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7 pieces of preseason over-analysis

‘Tis the season!

Jonathan Kuminga shooting a free throw. Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors have played three preseason games, and after Sunday’s overtime victory over the Sacramento Kings pushed them to 3-0, there’s only one reasonable conclusion to draw: there’s an undefeated season coming.

That obvious joke aside, it was an encouraging win when you consider that the Warriors were on the road, playing without Steph Curry, Chris Paul, or Draymond Green, against a mostly full-strength Kings team that played their core players more than the Dubs played Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, and Kevon Looney.

Then again, there’s really not too much you can take away from preseason wins and losses. But that won’t keep us from making some judgements now that we’ve witnessed 149 minutes of preseason action. Are these judgements over-reactions and over-analysis? Absolutely. But are they still meaningful? Also absolutely.

So here are seven observations I’ve made from the first trio of games.

Jonathan Kuminga looks poised for a leap

The other day I was listening to the Zach Lowe Podcast, and Lowe was talking about how he hasn’t sold any of his Kuminga stock.

Me neither.

Kuminga has shown glimpses of being a star in his first two NBA seasons, and it’s worth remembering just how young he is. He turned 21 just a few days ago, meaning that when he takes the court to start his third NBA season next week, he’ll still be six months younger than Curry was when he made his NBA debut.

In other words: patience. Have some of it.

Kuminga is rewarding the people who did have patience with an electric preseason showing in which he’s scored 78 points in 85 minutes of action. He looks substantially more composed than in prior years, has a more smooth-looking jump shot, and seems much more willing to productively draw contact instead of putting his head down and using raw athleticism to go in a straight line.

Again: it’s preseason. Good performances only mean so much. But when the progress comes in promising ways, and is paired with heaps of praise from Steve Kerr — who, let’s face it, has been fairly tepid with his laudatory words for Kuminga in the past — it’s enough to get excited about.

I’m anticipating a big year for Kuminga. There will be bumps, bruises, and roadblocks along the way, but I think a lot of the pieces to his puzzle will be put together.

Klay Thompson is healthy

To my eye, Klay looks healthier and more athletic than at any point during the last two seasons. That’s understandable! In 2021-22 he was returning midseason from a pair of horrific leg injuries that had cost him two and a half years. And last season he didn’t work out or scrimmage much during the offseason due to concerns and trauma from when he tore his Achilles.

Will Thompson return to his All-Star form? Who knows. But physically he looks much more like pre-2019 Klay than he has at any point since returning to the court.

Rudy Gay is a favorite to land a roster spot

When the Dubs signed Gay to a camp contract, he was immediately in the driver’s seat to earn the 14th roster spot. The Warriors like having a veteran presence to stabilize the locker room, connect with the older core, and slide into occasional action without making costly decisions.

Usually that player is Andre Iguodala, but it looks like that player is now Gay. It hasn’t been an electric preseason for Gay, but the fact that he didn’t play on Sunday suggests, to me, that he’s not really auditioning for a part anymore. With no one else standing out, I very much expect Gay to enter the season still on the roster.

Chris Paul is fitting in

The biggest question for the Warriors after trading Jordan Poole for CP3 was how the fit would work, on and off the court. Would Paul be able to adjust to the Warriors motion-heavy offense? Would Kerr be able to adjust to Paul’s dribble-heavy pick-and-roll offense? Would Paul, Curry, Thompson, and Green be able to get past their rivalry and history of chippy games and come together for the greater good?

So far it’s a lot of green lights. Paul looks very comfortable sharing the court with Curry, and is already at ease making relocation passes and working with DHOs. The quotes from the players, and the reports from the beat writers suggest that it’s been a very happy marriage with all sides respecting each other, making sacrifices, and finding common ground.

We’ve yet to see Paul play with the second unit — that will probably come Wednesday when they face the Kings again — but all signs point to Kerr running a more traditional offense when Paul is on the court and Curry is off it.

The real test will come soon. But for now, the big move of the offseason is working out as well as one could possibly have hoped.

Brandin Podziemski just might get minutes

Kerr made it clear at the start of camp that Podziemski and fellow rookie Trayce Jackson-Davis would not begin the year in the rotation. And that’s as it should be.

But the lefty combo guard, taken with the No. 19 pick in June’s draft, is trending towards the rotation. He’s been playing quite well in the preseason, making good decisions, rebounding, taking care of the ball, and showing a much-better-than-advertised ability to get into the paint.

More telling, however, is the fact that he’s getting minutes. In the very first game of the preseason, Podziemski took the court halfway through the first quarter in an all-bench unit alongside Gary Payton II, Moses Moody, Dario Šarić, and Kuminga — all players who are a part of the rotation.

Through three games, Podziemski has already played 82 minutes, second-most on the team, and 15th-highest in the league. For perspective, last year’s first-round pick, Patrick Baldwin Jr., played only 72 minutes across the team’s entire five-game preseason ... including just 32 minutes through three games.

Some of that is due to the fact that neither Green nor Cory Joseph have played yet this postseason. Joseph is likely to return for the team’s next preseason game, and Green should be back in the lineup early in the season. So don’t expect Podziemski to be a key part of the rotation when the season begins next Tuesday ... or even a part of it at all.

But the fact that he’s playing so much suggests that Kerr sees a distinct possibility that Podziemski will be a rotation player at some point this year.

Dario Šarić is a dream fit

When the Warriors signed Šarić this offseason, many described him as this year’s version of Nemanja Bjelica. Others described him as this year’s version of Otto Porter Jr.

I think the reality is that he’s ... both. We haven’t even seen Šarić play with former teammate Paul yet, but we’re already seeing his impact. His decision making and jump shot can be game-changers for the second unit, and his size is a fantastic addition to the team.

If he can stay healthy, Šarić could be one of the best signings in the entire league this year.

Usman Garuba is a project

Count me among those who were very excited when the Warriors signed Garuba, a 2021 first-round pick to a two-way contract. And I still am!

But if you were expecting Garuba to be this year’s Anthony Lamb or Ty Jerome — an NBA-ready contributor who jumps straight into the rotation — well, sorry. It ain’t gonna happen.

Garuba hasn’t been getting many minutes this preseason, which is a clear sign that the coaching staff doesn’t think he’s ready to contribute. That’s OK! After all, he’s a 21 year old who was considered a raw prospect when he joined the league, and he’s played just 1,210 minutes in his career. He has fantastic defensive instincts and technique, and shows flashes of offensive potential.

The Dubs seem quite happy with a frontcourt of Looney, Green, and Šarić, with Jackson-Davis filling in if necessary (or if earned). Garuba will have a low-pressure situation where he can head to Santa Cruz and develop his game further.

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