If you start off a sentence with “boy, are the Warriors bad right now” you don’t need any qualifiers. No one will stop you at that point and try to prove you wrong. It’s a widely held consensus opinion that these 2019-2020 Golden State Warriors are just flat out not a good basketball team.
You see, Golden State is running on fumes. Worse than fumes, really; it’s like a whole new (worse) car. The Ferrari is in the shop for a bit, so Steve Kerr is out here driving the kid’s car and the results have been just as unsurprising as Trae Young pulling up from super deep.
But what if...
What if Kevon Looney can help stem the defensive bleeding. The Warriors NBA-worst defense continues to be absolutely abysmal. It’s like the franchise equivalent of a house that gives out full size candy bars at Halloween. But Looney’s return should eventually slow the damage... right?
Keep expectations low for this first game back. Looney hasn’t played competitive basketball in over a month, and without Draymond Green tonight (held out for rest), it’s asking too much for Looney to single-handedly resolve the sieve-like defensive tenancies.
And what if Looney slots in as a wing rather than a big. Could a Looney-Spellman-Paschall trio work?
Especially against an Atlanta team that has just four wins on the year, matching the Warriors’ total. And for now, that’s all the Warriors need. Just the barest hint of hope - which is precisely what Looney’s return brings.
Setting the stage for tonight
Here’s why I’m hopeful for a win tonight, in spite of the fact that the Warriors aren’t very good, and are playing the tail end of a back-to-back.
First of all, the Warriors have been excellent tank commanders in late game situations, as per Anthony Slater of the Athletic, take a look at how many close games the team has been in (and how reliably they’ve failed in those situations):
Nine times this season, the Warriors have been in what the NBA.com/Stats model defines as a “clutch” situation — five or fewer minutes left in the game, five or fewer points separating the teams on the scoreboard.
These are non-blowout, tight, either-way results that, under normal regular-season circumstances, could have drastic seed-swinging playoff implications. ... They were tied with the Magic at 85 with five minutes left Friday. They ended up losing by four. That result dropped the Warriors to 1-8 in tight games. They’ve now been outscored by a cumulative 32 points in 28 clutch minutes.
Now, does Looney make them good all of the sudden?
No. But he helps.
Not just broadly (which he does), but also in some of these late game clutch situations. If there’s one aspect of Looney’s game that stands out to me, it’s that he usually makes the right play. That will count for a whole lot on this roster.
Secondly, rebounding: the Hawks are bad at it.
Between Omari Spellman, Eric Paschall, and now Looney, the Warriors have some legitimate rebounding talent out on the court. According to NBA.com, the Hawks rank 26th in rebounding. A critical rebound or two could easily sway a close game.
They just need to keep Trae Young from going off.
Let’s get it, Dub Nation. It’s almost happy hour!