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Player Grades: Warriors vs. Nuggets Game 1

Assessing every Golden State player’s performance from the Warriors 123-107 win over the Nuggets.

Denver Nuggets v Golden State Warriors - Game One Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After missing the playoffs in each of the last two years, the Golden State Warriors returned with a vengeance. The Dubs played their first playoff game since 2019. Chase Center hosted its first playoff game ever. And at long last, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green were able to share a court together, on the largest stage, after playing just 11 minutes together over the past three seasons.

The result was a beautiful, glorious, and very fun 123-107 win over the Denver Nuggets in game one of the series. So let’s grade the players, weighting for our expectations of each.

Note: league average true-shooting percentage (TS) this season was 56.6%.

Draymond Green

29 minutes, 12 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 blocks, 2 fouls, 5-for-7 shooting, 1-for-2 threes, 1-for-1 free throws, 80.7% TS, +21

Playoff Draymond: Activated.

There’s not much to say about Green, except that this was very similar to the player who many felt was the second-best on a championship team in 2015. He was an electric playmaker, with nine assists and no turnovers. He was a brilliant defender, making life difficult for Nikola Jokić while recording more blocked shots than fouls. And he was an aggressive offensive option — deferring to better scorers when they were open, but attacking the hoop when it was needed.

And it’s always a good time when he makes a three.

Steve Kerr preached about Green’s focus and preparation for the playoffs. It was on full display Saturday.

Grade: A

Post-game bonus: Led the team in assists, tied for the team lead in plus/minus.

Andrew Wiggins

29 minutes, 16 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 2 fouls, 6-for-11 shooting, 1-for-2 threes, 3-for-4 free throws, 62.7% TS, +16

The Warriors will take this performance from Wiggins every day of the week. This was exactly what they wanted out of him. He was locked in defensively, voraciously attacked the glass, used his athleticism to his advantage, and cut, cut, cut.

With Jordan Poole’s emergence, Wiggins is the fourth option on the Warriors offense. And when he acts as such, by relentlessly cutting and spotting up for open threes, he is an outstanding weapon.

Grade: A

Post-game bonus: Led the team in rebounds.

Kevon Looney

13 minutes, 6 points, 7 rebounds, 2 fouls, 2-for-3 shooting, 2-for-2 free throws, 77.3% TS, -7

Looney did a fairly nice job defending Jokić, and gobbled up rebounds in his limited minutes. Plus he had some big baskets early in the game. Honestly, it was a quite nice performance from him.

But he just doesn’t have a huge role in this series. Even though he defends Jokić well, it makes more sense for the Warriors to put Green — who also defends Jokić well — at the center position, so that they can push the ball up the court and take advantage of Jokić on the other end of the court (it’s worth noting that Jokić is, despite reputation, a pretty decent defensive player, but he’s too slow to keep up with a small lineup without getting exhausted, as happened on Saturday).

Grade: B

Post-game bonus: Worst plus/minus on the team.

Klay Thompson

29 minutes, 19 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 fouls, 7-for-15 shooting, 5-for-10 threes, 63.3% TS, +5

Klay set the tempo early, knocking in three after three in the opening minutes to fire up the Chase Center crowd. It was an electric first half for him, in his first postseason game since tearing his ACL in the 2019 NBA Finals. And it nearly brought a tear to my eye.

He cooled off in the second half, but by that point the damage was already done. What a beautiful sight.

Grade: A-

Jordan Poole

30 minutes, 30 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists, 3 turnovers, 3 fouls, 9-for-13 shooting, 5-for-7 threes, 7-for-8 free throws, 90.8% TS, +7

There can be no bigger assurance of Poole’s ascension than this:

But if you need another assurance, there’s this: with four sure fire Hall of Famers on the court for a massive playoff game, Poole was the best player in the game.

Let that soak in.

It was his first playoff game, and now’s a good time to remind you that he’s just 22 years old. Most impressive was how much he embraced the moment. It was clear that he wanted the bright lights, the high stakes, and all the other things that make many players crumble. He was here for it.

And then he put on a show.

