Ever since trading six players at the trade deadline, and receiving only one in return, the Warriors have been using 10-day contracts the way LeBron James uses dad jokes in Instagram captions.
Jeremy Pargo and Zach Norvell Jr. came and went, with neither player getting their contract renewed, but both landing in Santa Cruz with the organization’s G League affiliate. Their spots were filled by Dragan Bender and Mychal Mulder, as the team shuffled roster spots as they searched for some shooters. Word has it that Chasson Randle is on the way as well.
Bender and Mulder are already running short on contract days - such is the life of 10-day deals. Yet both spent the weekend stating their case for an extended look.
The Warriors split a weekend back-to-back, beating the Phoenix Suns 115-99, before falling to the Washington Wizards 124-110. Hey, that’s a big victory. The Warriors are averaging 3.69 losses for every win this year, so splitting a pair of games? Oh hell yes. We’re popping champagne, y’all.
Wins and losses hardly matter to the Warriors right now, but performances from players fighting for future roster spots do. Which is what made the weekend oddly optimistic. Yes, there were strong performances by rookie draft picks Eric Paschall and Jordan Poole, and those are worth noting, but there were also highly encouraging signs from the 10-day contracts.
To be fair, both Bender and Mulder displayed rawness and inexperience with great regularity. They combined for 16 fouls over the pair of games, with Bender having 5 in 19 minutes on Sunday. There were blown assignments and judgement lapses and moments of being lost. But that’s standard fare.
There were also highlights. Mulder displayed an ability to not only make shots from distance, but pop open for looks from beyond the arc, both in half-court sets and in transition. He managed a whopping 15 attempts over the weekend, making 6 of them (40.0%). That happened while playing alongside . . . umm . . . /gestures wildly at the Warriors current roster.
If you can get open for threes on this Warriors team, you can really get open for threes on squad with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
That shooting motion is straight out of the Klay Thompson School of Quick Releases. His ability to get open and quickly get off a shot is surely on the mind of Steve Kerr and Bob Myers as they try to figure out how to build a successful 2020-21 roster.
But the Warriors need more than just shooting, and the weekend served as an audition for Mulder’s perimeter defense. After guarding All-Stars Devin Booker and Bradley Beal, it certainly feels as though Mulder earned a high grade. Is he going to make an All-Defense team next year? Absolutely not. But he was more asset than liability on that end of the court.
Bender also displayed an ability to get his long ball off, going 3-9 from distance in 49 minutes of action. He wasn’t just waiting around 25 feet from the hoop, hoping to get open. He was active, and springing open.
That’s a large part of what makes the 7-footer so enticing, but his traditional big man skills were strong as well: He had 19 rebounds and 3 blocks, while providing some strong moments of interior defense.
Yet it’s Bender’s passing that continues to separate him from other players that fit his mold. Sure, he had just four assists over the weekend (a fine number for a center), but the eye test was more impressive than the stats. Once or twice a game, Bender makes the type of pass that you just don’t regularly see from people his size.
This pass was from before the weekend, but shows Bender’s passing ability very well.
Again: These plays don’t have a lot of space when you’re sharing the floor with Paschall, Poole, Juan Toscano-Anderson, and Marquese Chriss. When you put historically great players on the floor and things open up, it makes it that much easier to utilize this skill of Bender’s.
The clock is ticking on both players. Tomorrow’s contest against the Denver Nuggets is Bender’s final game on his current 10-day contract; Mulder has three more games still. The Warriors will have to make a decision as to whether they want to keep developing these exciting raw talents, or check out the next flier.
Nothing is guaranteed on this roster. But Bender and Mulder certainly stated their cases this weekend.