The Los Angeles Lakers came to Chase Center on Friday, and several of their biggest stars made their preseason debut against the Golden State Warriors. Both teams started horribly, with Golden State managing just two points in the first six minutes of regulation. The Lakers built an early lead, but with many lineups playing together for the first time, they committed 27 turnovers and quickly handed the Warriors control by the middle of the second quarter. From there, Golden State fell into an offensive rhythm that has defined their preseason and went on to win 121-114.
While the Warriors were missing starting small forward Andrew Wiggins, who was held out with knee soreness, Otto Porter Jr. continued his strong preseason in his place. In the end, though, the story was the starting backcourt of Stephen Curry and Jordan Poole, who combined to score 58 points. Curry never quite got going from deep, finishing 3-for-14 from three, but went 9-of-10 from two to crack the 30 point threshold for the first time this preseason. Poole, on the other hand...
Well, let’s get into the takeaways from the game.
Takeaway #1: I know it’s the preseason, but could Jordan Poole be a star?
The Warriors have played three preseason games, and Jordan Poole’s exceptional play has been the biggest takeaway in each one. He put on another show Friday against the Lakers, pouring in 28 points in less than 25 minutes.
He also put Wayne Ellington on skates.
It’s not just the highlights. Poole has produced at an absurd level this preseason. His usage rate has shot north of 30%, but it has not negatively impacted his efficiency. His plus/minus (+15.0) is nearly double the second-best number on the team (Kevon Looney ranks second at +8.7) and comes with the traditional stats to back it up.
Jordan Poole's per 36 minutes stats this preseason:— Marc Delucchi (@maddelucchi) October 9, 2021
38.5 PTS, 4.6 REB, 5.1 AST, 2.0 STL, 1.1 BLK, 1.5 TO
All while shooting .520/.439/.900
It obviously comes with all the usual preseason caveats, but the #Warriors guard has produced at an unreal level.
The odds are Poole settles somewhere on the Jordan Clarkson to Monta Ellis spectrum of elite scorers limited by other shortcomings. Still, he’s flashing the potential to exceed a bench scoring role and possibly force head coach Steve Kerr to find a way to keep him in the starting lineup even after Klay Thompson returns to the rotation. Regardless of how it turns out, he’s going to be one of the most entertaining young players in the NBA.
Takeaway #2: The Warriors still commit too many careless turnovers
Preseason basketball comes with an expected degree of sloppiness, and the Warriors last few games have featured plenty of ugly basketball on both sides. Golden State ranks near the top of the league this preseason in turnovers. However, with such small sample sizes and a mishmash of rotations, those numbers are far from a fair evaluation of the Warriors’ standing.
Most teams dedicate the preseason to giving their younger players extended playing time, something the Warriors have decided not to do. Despite sticking by a veteran-heavy rotation, especially in the first half, Golden State has turned the ball over 14 times in the first quarter of their three preseason games.
There’s nothing new on this front. Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala have always been a bit turnover-prone, and the Warriors are happy to deal with that, given all they can do. Still, given the questions surrounding Golden State’s defense this season, those turnovers could feel a bit more costly this year.
Takeaway #3: Moses Moody deserves a more extended audition
Kerr held out rookie Moses Moody for the first three-quarters of the game once again on Friday. However, when he finally got a chance to play, Moody had his best stretch of the preseason thus far.
With fellow lottery pick Jonathan Kuminga out, the Warriors' fourth-quarter rotation could move the ball far more easily, and Moody took advantage. Known for his smooth shooting stroke, Moody went 3-for-3 from behind the arc and finished with 10 points in just over 10 minutes of action.
Moody has been poised and productive in his limited preseason action. In 30 minutes played, he’s recorded 15 points, four rebounds, three assists, and four steals on 5-for-7 shooting from three. Yet, the Arkansas alum still has not logged a second on the court with Curry, Poole, Green, or Looney.
It might be uncomfortable for the Warriors to give Moody a shot at breaking their rotation while the player they selected seven picks before him (Kuminga) is quickly relegated to the G-League. However, heading into the draft, most evaluators would have said Moody was more prepared to make an impact than Kuminga.
Moody was a polished shooter with the potential to contribute in a 3-and-D role quickly. Kuminga was the project with the potential to one day become a star. It’s time to challenge Moody and allow him to work his way up the rotation.
Takeaway #4: The Warriors need James Wiseman to be a presence inside
The Lakers grabbed an offensive rebound on more than 25% of their missed shots on Friday, with Dwight Howard racking up six offensive boards by himself. LA built a particularly bruising roster this offseason, with strong rebounders at every position, but Golden State will struggle on the glass against plenty of teams. Assuming he’s healthy, that leaves an avenue for 2020 second-overall pick James Wiseman to find his place in the rotation.
Unlike Looney, Bjelica, and even Green, Wiseman is the size of a traditional NBA center. His combination of size, strength, and athleticism give him the potential to dominate inside on the glass. While that may be a lot to ask from a second-year player, he’ll have to be the Warriors' best rebounding center to justify consistent playing time. Otherwise, Looney’s defensive ability and Bjelica’s shooting prowess will make it difficult to lay him 15 minutes a game.
While rebounding may not be valued as highly today as in previous eras, the Warriors are at risk of being dominated inside. As with turnovers, their limitations defensively will only be more exposed if they give opponents too many second chances.
Wiseman was pushed around inside last season and struggled with positioning despite his stature. Another year into his professional development, the Warriors need him to make significant strides on the glass to help them deal with bigger teams, like the Lakers.
Takeaway #5: Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala are still passing up layups
Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala have always prioritized finding their teammates for open shots over scoring themselves. As they have gotten older and their offensive skills have diminished, that tendency has only gotten more extreme. On Friday, there were multiple possessions where either Green or Iguodala had the ball less than 10 feet from the hoop with an open lane to the basket and chose to pass it instead of attacking.
Iguodala took one shot at a layup in transition but was blocked from behind and seemed uninterested in the rim after that. Green followed his tendencies from last season, where he appeared to decide on a few possessions that he would take a shot, but otherwise, passed up open looks in the offensive flow.
Is it bad offense? I don’t know. Now that the Warriors have surrounded them with shooters, it may be more efficient to look for an open shooter than for the diminished Iguodala and Green to try and go to the hoop. At the same time, the Warriors saw how defenses adjusted to Green late last season. If he and Iguodala are both going to play with an aversion to shooting, they risk forcing their teammates to play 3-on-5 when they’re on the court together.