The Golden State Warriors lost to the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night, 111-107, but the biggest hit might not have been on the scoreboard. A loss wasn’t particularly surprising, the Warriors played decently, and the score shouldn’t have any impact on Golden State’s ability to win their next batch of games.
What does impact that is health, and the Dubs suffered yet another injury to the center position, as Kevon Looney sprained his ankle. We’ll likely find out later today what the severity of the injury is, but Looney is expected to miss a few games.
Kerr on Looney's injury: "No update other than sprained ankle. I don’t expect him to play in the next couple of games."— Golden State of Mind (@unstoppablebaby) February 3, 2021
That means the Warriors will be without any of their centers for a while, as Looney joins James Wiseman, Marquese Chriss, and Alen Smailagić in the bin of injured Dubs. So Golden State will have to make do for a few games without a center, and it’s safe to say Draymond Green will spend a lot of time in the middle.
The way I see it, there are four options for who can replace Looney in the starting lineup. Here they are, ranked from what I think is the best option to the worst option.
#1 — Kent Bazemore
Bazemore has been sneakily good all year. He’s been tremendous on defense, understands that his role on offense is to go to the right place and get the ball to Steph Curry, and has drained 45.5% of his triples.
He does the little things, and he understands his role on the team. That’s played out in the success that the Warriors have experienced when Bazemore plays with the team’s best players. In 92 minutes of lineups featuring Bazemore, Curry, and Green, the Warriors are outscoring opponents by 19.6 points per 100 possessions.
Bring Baze into the fold and the Warriors can get out and run, space the floor effectively, disrupt things on defense, and play within the system.
#2 — Juan Toscano-Anderson
Juan T is probably the most popular answer right now, given his sensational showing against the Celtics, where he had 16 points, shot 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, and played strong defense. Steve Kerr rightfully praised him after the game:
Kerr: "Juan just has an innate feel for the game."— Golden State of Mind (@unstoppablebaby) February 3, 2021
Toscano-Anderson will play a big role while the centers are out, but I think it should still be a role off the bench. He’s a little bit closer to a 4 than Bazemore is, but in the Warriors upcoming games (two against the Dallas Mavericks followed by two against the San Antonio Spurs), that doesn’t matter much, as neither team employs a bruising power forward (or center, for that matter).
Bazemore is still a more reliable offensive option, and I think that makes him a little more valuable to the starting lineup.
#3 — Damion Lee
These first three answers are all a case of trying to fill a center hole by moving a power forward over, and slotting a wing into the power forward spot. And of these three wings — Bazemore, Toscano-Anderson, and Lee — Lee is probably the worst option for playing up a size defensively.
He’s also the best offensive option, so choosing to go small and plug him in would certainly have its reasons, especially against the Spurs, who use a player who has spent the bulk of his career as a shooting guard (DeMar DeRozan) at the 4.
Lee would probably be the most intriguing option, but I think the Dubs are better suited focusing a bit more on defense, and keeping one of their top shooting options on the bench.
#4 — Eric Paschall
We conclude with the only option that actually includes a big man. On paper, Paschall is the logical option. He’s a natural 4 and small ball 5, and Green is a natural 4 and small ball 5, so surely they’d be a good fit.
Not so much. Paschall and Green have struggled to make the fit work through their first year-plus as teammates. The lack of shooting stagnates the offense, and Paschall doesn’t work much off ball, which is what an offense with Green as a primary playmaker requires.
With that said, the Warriors have actually had success with those two on the court together this season, albeit in just 24 minutes. But ultimately, there’s a reason that Paschall has spent as much time this season sharing the floor with Nico Mannion as with Green.
Sooner or later it would behoove the Warriors to figure out ways to maximize talent, and succeed with their two small ball bigs on the court together. But there’s no need to force that action now, especially when Paschall is mired in a serious slump.
Who should start while Kevon Looney is out?
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