The Golden State Warriors season starts in less than three weeks, which means the Dubs have a rather limited amount of time to figure out their preseason questions, including one very interesting one: who will start?
As the Dubs have proven time and time again in recent years, who starts matters a whole lot less than who finishes. But while a finishing lineup can vary depending on matchups and individual performances, a starting lineup is usually somewhat constant. And it sure is fun to speculate on.
So who will occupy the five spots on the Warriors roster when the season kicks off on Dec. 22 against the Brooklyn Nets? Let’s break it down into three categories.
Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins
The Warriors enter the season with a whopping four players on maximum contracts. One of those players — Klay Thompson — is out for the year with an Achilles injury. The other three — Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Andrew Wiggins — are ready to go.
Barring health issues, there is zero chance that either three start the year on the bench.
The almost sure thing
Kelly Oubre Jr.
The Warriors won’t ask Kelly Oubre Jr. to replace what Thompson does on the court, but they’ll almost surely ask him to replace Thompson in the starting lineup.
Oubre is a wing who scores a lot, is a great cutter and rebounder, and can defend multiple positions. He’s a lock to get 30+ minutes a night, so he should be starting.
On Tuesday, coach Steve Kerr stopped short of calling Oubre a lock to start ... but he only just stopped short.
Steve Kerr said he has four starting spots pretty secure in his mind before camp: Steph Curry, Kelly Oubre, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 1, 2020
-"Probably four. It would be hard for me to view Kelly and Andrew not starting on the wings."
-"Then we'll see at the center spot."
The big question mark
The center position
The Warriors enter training camp with four centers on the roster, not including Green: Kevon Looney, Marquese Chriss, James Wiseman, and Alen Smailagić. Unless he found that mysterious steroid-esque substance that Michael Jordan fed his teammates at the end of Space Jam, we can eliminate Smailagić from starting contention. But the other three all have cases.
Let’s check them out.
James Wiseman: The rookie will likely be quite raw, having played just three college games. But he’s also the only Warrior who really fits the center mold, in terms of size. Looney and Chriss are 6’9”, but Wiseman is a clean 7’1”.
We know the Warriors have a weird infatuation with starting traditional centers. In 2018-19, Damian Jones — who played in only 25 games his first two seasons — started 22 of the 24 games he was healthy for, despite playing limited minutes. He even started a playoff game after returning from injury, even though he played just three minutes in that game.
Golden State did the same thing with Zaza Pachulia, who often started the first and third quarters, played for about six minutes, and never came back in.
They could do that with Wiseman. Even if they slow play him, he could start.
Marquese Chriss: Chriss became the de facto starter last year after Willie Cauley-Stein was traded. He’s not as good as Looney, but he has a much better and more versatile offensive game, and the Warriors like that. If they want to come out of the gates firing, Chriss is probably the best option.
Kevon Looney: Looney enters camp as the team’s best option at center. He also enters camp as someone the Warriors have been hesitant to start. Even in 2018-19, when he finished sixth on the team in minutes, behind only Curry, Thompson, Green, Kevin Durant, and Andre Iguodala, Looney only started 20 times all year.
Kerr has said he likes using Looney off the bench, and that could continue this year.
Who starts at center will be one of the most intriguing parts of training camp. If I had to guess, Chriss starts on the first day of the season, Wiseman starts on the last day of the season, and Looney gets the most minutes.