Maybe the most frustrating part of watching the Warriors is having to deal with Steve Kerr’s rotations. He goes deep into his bench for extended periods of times, and often throws out some weird lineups that never seem to work.
On one hand, this philosophy keeps the starters fresh throughout the season. However, in moments that really matter, like Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, it can be deadly to play players that are clearly outmatched.
We’re only three games in, so the sample size is small. But maybe, we can learn just a little bit about how the minutes distribution will shake out in the future.
Simply put, Pachulia has not looked great. Offensively, he hasn’t looked confident finishing the ball, and defensively he’s slow to contest shots and corral rebounds. Being ineffective against the Houston Rockets is expected since their offense plays small and incredibly quick. But the Warriors were expecting Pachulia to hold his own defensively against the bigger Pelicans and Grizzlies, and he did not.
At age 33, it’s possible Pachulia’s days of being an effective starter are over. He’ll probably be fine in the regular season, but the Western Conference playoffs will feature so many deadly centers. The Warriors will likely have to look at other options at center in the postseason.
McGee did not play at all in the Houston game, likely because the Rockets only played one center, Clint Capela, all game. He resumed his usual role in the Pelicans game, and looked a little outmatched against DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, which is to be expected. He played very little against Memphis, and was a liability when he was on the court.
I don’t think McGee will improve from his play last year, but he’s still a useful player. However, I do expect his role to fluctuate based on matchups.
Bell was the first big man off the bench in the Rockets game, and had his share of highs and lows. He scored eight points in twelve minutes, but also accrued four fouls and had only one rebound. He also was exposed a bit defensively. He’s a talented rookie, but a rookie nonetheless.
He played only five minutes in the Pelicans game, but he still made his mark on the game. I’m convinced that we’ll see Bell in almost every game going forward. If Jordan Bell can develop into a consistent rotation player by the end of the regular season, he could become one of the Warriors’ reliable bigs come playoff time. It’s possible!
Kevon Looney and Quinn Cook
After Draymond Green’s injury, Looney played important fourth quarter minutes against the Rockets. He was outmatched, and the Warriors gave up their lead.
Kerr decided to deactivate Looney and activate Quinn Cook, a 24-year-old point guard on a two-way contract, for the Pelicans and Grizzlies game, though Cook only played one minute in both games combined. The Warriors only had two point guards, Stephen Curry and Shaun Livingston, in uniform for the Rockets game, and it came back to bite them. When Stephen Curry got into foul trouble in the Rockets game, the Warriors were forced to play without a true point guard for many minutes.
The Warriors have plenty of bigs, so having Cook play instead of Looney is probably smart. But either playing too many minutes would be a bad sign.
Young led the team in scoring against the Rockets, playing a bench-high 26 minutes. In the Pelicans game, he played far fewer minutes (likely because Andre Iguodala returned from injury). In the Grizzlies game, he didn’t even make a shot.
Young’s defense has been questionable, if not outright lazy, so far. If he doesn’t improve his effort and conditioning on that end, he shouldn’t play too many minutes.
McCaw looked good, if quiet, in the Rockets game. Foul trouble and injuries meant that he had to assume more of a ballhandling role, and he looked confident.
But McCaw did not play at all in the Pelicans game. Maybe Kerr needed as many bigs on the court as possible, and the Warriors are crowded at the wing position, but McCaw really should be playing every game. When he played twelve minutes in the Grizzlies game, he was almost invisible, only putting up one shot.
Not only does McCaw need the minutes to improve, but he also needs to be involved with the offense and get some open shots. If his development goes well, he could be a really important piece in the playoffs.
Kerr has complained about the team’s conditioning multiple times, so maybe the long rotation is an attempt to give players rest. Maybe wishing for a shorter rotation is futile at this point. But ultimately, I’d like to see more minutes for McCaw and Bell, and fewer for Pachulia and Young going forward. The young ones need the minutes more for their development than the veterans.