The Golden State Warriors are now 17 games into the 2019-20 NBA season, which means that they have passed the 20 percent mark of the 82-game slate. It’s been one month since this season started, and almost one month since they suffered that opening night beatdown at the hands of Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers.
So why does it feel like we’ve already been through 50 percent of the season? And we’ve only been through one month? Feels like the Warriors have been losing for five months. That’s how much of a drag this season has been so far.
The Warriors are now 3-14, easily the worst record in all of the NBA. If the season ended today, they would comfortably win the tank battle ... however, they would have an equal chance as two other teams to get the number one pick in the draft even if they do garner the worst record by the end of the season. More on that later.
Grade the Warriors’ week
When the week began, the Warriors only had nine healthy and available players on the roster. That was an already precarious situation for them; rotations were bound to be constrained, players had no choice but to play more minutes than they’re used to, and Steve Kerr couldn’t really afford to rest anyone.
By the end of the week, the Warriors were down to a league-minimum eight active players on the roster. That tightrope they were walking on turned into an extremely thin thread. If the Warriors had one more indisposed player due to an unfortunate injury, they would’ve been one short of that minimum.
A 1-3 record while having only eight players on the roster by the end of the week is nothing to scoff at, and let me explain why. Sure, they lost to the New Orleans Pelicans to start the week, a team they had already beaten earlier in the season. But remember, they had Stephen Curry, D’Angelo Russell, and Draymond Green during that win.
Curry has been injured for a while now; to see him playing just one month ago makes you miss him a lot. The Warriors could sure use his leadership on and off the court, especially during these tough times.
But I digress. As I said, they lost to the Pelicans in a battle of injury-ridden teams, with the Pelicans’ youth movement having a leg up over the Warriors’ own youth movement. After that, they went on to have an extremely satisfying blowout victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, a game where they momentarily shed off their label as the worst defense in the league, putting up a defensive rating of 96.9. The next night, however, they were back to living up to that label, losing to Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks by 48 points (#DidntLoseBy50). They then finished off the week with a close defeat, losing by only four points to the Utah Jazz.
So about me saying that the 1-3 record despite having only eight active players is nothing to scoff at ... if you think about the circumstances, it’s not a bad showing from these Warriors at all. Sure, they lost to the Pelicans, which should have been one of their winnable games this past week. They lost big to the Mavericks, and considering the talent deficit the Warriors were going up against, it was nothing exceptionally shocking despite the jarring nature of the loss. And despite losing to the Jazz, they managed to keep things interesting up till the last buzzer, and even threatened to send it to overtime at certain points.
It’s a week that could’ve easily gotten a grade of D, and if you’re thinking that it should be a D (or F) based solely on their performance against the Mavericks, then I wouldn’t disagree with you. But I’m inclined to give them huge “moral victory” points for their Grizzlies win and their noble effort against a top West team such as the Jazz.
A C- it is, then.
State of the Warriors offense
I don’t want to have to repeat myself every week when it comes to how the Warriors are doing on both ends of the floor. If you want the short answer, then the Warriors aren’t doing too hot. Heck, they’re not even warm or at room temperature. They’re just plain cold.
But I’ll be giving you the long answer anyway because I feel like I have to drive up my word count a bit, or else our overlord Nate P. would let me hear it in our Slack (in a nice way, of course; Nate is a very nice boss).
Still 26th in overall field-goal percentage, still 27th in three-point percentage, and still leading the league in free-throw percentage — told you it was more of the same. They also continue to hover in the middle of the assist rankings, which more or less can be attributed to their struggles in running their motion sets and having to rely on more isolation and pick-and-roll. (And, overall, just a lack of generating assists due to simply having a hard time scoring.)
But hey, they continue to take care of the ball. In fact, they improved from 10th to 7th in the league in turnovers per game. That’s one thing to build off of — they’ve been successful at holding onto the ball and seeing a possession through to its conclusion; they just need to actually generate happy endings to those possessions.
Again, more or less the same when it comes to the advanced stats. The Warriors are a bottom-of-the-league offense, and it shows when your motion offense isn’t capable of generating points consistently, and when you have to rely on rookies (Eric Paschall and Ky Bowman) and a journeyman (Alec Burks) to score. They don’t even have the luxury of relying on a pick-and-roll threat anymore, with D’Angelo Russell being unavailable the whole week.
