As expected, the Golden State Warriors fell to the Houston Rockets, 129-112. In an unforgiving league such as the NBA, talent is the ultimate differentiator, the one factor that separates great teams from good ones. In the end, the Rockets simply overwhelmed a team that once trumped them in the talent department.
The Rockets aren’t a great team — not yet, anyway. But they are one of the top teams in the Western Conference, simply because they have James Harden and Russell Westbrook in their team. Against a Warriors squad full of rookies and role players, the Rockets were expected to not only win, but to win big, which they managed to accomplish in the end.
But that does not mean this young Warriors squad — limited in talent and lacking in experience — did not give these Rockets some mini scares. While the Warriors aren’t going to win a lot of games this season, winning and making a run for the playoffs have largely ceased to be the main goals. Player development and experience-building are being prioritized over victories. For the time being, the end result has been supplanted in importance by the process, however long and arduous it may become.
From a pure efficiency standpoint, the Warriors did not put up beautiful numbers against the Rockets. An offensive rating of 110.2 isn’t bad, especially for a team bereft of a defined go-to scoring option. A defensive rating of 126.9, on the other hand, is horrendous, with the Rockets’ 21-of-45 clip from beyond the arc certainly contributing to such an egregious statistic.
But not everything was bad. The baby Warriors showed flashes of what they can become, and they managed to keep things close at certain points of the game, even taking the lead during some junctures. The talent disparity eventually won out, but the Warriors’ talent potential had many foreseeing the possibilities for these young players.
Here are three things to like about the youth movement of the Warriors.
Eric Paschall’s confidence and aggression
Coming off an explosive performance on his 23rd birthday, Eric Paschall captured the NBA world’s attention. Initially an unheralded second-round pick by the Warriors, Paschall managed to show to everyone that he was ready for the bright lights, that unlike most rookies, he wouldn’t wilt under the pressure and the enormous jump in skill level the NBA presents.
Against the Rockets, Paschall had a relatively quiet performance (19 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 6-of-15 shooting), but he still managed to put up decent numbers. Inefficiency at this stage of his development can be forgiven, if will serve to build up his confidence.
After going 0-for-8 from beyond the arc after the first six games of his career, Paschall exploded with a 4-of-6 clip against the Portland Trail Blazers. That certainly lit a flame of confidence within him, as his first shot of the game against the Rockets was a no-hesitation spot-up three that he knocked down.
And yet another spot-up three without hesitation, despite PJ Tucker — one of the premier defensive players in the NBA — closing out on him.
But the most telling sequence of the night from Paschall was during an isolation sequence, matched up against Harden. Seeing who he was up against, Paschall smelled an opportunity for a drive. Again, with the aggression and confidence of an NBA veteran, Paschall tests his mettle against a bona-fide superstar.
And finally, against a rapidly closing out Tucker, Paschall’s aggression serves him well, driving baseline for a dunk and a “raise the roof” celebration.
Jordan Poole’s unwavering determination
Make no mistake — the Warriors’ first-round pick has been shooting the ball terribly. In eight games as a rookie, Poole is shooting 25.8 percent from the field overall, and 31.3 percent from beyond the arc. Much was made of his potential as a deadly knockdown shooter from deep, but so far, that hasn’t been the case.
One thing about Poole is that he isn’t afraid to shoot the ball, despite what the numbers may tell us about his ineffectiveness in that area so far this season. Once Poole senses an opening — no matter how small or big that opening may be — he shoots without conscience. He has the shooting confidence of Klay Thompson, but without the same success that the second-best shooter in the world has had throughout his career.
Against the Rockets, Poole had another abysmal shooting night: 2-of-11 shooting from the field, 2-of-8 from beyond the arc.
Despite the ugly shooting splits, there was a sequence of events that told of his unwavering determination amid his shooting funk. It was during the 4th quarter, where Poole, defended by Russell Westbrook, showed good situational awareness. Being aware that he wasn’t shooting the ball well, Poole opted for aggression toward the rim. He managed to draw a foul to send himself to the line.
Poole knocks down both of his free throws, and later down the line — with those free throws enabling him to establish his shooting stroke — he knocks down this three.
It’s too early to completely write off Poole as someone who shoots way too much for his own good. He may very well develop into a bona-fide sharpshooter from deep. He may gain a reputation down the line as an extremely streaky shooter, with periods where he will be as hot as the sun’s core but also spells where he will be as cold and barren as the North Pole.
But to see him be determined to contribute this early and finding ways to get himself going — whether it be through endless shooting no matter what the stats show, or through rediscovering his stroke through the free-throw line — is something that Warriors fans should be encouraged about.
Ky Bowman’s playmaking
The undrafted rookie — one of the Warriors’ two players on a two-way contract — is showing glimpses of being a good and dependable floor general. Despite unexpectedly being shoved into the starting point guard role after injuries to Stephen Curry, D’Angelo Russell, and Jacob Evans, Bowman shows little to no indication of being intimidated, nor is there is any sense of him crumbling under the pressure that the NBA’s high level of play brings.
Against the Portland Trail Blazers, Bowman had 19 points and 8 assists, numbers that pop-out and make one ponder of his potential to be a secondary or tertiary scoring option, as well as being a capable playmaker and distributor. His numbers against the Rockets were less pronounced: 8 points and 4 assists. But he still showed flashes of being that dependable orchestrator on the floor who could locate his teammates and place them in positions to score.
Here is one sequence — which started off as a great defensive play from Bowman — that serves as an example.
Bowman crowds Harden and forces him to throw a lazy pass, resulting in a steal and a fastbreak situation. Bowman locates the streaking Alec Burks and throws a well-placed pass, allowing Burks to score in transition.
Here’s another excellent two-way sequence from Bowman, which takes place in the midst of a 12-0 run in the third quarter to trim the deficit.
Bowman easily intercepts Tucker’s pass to a cutting teammate and initiates the fastbreak. He shows excellent vision by locating Damion Lee spotting up in the corner, passing to him, and getting the assist for the three-point shot.
Bowman has the potential to be a pest on defense as well as a capable decision maker on offense. Amid a season where the Warriors are in dire need of smart and high-IQ basketball players, Bowman is one whose potential to be the kind of player who makes intelligent decisions on the floor will be an interesting development to observe. Bowman is a two-way player, meaning that he will eventually need to go to the G League and play for the Santa Cruz Warriors. But he has already shown glimpses of him being a legitimate NBA level point guard.
The Warriors lost against their eternal Western Conference rivals in a matchup that has ceased to be a competitive rivalry, at least for the time being. It was an expected result, so no tears should be shed and no salt should be sprinkled. But in this new era of the Warriors’ own version of “Trust the Process,” there are enough encouraging signs from their rookies to make Dub Nation be optimistic during a season that will bring out several moments of pessimism.
Once the Warriors’ veterans and main contributors return, they will be returning to a rookie corps that will have gained valuable experience and development, which will go a long way toward the continuation of the Warriors’ championship window in the years to come.
Eight down, 74 more to go.
Stay Golden, Dub Nation.