves at the end of the first and beginning of the second.
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