It’s tough, but despite what the stats may show you, this team will claw and fight against any team in this league — it’s just that they don’t have the talent to get the win on most nights. It’s simple as that.
State of the Warriors’ defense
I know what you’re thinking. If I have to hear one more time that the Warriors are the worst defensive team in the NBA ... dammit, I’ll stop going to this site!
Rather than just saying it for the gazillionth time, I’ll just put up the tables for you to see for yourself.
There’s not much to say about the Warriors’ defensive performances this past week, other than the fact that they continue to struggle on that end, to put it extremely lightly. They did have one notable performance against the Grizzlies, where, as aforementioned, they put up a defensive rating of 96.9, helped by limiting the Grizzlies to 40.9 percent from the field and 36 percent from beyond the arc.
But other than that, they were shelled by artillery from the Pelicans, and a nuclear missile by the name of Luka Doncic was dropped on their heads by the Mavericks. They couldn’t get the necessary stops in crunch time against the Jazz.
Their defense will lose them more games, and at this rate, the only positive thing that’ll come out of that is the possibility of getting the first overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
And even that isn’t a foregone conclusion.
A way-too-early look at the Warriors’ chances of getting the #1 pick in next year’s draft
In case you didn’t know, the NBA enacted drastic changes to how they conduct the NBA draft lottery, in an attempt to discourage tanking.
Before last year’s draft, it was essentially guaranteed that the team who finished with the worst regular season record would have the highest odds of receiving the number one pick (25 percent). The team with the second-worst team would then have the second-highest odds (19.9 percent), the third-worst team would have the third-highest odds (15.6 percent), and so on. This previous structure thus encouraged teams who had a snowball’s chance in hell in making the playoffs to keep on losing and losing in a race to have the ugliest record by the end of the season — all to have the best college/amateur/overseas-pro player available in the draft.
In an attempt to discourage such behavior, the NBA changed the odds of the top three teams: They made their odds of getting the number one pick the same. The three teams who finished with the worst records in the NBA after last season — the New York Knicks, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Phoenix Suns — all had an equal 14.0 percent chance of hitting the jackpot.
It was the Pelicans, who had the seventh-highest odds at 6.0 percent, who struck gold. And they proceeded to draft Zion Williamson with it.
So what does this mean for the Warriors? Should they stop trying to lose most games in order to have the worst record in the NBA? Did the new lottery changes discourage tanking altogether?
Not really. Sure, it made tanking slightly riskier — 14.0 percent is a world of difference compared to 25.0 percent, plus it’s getting shared with two other teams. But being one of the teams with the highest chance of getting the top pick is still much better than being the fourth-highest (12.5 percent) and fifth-highest (10.5 percent).
Plus, it really is dependent on how deep and stacked the draft class is. If the draft class doesn’t have many tantalizing prospects, then tanking for that 14.0 percent is all the more necessary — you have to get the absolute best prospect available. On the other hand, if the draft class is varied and deep, then there’s a bit more leeway in terms of where a team would prefer to be placed within the lottery.
Of course, having the number one pick would provide the highest degree of flexibility to a team looking for that next big player. But as we all witnessed during the last draft lottery, the new changes do have a negative effect on tanking, even if it isn’t as big of an impact the league desired or envisioned.
I admit, I have little to no knowledge of the strength of next year’s draft. Beyond the James Wisemans, the Cole Anthonys, the LaMelo Balls, and the R.J. Hamptons of the next draft class (two of which are apparently going to be scouted by Warriors GM Bob Myers), I don’t know who else to look at as projected lottery picks. But as the season progresses, I will look closer to see who will be a great fit alongside Curry, Thompson, Green, and Russell (assuming he stays). I will be looking at who can develop seamlessly along with the other young players on this squad, such as Paschall and Jordan Poole. This is prime opportunity for Warriors fans to immerse themselves in draft boards and projections, which is new territory for them especially if they jumped on the wagon during the dynasty years.
Just cross your fingers that the Warriors don’t fall to the 7th pick or something like that.