Injuries to three starters would doom most teams. The past two games, the Warriors have missed Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Zaza Pachulia. But the Warriors are a deep team, and they’ve won both games.
Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant continued to start, obviously. But few would have guessed that Shaun Livingston, Omri Casspi, and Jordan Bell would be out there with them the past two nights.
Livingston, Casspi, and Bell have started multiple games so far this season due to injury. But putting them out together is an interesting wrinkle by Kerr, evidence of how much the league has evolved in recent years.
The most noticeable thing about this starting lineup is its height distribution. Officially, all five players are between 6’7” and 6’9”. Bell, the nominal center, is 6’7”, and no taller than any of his teammates. Of course, Kevin Durant is listed at 6’9”, but is actually closer to seven feet tall. The starting backcourt of Shaun Livingston and Klay Thompson, both at 6’7”, is without a doubt the tallest in the league.
What Kerr is aiming for here is a group that can switch everything defensively: everybody has a chance of covering every position. Neither the Trail Blazers nor the Mavericks played with a true center, so the Warriors didn’t necessarily need size in the post on defense. Anyways, with Bell and Durant, the lineup has enough rim protection and shot-blocking to compete.
The spacing in this lineup could be a little cramped: Thompson and Durant are of course excellent shooters, but Livingston and Bell are not dangerous from anywhere close to the three-point line. Casspi is a good three-point shooter, but he simply has to shoot more from long range: he has only shot a three pointer every twenty or so minutes so far this season.
Against both the Blazers and the Mavericks, Kerr began the first and third quarters with this unit. They were +3 and +2 in those games, respectively, both wins. It’s still a work in progress, but this group could be dangerous in the future, even when Curry and Green return.
In Curry’s absence especially, the Warriors have had to find as much help as they can from their depth. The fact this strange lineup works is a testament to Kerr’s creativity in finding lineups that work in the modern NBA, and the individual talent of their bench players.