As I was watching Markkanen mercilessly draining 3s in the first quoter, I thought that we were missing a long perimeter defender to match his length. "We have PBJ," - a crazy thought crossed my mind, - "but surely Kerr wouldn’t have guts to give him a try." Next thing I saw was PBJ checking in. Not only did he help defending Markkanen but Markkanen had a hard time defending PBJ’s 3s on the other side of the court. Those of you salivating over Markkanen, start looking at PBJ instead. He will be a very similar player and if he learns playing defense, he will be twice as good. I wasn’t surprised with his 3s as I’ve seen these in the G-league. I was surprised with how he wasn’t a huge liability on defense. He might be more playable this season than I thought, at least against some matchups like in this game.
Poole had an atrocious shooting line (7-22, including 2-10 on 3s) and an even worse ballhandling line (1 AST 6 TOs), but he had Mike Conley guarding him all game long. Say whatever you want about Conley being washed up, but he is still quite good on defense. Conley played 32 min and was at 0 in +/-. Poole did well enough to get some fouls and score at the FT line. He was -1 in 36 min.
With Conley on Poole, DDV had the luxury of being guarded or rather not guarded much by Jordan Clarkson. DDV could have all the open 3s he wanted and was one of the most efficient scorers in the game with 19 pts on just 11 shots, after 0-4 shooting in the previous game.
Kerr is very picky about Wiseman’s minutes by matching him against less experienced bigs, like Clarke and not Steven Adams, Mark Williams and not Myles Turner, Walker Kessler and not Kelly Olynyk. This way, Wiseman has a better chance to hold his own and he has been doing this in the last 3 games, all at home. Against Memphis, he just played defense. In the Charlotte game, he had a chance to score too. In this game, he was a lob threat which Ty Jerome used to drive and score against Kessler’s drop defense on several occasions. With Wiseman playing better and now PBJ making his case for more playing time, I hope JMG doesn’t see the floor for a while.
Dray and Loon are our everything. Loon seemed a tad slow to me in the recent games, when he didn’t catch the ball well or didn’t put it in the basket fast enough. But Dray has been playing like a possessed man in these last 3 games. Not having Steph and Klay struggling in most games he plays, Dray put the team on his shoulders and led the youngsters. I am sure if you sit Dray, the youngsters on their own would suffer a blowout by the halftime. So, it is Dray who has been in the middle of everything.
The finishing lineup had 2 NCAA champs – DDV and Ty. Both know how to handle the crunch time and both did quite well. Ty Jerome’s game with the team is evolving from good to very good to how-could-one-have-such-production-from-a-2way-guy. Ty is an example of why people shouldn’t look at player’s stat profile and the previous history with other teams and draw any conclusions. People should watch a player play in actual games before allowing themselves to have any judgement. This is what I do and this is why I could see Ty being "our guy" before he even cleared the waivers with Houston. For the same reason, I could foresee JMG being a bad signing despite his solid-looking NBA CV. Ty has skills and BBIQ and this is what you need in Kerr’s system to excel. What Ty needs is to gain some muscle and strength to be able to hold his ground better on defense. He had Olynyk switched on him on a number of possessions and despite doing his best to deny the ball, he had to foul him a few times. Ty has no athleticism, but as Steph’s experience shows, gaining more strength could do wonders to one’s game on both sides of the court.
I like our other 2 way guy too. Lamb is a player of positionless basketball who can do a lot of small things to help the offense flow and the defense stick together. If he were a couple inches taller it would have made it much harder for people to score over him. I don’t know what magic Bob will do, but he needs to keep both Ty and Lamb for the playoffs.
I am more positive on Kuminga than most who commented on him after the game. Young players will be inconsistent for a while, but what you want from them is a consistent effort. This is exactly what we’ve been getting from both Kuminga and Moody. Sometimes the ball bounces their way and other times it doesn’t but as long as you see the guys hustling and not watching the ball, you know that the consistency in production will come eventually. Look at Kuminga’s stat line – 3 ORBs (most on the team) and 5 RBs overall, 3 ASTs and a steal, just 2 TOs. So, he had his footprints all over – the boards, the playmaking , the defense. The 6 PFs are just because he was either too aggressive on defense or was matched against a wrong guy, like Markkanen. Some fouls were silly, like when he didn’t box out Kessler and then just bumped him or the offensive foul against Vanderbilt, but he is only in his second year and like everyone else, he’ll go through his share of mistakes.
What we see is that the youngsters are playing better and the team gels together. But don’t get overly excited as we are likely to see some problems with the vets coming back. The young players will shy away from taking shots or making plays because not everyone has the courage of Jordan Poole. Steph and Wiggs might be rusty upon the return and the combination of the youngsters not taking shots and the vets taking them may result in some ugly losses. This is just a possible small bump on the road to the playoffs. The bigger one is to decide what to do with making/not making any moves to add a vet because the youngsters making their share of mistakes is a given. But can the team afford them in the playoffs? If I were Bob, I wouldn’t make any drastic moves – just keep all the youngsters but try to get a better big for JMG and find a way to keep Ty and/or Lamb for the playoffs. The worst case scenario – we don’t win the whole thing. But our youngsters will get a ton of experience which will pay off in the years to come.