Well, Opening Night has come and gone. The Golden State Warriors made us happy by playing a thrilling game against Devin Booker and Kevin Durant’s Phoenix Suns, and then they made us sad by losing that game, 108-104.
The duality of hoops, or something.
Anyway, it’s time for the only segment in sports media that angers Bay Area sports fans as much as Brock Purdy quarterback rankings. That’s right: player grades are back!
For those new to the segment, or for those who need a refresher, or for those who are going to complain even though they know the drill, each player is graded relative to my expectations for that player. I do a funny grading system in which a “B” is average. So if Steph Curry has a “B” and Cory Joseph has a “B+,” it means that Curry had a significantly better game than Joseph.
OK, with that clarified, on we march.
Note: True-shooting percentage (TS) is a scoring efficiency metric that accounts for threes and free throws. League-average TS last year was 58.1%.
28 minutes, 7 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, 2 fouls, 3-for-6 shooting, 1-for-1 free throws, 54.3% TS, -11
Jusuf Nurkić has been so injured lately that it’s easy to forget just how good he is. He at times reminded Looney of that, with a highly-efficient and physical 14-point, 14-rebound performance.
Looney is talented in ways that bely his size, and his rebound total reminds us of that, even if he got out-rebounded by his counterpart in the same number of minutes. It definitely wasn’t a bad game for the Dubs’ iron man, but I wouldn’t classify it as a good one, either.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in rebounds.
27 minutes, 10 points, 1 rebound, 1 block, 3 fouls, 4-for-12 shooting, 0-for-3 threes, 2-for-3 free throws, 37.5% TS, -22
Perhaps the most notable development in this game was that in the fourth quarter, with the game on the line, Wiggins was on the bench, replaced by Jonathan Kuminga.
That was emphatically the right decision in this game, but it’s still worth highlighting. Not because of what it says about Wiggins, but what it says about how Steve Kerr will adjust the crunch-time lineups based on how people are playing, and the matchups. And Kerr acknowledged that after the game.
“Whoever’s playing the best will finish the game.”— 95.7 The Game (@957thegame) October 25, 2023
Steve Kerr on Kuminga closing the game over Wiggins pic.twitter.com/JPq2a7JIdc
The Warriors have six starters when Draymond Green is healthy, and Kuminga, Moses Moody, Gary Payton II, and Dario Šarić all provide the type of unique skillsets that could be game-changers down the stretch. Closing lineups will be very interesting to keep an eye on.
Anyway, Wiggins had a fairly awful game. With Green out he had a very difficult defensive assignment, alternating between defending Durant and Booker, sometimes with good results and sometimes not. The Warriors simply need him to have more than one rebound a game, especially when playing up a position. And if he’s not being an asset on the glass or a big-time defender, then they need him to shoot better.
But on the plus side: it’s just one game!
Post-game bonus: Worst plus/minus on the team.
34 minutes, 14 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals, 1 turnover, 4-for-15 shooting, 0-for-6 threes, 6-for-7 free throws, 38.7% TS, +5
Paul’s Warriors debut was quite a mixed bag. The funniest moment of the game, in my eyes, came when Kerr was interviewed before the fourth quarter, and was asked why the Warriors were taking better care of the ball than they were last season. The Dubs’ coach answered diplomatically, but the wry smile on his face made it clear what his internal monologue was: last year we had Jordan Poole; this year we have Chris Paul.
Indeed, Paul’s nine assists to one turnover was a sight for sore eyes. That’s not just a shot at Poole, either; stars they may be, but avoiding infuriating turnovers is never something that Green or Curry have been good at. And Paul played against a highly-potent offense without committing a foul.
Oh, and those extremely aggravating things he does that make people hate him? Turns out they’re way more fun when he’s on your team. Who knew? And I’m already prepared to declare the Warriors second unit miles ahead of what it was at any point last season.
Also, he had an incredible quote.
"I was on a team that missed 27 straight threes. I don’t think that’s going to be the case here, knock on wood."— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) October 25, 2023
CP isn't worried about the Dubs' shooting struggles pic.twitter.com/xQvjpHB992
On the other side of the coin is the fact that Paul’s defense looked far removed from his All-Defense days, and his shot was ice cold. Those things really hurt Golden State in this game.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in assists.
31 minutes, 27 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, 5 fouls, 8-for-20 shooting, 4-for-14 threes, 7-for-7 free throws, 58.5% TS, -9
Your daily reminder that Curry is insanely good. In a game where it felt like he had quite an off-night scoring, he dropped 27 points in 31 minutes on above league-average efficiency. Never change, Steph.
Still, it wasn’t the best game for the chef. While the Curry-Paul pairing is already showing some great things, Steph is clearly still getting used to playing more off ball. He’s the greatest shooter in the history of basketball, but I thought he relied a little bit too much on springing open for threes in this game. In time, he’ll learn that there’s room for him to attack the hoop even when playing alongside a traditional ball-dominant point guard. That will open up more looks (he shot 4-for-6 from inside-the-arc, and got to the free throw line a lot), which will open up the threes for him and lead to more assists.
