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Warriors enter another preseason game against Lakers looking for answers

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Stephen Curry is back but LeBron James and Anthony Davis will both sit in what Kerr is calling a “dress rehearsal” preseason game.

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Minnesota Timberwovles v Golden State Warriors

It’s been a rough go so far in the 2019-2020 preseason for the Golden State Warriors and their fans, but a team that has Stephen Curry on it has reason to be optimistic. Maybe it’s that I’m a delusional fan, maybe I’m just really excited to see Curry out there on the Warriors’ new home court, or maybe I’m just excited because it’s Friday... but whatever the cause, this game has me excited for the future!

The Lakers are reportedly sitting their two superstars. If neither LeBron James nor Anthony Davis play... well nevermind, the Warriors could still lose easily.

Curry is back after an intentional non-injury rest in last game’s 33-point beatdown, and he will get plenty of run alongside Draymond Green and newcomer D’Angelo Russell in yet another preseason showdown with the (you guessed it) Los Angeles Lakers. Coach Steve Kerr has said the he considers this a dress rehearsal for the season and expects to play his main guys around 30 minutes or so.

A dress rehearsal

So far, it’s been a harsh crash back to the basketball reality that I grew up with here in the Bay Area. Three consecutive beatdowns at the hands of a clearly more stacked Los Angeles Lakers roster have left the more delicate fans shook. The team ranks nearly dead last in defensive efficiency, and is decidedly mediocre offensively.

Remember that the vicissitudes of sports fandoms will swing us high and low. We just came off a huge wave of incredible basketball, so these troughs of basketball ugliness can cut extra deep — but to me, these numbers kind of feel like home.

As someone points out in the responses to that tweet, the 110.8 offensive rating with Curry was good enough to be third in the league.

So, rather than dwell on what’s going wrong (injuries galore, lots of below average players playing more than they should) let’s talk about a few things the team can start to get right before the season starts.

Rebounds and defense

As per that Anthony Slater of The Athletic article above, the Warriors are dead last in rebounding off of opponent misses. We are only 6th from last in total rebounds. It’s explainable, but troubling nonetheless.

Golden State are without essentially the entire Center rotation, but this is a good time to prostrate ourselves at the alter of Nellie Ball. The Warriors will probably look to have Kevon Looney in their closing lineups (he’s expected to be ready for the season opener next Thursday), but otherwise, it’s not all that crazy to presume sort of super small ball attack squad featuring Curry, Russell, Green, and whatever other marginal player can stay on the court.

Right now, that’s Marquese Chriss and his team-leading eight rebounds per game.

Defensively, I wouldn’t expect much from Draymond Green just yet but maybe for just this one game he can dredge up some intensity for meaningless basketball. Plus, we got this going for us, which is nice:

Given the preseason and injury caveats, I’m not ready to look up the defensive metrics on Russell, but by the eyeball test, he is getting torched.

We would need to be one of the best offensive teams of all time to carry a team this defensively deficient within sniffing distance of the playoffs. At some point some internal improvement will have to show up, because the schemes and returning players won’t move the needle that much.

No offense to Quinn Cook, but Russell simply cannot look so easy to blow by on the defensive end of the ball. If that’s his normal defense, he’ll need to channel his inner Curry and go for 60 points on 20 shots on the other end of the floor every night.

Offensive efficiency and identity

So given all those defense and rebounding concerns, we turn our eyes to the offensive end. Can Kerr re-work his motion offense or will he just resort to dropping in a few extra pick and rolls with Russell and Curry?

Either way, it’s got to work well. The team is going to be at a defensive disadvantage so we cannot settle for a pedestrian level of success on offense. As Joe Viray wrote yesterday, Russell has an entirely different pace to his game.

Russell succeeds at a pace that is deliberate. His basketball mind operates at a slow but methodical pace, where he prefers to choose his method of attack according to how a defense chooses to cover him and his screening partner in the pick-and-roll. Whereas the Warriors approach their multiple-choice exams as if time was about to expire and quick decisions have to be made, Russell takes the approach of a student who carefully weighs the options given to him and chooses the one that is “most right” — or in some cases, is “least wrong.”

Just like Kevin Durant’s ball dominant style caused some hiccups in the engine of Golden State’s offense at times, so too will they need to figure out a new rhythm that works well with all these new moving pieces.

Minnesota Timberwovles v Golden State Warriors

The final roster shuffle

Chriss has definitely stood out enough to deserve a roster spot on a team with such a shallow depth chart. But freeing up that space is going to be complicated. I had to look this all up, so here’s the lowdown.

Bottom line is that cutting McKinnie makes the most sense if you are just looking for an easy swap. The problem is that the Warriors are badly in need of him on the wing. Already pencilled in as the starter, it only gets uglier at the wing for the Warriors — who plan to feature Curry and Russell at the guard spots, neither of whom is above 6’5”. With the various departures of this past offseason and Klay Thompson’s injury, there are a lot of wing player minutes to fill.

Of course, we could waive one of the two-way players under contract — but Chriss already passed on that and it would expose him to a wide open free agent market where another team could swoop him up.

Shout out to Eric Apricot for calling out this excellent summary of the issue by John Hollinger; here’s why waiving McKinnie may be the best option right now:

The best option from Golden State’s perspective would be to convert Chriss to a 2-way, which doesn’t count against the cap. Unfortunately, Chriss doesn’t have Exhibit 10 language in his contract that would allow the Warriors to automatically convert him to a 2-way (Chriss’ agent likely resisted signing the Exhibit 10 for this exact reason), so he would have to be waived first.

That’s dangerous for Golden State, as any rival with an open roster could swoop in and claim him off waivers. Additionally, the Warriors would have to cut one of their 2-way players (Ky Bowman or Damion Lee). Finally, Chriss would have to agree to the 2-way – not a homerun given that he wouldn’t sign an Exhibit 10 in the first place.

Another option that I’d consider, were I in the Warriors position, is trying to get Juan Toscano-Anderson in there somehow. He was in the G League last year, so may not be as resistant to a 2-way contract, and it’s not that hard to argue that he has played comparably well to McKinnie.