The Golden State Warriors' undefeated preseason record looked to be in jeopardy on Tuesday when the team opted to sit Stephen Curry and Draymond Green against the Los Angeles Lakers, who were playing Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook for the first time of the preseason. Instead, Golden State’s supporting cast stepped up to pull out a 111-99 victory.
Here are five takeaways from the game:
Takeaway #1: Damion Lee steps up in starting spot
The Warriors wanted to reward Damion Lee for an impressive offseason of work by giving him the start in Curry’s place, pushing Jordan Poole to point guard. Lee finished 0-5 from three, but still finished +12 with 16 points and nine rebounds, showing exactly how he can help Golden State this season.
Juan Toscano-Anderson’s emergence last year, combined with Otto Porter Jr’s fantastic preseason, has overshadowed Lee’s steady development into a consistent and trustworthy role player for head coach Steve Kerr. However, with the roster lacking great defensive wing depth and rebounding bigs, Lee’s physical style might be a perfect complement to shooting-heavy lineups that will be limited defensively and on the glass.
Takeaway #2: Even without Curry, the Warriors are still a three-point shooting team
Curry sat on the bench and watched the Warriors still hoist 49 three-pointers without him or Klay Thompson (the Utah Jazz led the NBA last season, averaging 43 attempted threes a game). It’s hard to envision previous seasons’ rosters doing something similar.
For years, the Warriors have been labeled a three-point shooting team because of Curry and Thompson (and Durant while he was there). However, that was never really an accurate assessment of the roster. Golden State had a few elite shooters and a remaining roster that was fairly hesitant to shoot. But, now it’s undeniable, the entire Warriors' offense will run through the three-point shot.
With all that said, the Warriors three-point efficiency suffered without the greatest shooter of all time. It’s never smart to draw too many conclusions from one game, especially a preseason one, but the Warriors shot 22.4% from three. It’s no secret that Curry generates more space for his teammates when he’s on the floor. The Warriors prioritized shooting this offseason, but Tuesday’s game was another reminder of how vital Curry is to this team, even if they have more players who are willing to launch from deep.
Takeaway #3: Moses Moody struggles in first extended opportunity
Moses Moody has played well in limited playing time this preseason, and Kerr rewarded him with a more extended look against the Lakers. Moody struggled mightily. In more than 20 minutes of action, the 2021 first-round pick finished without scoring a point, missing all seven of his field-goal attempts. On top of his issues shooting, he struggled to contribute to other aspects of the game, recording just one rebound and two assists.
Moody will not turn 20 until next May, and bad games are a part of the development process, but Kerr seems inclined to take the youngsters along slowly this year. Moody probably needed to play exceptionally well if he wanted a chance at a prominent role in the early-season rotation. Instead, he’s probably going to be limited to garbage time.
Takeaway #4: Gary Payton Jr. excelled in first preseason action
The Warriors gave Avery Bradley plenty of opportunities to build a massive lead over the competition for the 15th and final spot on the roster. However, the NBA veteran failed to perform, opening the door for Gary Payton Jr. Payton has been out while he dealt with a hernia for the past few weeks but returned to action on Tuesday. He took full advantage of the opportunity.
There are legitimate questions about Payton’s viability as a shooter. Still, he looked far more comfortable than Bradley working in Golden State’s offense, finishing numerous dunks off of cuts to the hoop. Defensively, Payton recorded a steal, block, and played like the exact kind of high-energy sparkplug the Warriors should target for their final roster spot.
Takeaway #5: Andrew Wiggins’ poor preseason continues
If there’s anything Andrew Wiggins’ career has taught us, it’s probably never worth reading too much into any stretch of tremendous or terrible play. Still, after missing their last game with knee soreness, Wiggins struggled mightily in his return to the court. The former number one overall pick finished 1-8 from three and is now shooting .357/.214/.667 across three preseason games.
It’s far from a massive red flag, given Wiggins’ long track record of inconsistency, but he remains a significant part of the Warriors' plans this season. After floundering for years in Minnesota, he finally found a role that fits a contending team. If he regresses this season, it could force Golden State to reshuffle a significant portion of their rotation.
Bonus: Let’s watch Jordan Poole do cool basketball