Also, if Paul could teach Curry how to not reach when defending, that would be great. I maintain that Steph is a highly underrated defender, but it sure feels like all of his fouls are unforced errors.
So before you get mad at the incoming grade, please remember the metric. Curry had a great game; but it was still well below average relative to his usual performance.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in points.
36 minutes, 15 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 3 turnovers, 3 fouls, 6-for-18 shooting, 3-for-11 threes, 41.7% TS, +9
Two main takeaways from Klay’s game. First, he struggled shooting the ball, which is a big bummer. And second, he didn’t force the issue like he did so many times last year when struggling.
Sure, he still took a ton of shots, but they were almost all good looks that will drop as the season goes on. The issue last year wasn’t with his shot quantity, it was with his shot selection. Even the eternally grumpy Paul will have a hard time criticizing the types of shots Thompson took in this game; they just didn’t go in.
To his credit, the ones that did go in sure came at big moments! And he was very active on the glass, which is good because I’m not sure how good we can expect him to be defensively going forward.
20 minutes, 7 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 blocks, 3 fouls, 3-for-11 shooting, 1-for-3 threes, 31.8% TS, +7
If I had to pick a player of the game, it would be Šarić. Not player of the game as in best player, but player of the game as in the player who most accurately represented the game.
Šarić did mostly good things. He played some decent defense, made things dirty when it was to the team’s advantage, made good decisions and passes, worked well with his new teammates, and attacked the glass. All signs of a game well played!
He also shot like various synonyms for butts and the things that come out of them, and because of that it was a bad game.
That kinda sums up the game, doesn’t it? The Warriors played scrappy. Their defensive effort was better than you would expect against a great offense while missing their star defender. They played well together and only turned the ball over 11 times.
They also shot 35.6% from the field and 23.3% from three-point range, and so it was a loss, which is, by definition, a bad game.
20 minutes, 12 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 5 fouls, 4-for-8 shooting, 4-for-6 free throws, 56.4% TS, +4
After his electric preseason, I was very excited to see how Kuminga would play. It started off a bit poorly, as he looked a little bit nervous in the opening minutes after being the first player off the bench.
And then he settled in and was at times phenomenal. Kuminga used the athleticism he showed in his first two seasons, but with much better restraint and understanding of how to harness it. His defense and rebounding made it abundantly clear that he took it to heart when Kerr said that those are the things he needs to do if he wants to see regular playing time.
And as a result? He was on the court in the final minutes in place of Wiggins, which you could argue is a preview of what future seasons will look like for the Warriors. But that’s getting ahead of myself.
Kuminga won’t be in the closing lineup most nights, but he wasn’t there on Tuesday for charity. He was there because he was helping the team win. And he played a big role in those final minutes, with a pair of huge offensive rebounds and some quality defense.
It wasn’t all pretty. He had some very poor fouls, and he went 0-for-2 at the free throw line late in the game.
But I think it’s fairly clear that, in his third season, Kuminga now has a solidified spot in the rotation.
4 minutes, 0 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, -12
I was curious to see how many minutes CoJo would play. The answer? Not very many.
That could change depending on the game and matchup. But I think this game definitely points towards Joseph being more of a depth piece for when Curry or Paul can’t play (or have foul trouble) than an honest-to-goodness part of the rotatoin.
Gary Payton II
22 minutes, 1 point, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 1 foul, 0-for-5 shooting, 0-for-2 threes, 1-for-2 free throws, 8.5% TS, +15
GPII, like so many Warriors, did good things and shot horribly. But we can more easily forgive him since A) he’s not on the court to score, and B) he didn’t shoot very much.
His activity in this game — on defense, on the glass (despite the rebound total), and in transition — were strong reminders that the Warriors will be better this year in large part because Payton is back. He may have ended the 2022-23 season with the Dubs but, for all intents and purposes, he didn’t play on that team.
What a weapon at Kerr’s disposal.
Post-game bonus: Best plus/minus on the team.
18 minutes, 11 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block, 1 turnover, 1 foul, 4-for-6 shooting, 2-for-4 threes, 1-for-2 free throws, 79.9% TS, -6
This is exactly what you want to see in a player’s third year. It was, to put it bluntly, Moses Moody V3.0.
I’m a Moody fan, but I’ve been critical of him in the past for being too quiet on the court. In his first two years he would often play a very passive game, not really impacting the action for better or for worse.
There’s a skill in that, and it’s clear Moody is an exceptionally smart and mature player, something that Green noted during an in-game interview with the TNT broadcast. But now he’s adding aggression. Moody completely changed the game when he entered in the first quarter, and kept a rally going when he entered in the third. He was an absolute menace on defense, disrupting everything, and he attacked the rim relentlessly. He outhustled most people on the court, which is something Kerr really wants to see out of him.
Just a great game.
Tuesday’s DNPs: Trayce Jackson-Davis, Brandin Podziemski
Tuesday’s inactives: Usman Garuba, Draymond Green, Lester Quiñones, Jerome Robinson