The Golden State Warriors are about to kick off their preseason, and while I don’t expect you to stay up until 3AM to watch a game that’s happening in Japan (nor should you expect me to stay up until 3AM to cover it), we’ll all peruse the box score, catch the highlights, and probably watch the replay.
There’s a lot to watch over the five games before the quest to repeat begins on October 18. Here are seven things I’ll be keeping my eye on.
James Wiseman’s comfort
We all know the physical skills that James Wiseman has. He’s incredibly tall and rangy, with athleticism that’s hard to believe. He has a soft touch around the rim, and a pretty decent jump shot. We also know his weaknesses. He struggles defensively, fouls a lot, has issues catching passes, and often favors moving away from the basket over moving towards it.
None of those things are going to change overnight. He’ll enter the season with those strengths being strengths, and those weaknesses being weaknesses, and he’ll try and further improve the former and work on the latter.
What we still don’t know is what his comfort level is. The Warriors read-and-react offense is, while simple in concept, incredibly difficult to master, in large part because of how quickly you need to be able to make decisions. The Warriors have struggled with many players, particularly centers (hi, Damian Jones), who had the talent but couldn’t keep up with the system.
Wiseman is a gigantic question mark in that area. If he looks comfortable with the plays and the decision making, he’ll cement his spot as a key contributor for years to come. If not? We could already be counting down his days in a Warriors jersey.
I’m not even keeping my eye on anything about Quinndary Weatherspoon in particularly, I’ll just be watching him. Weatherspoon opens camp on a two-way contract and, similar to prior Warriors two-ways like Quinn Cook and Damion Lee, he feels like a bigger part of the roster than the two-way designation would suggest. He’s in the team’s social posts. He’s getting more time from the PR department.
Fans aren’t stoked about this, since Weatherspoon didn’t look great last year in limited minutes. But the Dubs really like what they saw from him in practice and in the G League (where he put up gaudy numbers). I don’t think they’ll fill the 15th spot on the roster — not yet, at least — but Weatherspoon looking less like a project and more like a veteran will go a long way towards him being a part of the rotation going forward.
Some of the best news to come out of camp is that the Warriors two rookies, Patrick Baldwin Jr. and Ryan Rollins, are healthy. Both players missed Summer League (the former with an ankle injury, the latter with a stress fracture in his foot), and there were questions entering training camp as to whether or not they were healthy.
Both assured the media that they were, but we need to see it on the court. Baldwin has struggled with his ankle for a few years, and even though he’s been scrimmaging since July, playing honest-to-goodness basketball games is a different animal. And Rollins said he still hasn’t been able to work himself into game shape after being stationary so long.
Keep your eye on if they look healthy and comfortable moving on the court.
Jonathan Kuminga’s control
Jonathan Kuminga’s role is undefined to start the year. Rookie mistakes and out-of-control play could lead to him having a small bench role again. A step forward and playing in control could lead to him being a guy who gets 20-plus minutes off the bench every night.
I’m looking to see if he plays in control. There’s a temptation for young players — especially lottery picks — to want to show out, and Kuminga has the raw talent and athleticism to do so. But in order to earn serious minutes, he needs to exhibit a lot of control by harnessing his athleticism and playing disciplined defense.
That starts in the preseason.
Unlike last year, when Gary Payton II, Avery Bradley, Mychal Mulder, and others were battling for a roster spot, there aren’t really a lot of camp battles here. I fully expect the Warriors to start the season with their 15th roster spot unfilled. And I very much think Weatherspoon will hold one of the two-way spots.
So if there is a roster battle, it will likely be for the second two-way contract. That contract is currently being held by Lester Quiñones, but a lot of Warriors fans have grown enamored with Mac McClung and Trevion Williams. We’ll see if anyone from that trio can stand out as a player that the Warriors don’t want to risk losing.
One of the early stories out of training camp was Baldwin’s jumper, which looks really pretty. The scouting report on Baldwin entering college was that he had a smooth jumper, but that was emphatically not on display in his 11-game run playing college ball.
It’s far too early to pass judgement on if PBJ will be a good shooter this year, or in his career, but I’ll be watching to see what his jumper looks like. He’s already professed his desire to work hard on defense and rebounding in an effort to gain minutes ... that task gets easier if he proves to the coaching staff that he’s a trustworthy option when left alone beyond the arc.
You might have noticed that I haven’t mentioned any of the top players. Because we know who Steph Curry is. We know who Draymond Green is. We know who Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, Kevon Looney, and Andre Iguodala are. For the most part, we even know who Donte DiVincenzo and JaMychal Green are. You can make the case that we don’t know who Klay Thompson is this year, but nothing he does in the preseason is going to change that.
But the four-ringed core of Steph, Klay, Dray, and Andre are all a year older, and all have had injury issues in their careers.
Please make it to October 18 healthy, Dubs. That’s all I ask.