As currently constructed this Warriors team will not make it out of the Western Conference playoffs.
The team has the following significant weaknesses:
- Defense (minor to moderate) - Interior size/length, mobility and rim protection
- Offense (moderate to major) - Playmaking, shot creation, secondary to tertiary efficient scoring (in the half-court)
The Warriors have now fallen to 12th in the NBA in offensive efficiency. No team has won a title since 2010 without a Top 7 offense. And no team has won a title this century without a Top 10 offense. And just 1 month ago on 12/12/2021 the Warriors were 4th in the NBA. Their offensive efficiency has fallen off a cliff and they have fallen to 12th. They are still 1st in defensive efficiency.
I'm not one that considers a 15 game sample (the last 15 in this case) to be some sort of fluke.
Over the last 15 games the Warriors are 14th in the NBA with a Net Rating of +0.8. Their defense was 6th giving up 106.6 per 100. But their offense has been 25th in the NBA with a measly 107.4 per 100.
If they have hopes of winning a title this season (ignore the talking heads that are wrong nearly 100% of the time) they need to make a move before the trade deadline.
There is a player in the league that uniquely fits within the Warriors system that will make them a significantly better team on both ends of the court. That player is Domantas Sabonis. Sabonis is averaging 19.7/12.4/4.8 points/rebounds/assists per 36 this season with an EFG% of .609 and TS% of .649. His assists are well down from the 6.7 assists per 36 he averaged last season. That number would put him 3rd on the Warriors behind Draymond and Iggy with Curry below that at 6.4. He is a bonafide playmaker and shot creator. He is a slightly below league average shooter but provides some spacing with a 3P% of .328 on 2.4 attempts per game.
Although it would take some effort to incorporate him Sabonis would fit in great in this offensive system. He helps with all the offensive weaknesses mentioned above and would add another dimension to the Warriors offense that has become stagnant and overly dependent on perimeter shooting. He can also provide efficient half-court scoring and offensive rebounding. He has never been rated high defensively but having watched him I do think he has the tools and as importantly the desire to become an above-average defender. He doesn't address the Warriors defensive weaknesses as well as Myles Turner (another trade candidate) but he will improve on each of them (defensive rebounding in particular). I believe he will match up fine against Ayton, AD, Steven Adams and Gobert. Jokic could present problems for him.
I would propose that the Warriors should start talks with the Pacers about potential trades for Sabonis.
How about this trade?
- Warriors - Sabonis, TJ Warren
- Pacers - Wiseman, Wiggins
The numbers come within $50,000 of matching and I'm sure that difference can be made up with other inconsequential assets. The Pacers definitely high on Sabonis and I'm not certain they will agree to this but could be the starting point for discussion. From the Warriors perspective it's a win for the following reasons:
- Although you are giving up Wiseman who has a high ceiling and a low floor you are getting back a player that already has a high floor. There is no doubt Sabonis will help the Warriors more than Wiseman this season. Interested in why anyone might think differently.
- Wiggins' role is diminishing on the Warriors. Warriors have a log-jam of guys wanting to get perimeter shots on this team (Curry, Klay, Poole, Wiggins, Bjelica, Porter, etc...). There are only so many perimeter shots to go around. So much perimeter shooting makes the team predictable to opposing defenses as well. Although you lose Wiggins' defense I believe there are plenty of capable defenders (GPII, Porter, Iggy) on this team.
- You are trading one injured player (Wiseman) for another (Warren). I would argue the long-term injury risk favors the Warriors here. Both players have not played in some time
- If TJ Warren can come back healthy he gives them a veteran that isn't too far of a drop-off from Wiggins. Coming back from injury it's more likely he will be okay in a lower minutes and less shots role with the Warriors
- Sabonis has 3 years (including this one) at around $19 million/year on his contract. TJ Warren's contract ends this season. This nets the Warriors over $20 million in free cap space for 2022-23. Money that can be used for role players next season. Myles Turner is on 2 years around $18 million. This makes Sabonis a more favorable trade beyond what I have already mentioned because he is on a team friendly contract for an additional season. Sabonis is a +75 (#2) for the Pacers this season. Myles Turner is a +27 (#6). I do agree that Turner would be easier to incorporate and adding Sabonis would require some work on offense in particular.
- Starting Lineup - Curry - Klay - Porter - Green - Sabonis
- Bigger Lineups - Curry / Poole - Klay / GPII - Green / Iggy - Sabonis - Looney
- Smaller Lineups - Curry / Poole - Klay / GPII - Klay / Iggy - Porter/Bjelica - Green
That's a formidable 8 man playoff rotation. Damion Lee can slide in there to make it a 9 man rotation. Kuminga could maybe extend it to 10 if he can show some more progression this season. But he is not there yet unless some on-ball defensive matchup issue calls for it. JTA and Chiozza should not be part of the playoff rotation. They are liabilities on the court.
I would add I don't think there is any guarantee that with this move the Warriors are winning a title. But I think it increases their likelihood significantly. I don't believe that Myles Turner will be enough. He simply will not move the needle on offense enough. If this move is made incorporating Sabonis into the system might result in more losses as that process unfolds and thus lower playoff seeding and some regular season struggles. However I'm fairly certain it will put them in a better position to make the required moves in the off-season to contend for the title next year. The only argument I can see against this is if Wiseman turns into some beast that far exceeds Sabonis' value. I think the likelihood of that is low to approaching zero.