Grade: A+

Post-game bonus: Led the team in points.

Nemanja Bjelica

15 minutes, 8 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 3 fouls, 3-for-6 shooting, 0-for-2 threes, 2-for-5 free throws, 48.8% TS, +1

Saturday confirmed something that we had all suspected after the last few months: Bjelica is in the postseason rotation. He’s not going to play a huge role, but he’ll help provide some different looks off the bench.

He wasn’t his usual self in this one, as he struggled with efficiency and wasn’t the brilliant playmaker that he often is. But throwing a different look can really help the offense, and he’s a good matchup when DeMarcus Cousins is on the court.

Grade: B-

Jonathan Kuminga

4 minutes, 1 point, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 1-for-2 free throws, 56.8% TS, -6

Just garbage time minutes for JK, who did not make the cut to be in the 10-player playoff rotation. I suspect we might see him play at least a few meaningful minutes this series, though.

Grade: Incomplete

Andre Iguodala

13 minutes, 0 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 2 fouls, 0-for-1 shooting, 0-for-1 threes, 0.0% TS, +11

Iguodala didn’t play too much in this game, and I think in this particular matchup we won’t see him as much as in other games, assuming the Warriors advance out of the first round. Steve Kerr really wants shooting on the court in this series, and Denver doesn’t have the perimeter firepower for Iguodala to defend that other teams offer.

Grade: B

Otto Porter Jr.

25 minutes, 4 points, 1 rebound, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 1 turnover, 4 fouls, 2-for-6 shooting, 0-for-3 threes, 33.3% TS, +21

Porter has emerged as the go-to player outside of the starting six, for lack of a better term. And I think it’s the right decision by Kerr.

His stats weren’t particularly good in this game, but the team just functions so well when Porter is on the court. He’s conducive to good ball movement and smart decision making, he spaces the floor, he attacks the glass both as a rebounder and a cutter, and he’s an ultra-versatile defender.

He’s going to play a big role in this series.

Grade: B

Post-game bonus: Tied for the team lead in plus/minus.

Juan Toscano-Anderson

4 minutes, 3 points, 1 rebound, 1-for-1 shooting, 1-for-1 threes, 150.0% TS, -6

Just garbage time for JTA, who is on the outside of the playoff rotation. But it was still really cool to see the hometown Warrior get to play a playoff game in front of a rocking arena, and knock in a shot, too.

Grade: Incomplete

Steph Curry

22 minutes, 16 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 1 foul, 5-for-13 shooting, 3-for-6 threes, 3-for-3 free throws, 55.9% TS, +17

Curry had some rust to shake off after a month on the sidelines, and his shot was cold when he first entered the game off the bench. But that wasn’t important. What mattered is that he moved like he was healthy. He was agile and quick, and he cut sharply. He looked comfortable and like he trusted his foot.

That’s all that matters. The shot will quickly come back — and it started to in the final moments of the first half and the entire second half — and when it does, watch out.

It remains to be seen if Curry will stay on the bench for the second game of the series or return to the starting lineup.

Grade: A+ for the feels

Damion Lee

4 minutes, 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 foul, 1-for-2 shooting, 50.0% TS, -6

Garbage time for Lee. Nothing much of note other than Mark Jones conflating his wife (Sydel Curry) with Seth Curry’s (Callie Rivers).

Grade: Incomplete

Gary Payton II

20 minutes, 5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 2-for-3 shooting, 1-for-2 free throws, 64.4% TS, +12

GPII will probably play a bigger role if the Warriors advance and face a backcourt player like Ja Morant, Chris Paul, Donovan Mitchell, or Devin Booker. But his defense was still stellar in this one, and the help he provides on Jokić is exceptional.

He’s just a really critical part of the team right now.

Grade: B+

Moses Moody

4 minutes, 1 point, 1 assist, 1 steal, 0-for-1 shooting, 0-for-1 threes, 1-for-2 free throws, 26.6% TS, -6

Garbage time for the rookie in his playoff debut.

Grade: Incomplete

Saturday’s inactives; James Wiseman