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Warriors mailbag: Who should close games? What is Jordan Poole’s ideal role going forward?

Answering some questions regarding lineups, rotations, two-way spots, and a couple of the Warriors’ developing pieces for the future.

2021 Play-In Tournament - Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

As sort of a change of pace from all the deep-dives I’ve been doing (don’t worry, more of those to come, especially as the lead-up to the season ramps up), I decided to reach out to Twitter for any questions regarding lineups, Xs-and-Os, roster configurations, and anything out of the blue concerning the Warriors.

I have a habit of answering questions as thoroughly as possible, though if I failed to shed enough light on some of these queries, I apologize. Feel free to ask further questions and clarifications in the comments below.

Also, for obvious reasons, I couldn’t get to all of the Twitter questions, so I had to parse through and choose which ones to answer. But I will try to answer in Twitter those I didn’t get to pick.

Without further ado, let’s start with the mailbag.

There are reports that the Warriors would prefer to have a young big-man occupying their second two-way spot. I would actually prefer they get a scoring guard who can shoot.

I would be agreeable to having Mychal Mulder occupy that spot; in my opinion, he’s a fringe-NBA-level player who has shown flashes of surviving in the big leagues, but his presence on the floor has some sort of diminishing return.

He’s good for spurts, but if he’s anything more than the 8th or 7th man on your roster, that’s not ideal. But in a pinch — say, someone on the two-guard depth chart misses time — he can at least give you a bit of offense (Warriors outscored opponents by 3.4 points per 100 possessions with Mulder on the floor last season).

Although, I do feel like he could’ve done much better as a catch-and-shoot sniper. Having 92.4% of your threes be catch-and-shoots with a 38.1% success rate seems a tad bit below what you’d expect from a definitive knockdown shooter, especially one who needs to make the most out of his limited minutes.

In truth, I’m neither concerned nor excited. Sounds like a cop-out answer, I know, but I guess the most apt term I can give you is “cautiously observant.”

He’s not going to get much preparation time this preseason again, and that’s cause for concern. On the other hand, the Warriors added a bunch of respected and proven coaches who specialize in player development: Kenny Atkinson, Dejan Milojević, and Jama Mahlalela. That alone tells you that the Warriors are taking Wiseman’s development seriously.

Question is, though, when will the fruits of such catered development ripen? I think that’s a legitimate concern, although not the sky-is-falling kind that some people purport it to be. It’s still quite possible to squeeze in Wiseman’s potential breaking out within the current core’s championship window. But it’ll be a tight squeeze.

As for if he’s more JaVale McGee or Anthony Davis at this point... I’m basing this on last year’s film, but he’s indeed more of a rim-runner than a versatile in-and-out big — with the caveat that Wiseman has flashed drool-inducing potential as an in-and-out stretch 5, should he develop that jumper further and improve his shot selection.

Covered this further in my recent Wiseman deep-dive — check it out if you haven’t already!

I’m lumping these two questions together because they’re somewhat related.

I have no inside information or sourcing whatsoever in terms of the coaching staff’s inclinations, but I’m guessing that they’re not going to be keen on starting Moses Moody at the 2 alongside Stephen Curry — not when they have a better alternative in Jordan Poole.

I’m a proponent of a Curry-Poole-Wiggins-Green-Looney starting five. A quick search on PBP stats tells us that this lineup outscored opponents by a whopping 62.4 points per 100 possessions last season.

The caveat? They only played a grand total of 11 minutes on the floor.

There are, of course, concerns with the backcourt defensive pairing of Curry and Poole, but I think those aren’t going to be as debilitating as people think it’ll be. Wiggins and Green can provide ample rotational/roaming help, while Looney is a solid defensive center who can work in all sorts of schemes: switches, drops, stepping up to the level of the screen, etc. The three of them can shore up the defense behind Curry and Poole and cover up any deficiencies at the point of attack the two guards may have.

Curry and Poole’s offensive fit is hard to pass up on. Steph is Steph. Poole is a dynamic guard who is developing into a shooter, touts slashing capabilities, is an excellent off-ball mover, and can also be a secondary playmaker.

I mean, just look at Poole’s mobility off the ball:

The Warriors will need plenty of offense from their starters, and such a pairing may do just that.

Poole can still be a second-unit sparkplug should he follow Klay Thompson’s old substitution pattern: benched at the 4-minute mark of the first and third quarters, after which he will start second and fourth quarters. Once Klay comes back to full health and fitness, he’ll take those sub patterns back, and Poole can assume a 6th or 7th-man role.

One of the more appealing parts of this off-season for the Warriors is that they acquired themselves a lot of lineup versatility. “Experimentation” is a term that’s kind of become a trigger word for a few Warriors fans, but the way I see it, Steve Kerr is going to tinker and experiment with lineups to see which combinations work best — especially when it comes to hyper-speed lineups to close games out.

We’ve all yet to see how the likes of Porter or Bjelica will fit in; with their skill-sets, they ideally should slot in seamlessly. We still don’t know which version of Andre Iguodala will show up. Moody is an intriguing option, but he’s a rookie. The only known variables are Poole, Juan Toscano-Anderson, and Damion Lee.

Once Klay returns, we will definitely see him with an ideal closing small-ball lineup alongside Curry, Wiggins, and Green. Personally, I would love the fifth man to be Toscano-Anderson. He proved last season that he was the perfect complement to both Curry and Green — the trio outscored opponents by nearly 14 points per 100 possessions — and he has the defensive versatility to play the 4 and defend up the positional spectrum.

(More on Toscano-Anderson here.)

Again, until Klay returns, Poole sounds like the ideal placeholder for him in the closing lineup. A Curry-Poole-Wiggins-JTA-Green lineup outscored opponents by 27.4 points per 100 possessions, with the caveat of only 21 minutes played together. But it has the best of both worlds in terms of two-way versatility, with a healthy balance of scoring (Curry, Wiggins, and Poole), playmaking/play-connecting (Curry, Green, and Toscano-Anderson), and defense (Green, Wiggins, Toscano-Anderson).

Establishing a defensive identity is always a priority. One thing that Kerr must be given a lot of credit for is that he walked the walk in terms of establishing a defensive culture. He did, after all, state that he wanted the team to be a top-10 defense — and the team went and got themselves a top-5 finish in defensive rating.

Can they replicate that this coming season? Sure, it’s possible. Will it be harder? I’m leaning toward yes. Consider the personnel they had last season on the wings: Wiggins, Toscano-Anderson, Kelly Oubre Jr., and Kent Bazemore.

Wiggins outperformed expectations defensively, while Toscano-Anderson proved he was a plus-defender at all times when he was on the floor. But it was Oubre and Bazemore who both provided the brand of pesky, lengthy, in-your-face type of defense that translated into turnovers, deflections, and blocks (and fouls — lots of them — in Bazemore’s case). While both of them had their faults, their impact defensively can’t be denied. The team is losing a considerable amount of wing and perimeter defense.

The trade-off is that they’re theoretically getting more offense through spacing (Bjelica and Porter), and they’re counting on the likes of Moody to be defensively capable out of the gates. They’re also banking on Klay to be the Klay of old in terms of laterality and mobility on defense... which could be a gamble.

But if the trade off for a slight decline in terms of defensive efficiency is a significant uptick in offensive efficiency — remember, the Warriors finished 20th in offensive rating despite an all-time offensive season from Curry — that’s a trade-off I’d certainly be fine with.

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