The Golden State Warriors have played more ugly basketball than pretty basketball this year.
But while the process hasn’t always looked good, the Warriors are right where we all expected them to be after the four-game road trip: .500.
Steve Kerr was pleased with the accomplishment, saying after Tuesday’s 116-106 win that, “We turned a mess of a road trip into a good one.”
He’s not wrong. Even if you have to squint to see the first week’s execution as anything less than awful, the Warriors started to show the vision on Tuesday. They flashed glimpses of how and why they can be good this year.
After three games of treating Steph Curry like he was Patrick Beverley, the Warriors role players started seeking out their MVP. Andrew Wiggins had a phenomenal off-ball screen to spring Curry free for a triple, and you could see both the excitement and relief on Curry’s face when the ball went through the hoop. After the game Kerr said, “I think we all enjoyed that very much,” before admitting that he had been trying to force those complex actions on the team too quickly.
Wiggins also got the ball to Curry in more direct ways, and said it’s the biggest priority because, “Once he gets going — you know the rest.”
But Wiggins was more than just a player tasked with getting Curry the rock. The former top pick had his best game in a Warriors jersey, with 27 points on 9-for-19 shooting (including 5-for-8 from deep), 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, and 1 steal. Most important was his ability to lead the second unit when Curry was on the bench, which might be the biggest key to the Warriors success this year.
Golden State outscored Detroit by 19 points in Wiggins’ minutes (compared to just by three in Curry’s), and his 17-point fourth quarter was the pivotal performance in the game, as the Dubs stretched a one-point lead after three quarters into a double-digit cushion.
Kelly Oubre Jr. continued to be a pest on defense (and made some shots!), leading the mind to wonder what this defense can look like when Draymond Green returns.
James Wiseman showed that he can turn defense into offense all by his lonesome; given that the Warriors absolutely need to get stops that lead to transition buckets this year, that will prove to be of great value, even if it won’t always be this pretty and emphatic.
The Warriors need to get better, and quickly. But Steve Kerr remains confident that the team will be quite good, and he’s not one to dabble much in false optimism (or at least in convincing false optimism). Curry hailed the team’s growing chemistry, two days after Damion Lee talked about how great they all get along off the court. Eric Paschall said, “We had fun out there,” before pointing out that it was the biggest element of the game.
Again: you can see the vision. Curry — who had his first real Curry game, shooting 5-for-9 from deep en route to 31 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals — can be an MVP candidate. Wiggins may never be a great team’s first or even second option, but he can be a high octane wing who leads a quality second unit. Oubre and Green can anchor a strong defense. Wiseman can develop into ... honestly, who knows, but we’re all ecstatic to find out.
Will they be good soon? TBD. But you can see how it would happen.
That wasn’t on display a few days ago.