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Player grades: Warriors vs. Suns

Assessing every Golden State player’s performance from the team’s 123-115 loss to Phoenix.

Chris Paul and Scott Foster pointing fingers at each other. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors got right back in the loss column on Wednesday, losing 123-115 to the Phoenix Suns in one of the oddest games we’ve witnessed in a while. As we’ve grown accustomed to over the last few years, it was a tale of two teams for the Dubs: the starters and the bench. Only this time it was the starters who couldn’t even tread water, while the bench was borderline dominant.

Very strange. Or, to steal Marc’s game story headline, it was a chaotic mess of a game.

As a result, tonight’s grades will be a little odd. And as always, grades are based on my expectation for each player, with a “B” grade representing the average performance for that player.

Note: True-shooting percentage (TS) is a scoring efficiency metric that accounts for threes and free throws. Entering Wednesday’s games, league-average TS was 57.6%.

Kevon Looney

17 minutes, 6 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, 4 fouls, 3-for-5 shooting, 60.0% TS, -5

Looney wasn’t very good on opening night against Jusuf Nurkić, and he wasn’t particularly good in this one, either. Looney didn’t do too many bad things, but he wasn’t nearly as crisp and mistake-free as we’ve grown accustomed to ... a pair of turnovers and four fouls in just 17 minutes is fairly uncharacteristic, and he just didn’t impact the game much.

Grade: C

Andrew Wiggins

25 minutes, 11 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 1 foul, 4-for-11 shooting, 0-for-3 threes, 3-for-4 free throws, 43.1% TS, -14

Welp. Our hopes that Wiggins had turned a corner when he exploded for 31 points on Saturday seemed to have disappeared. In the two games since, he’s scored just 23 points on 7-for-21 shooting, with one of those made buckets being a three that he missed so badly it banked in.

Wiggins just isn’t really providing much at the moment. His defense is fine but not noteworthy, his rebounding fluctuates between that and disappointing, and his offense is just ... flat is really the only word I can think of. His jump shot is literally flat, and his movement and passivity just don’t convey a lot of interest in getting good looks.

I’m not sure what’s going on, but he really looked like he was just going through the motions in this game.

Grade: D+

Chris Paul

17 minutes, 6 points, 2 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 turnover, 1 foul, 1-for-2 shooting, 0-for-1 threes, 4-for-4 free throws, 79.8% TS, -18

Usually I give players a bad grade when they get ejected; especially with Draymond Green and Gary Payton II out, the Warriors really couldn’t afford to lose Paul.

But I can’t get myself to blame CP3. The more and more that the beef between he and referee Scott Foster escalates, the more it becomes clear that the one wearing the stripes is responsible for the bulk of it.

CP3 has not been shy about the situation involving Foster, but he dropped a new wrinkle on Wednesday, saying that the beef stems from an issue Foster has with Paul’s son. Which ... come on, NBA.

Paul eventually got his money’s worth for his pair of second-quarter technical fouls, but Foster sure didn’t give a long leash to a veteran player. Steve Kerr immediately getting a technical foul for being so incensed at Foster’s behavior tells you everything you need to know.

CP3 has lost 13 consecutive playoff games that Foster has been the chief referee for, and is 2-17 in the postseason total in such games. It really feels like we’re a few years late on the league doing something here.

Before the ejection, Paul was one of Golden State’s best players. He had five assists in the first quarter, and continued his recent trend of highly-efficient scoring, after opening the year with a lid on the basket. He’s been exceptional the last week: in the last four games, all of which he’s started in Green’s place, he has 48 points while shooting 13-for-26 from the field, 11-for-19 on threes, and 11-for-11 on free throws, with 37 assists to just three turnovers.

I can’t give him a good grade when he got ejected in the first half, and the team promptly fell apart. But I can’t give him a bad grade for an ejection of that nature, especially with how well he was playing.

Grade: ‍♂️
Post-game bonus: Tied for the team lead in assists.

Steph Curry

28 minutes, 16 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 turnovers, 2 fouls, 6-for-15 shooting, 1-for-8 threes, 3-for-3 free throws, 49.0% TS, -17

Probably Curry’s worst game of the season. He just didn’t seem to have it, and finished well short of the four threes that he’d had in every other game this year. Curry wasn’t playing lackadaisically, but he seemed to get knocked off his rhythm right out of the gates and never recovered.

Shake it off, Steph.

Grade: D
Post-game bonus: Tied for the team lead in assists.

Klay Thompson

25 minutes, 23 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 3 fouls, 8-for-17 shooting, 6-for-10 threes, 1-for-1 free throws, 65.9% TS, -24

On Monday, Klay had his first 20-point game since May 4. And he picked up right where he left off in this one, which was the biggest bright spot from the starting lineup. A pair of threes from Thompson gave the Warriors their first six points, and he ended the opening quarter with a team-high 11. The Warriors needed all of those points.

That’s two straight games where Klay has had solid shot selection, and the jump shot that we know and love. That’s not enough to pop champagne and start celebrating his return, but given how things went with Wiggins, I’ll take it.

His defense wasn’t good in this one, but again: kind of the lone bright spot in a starting lineup that suddenly looks like a problem. Not in the good sense of the word.

Grade: B+
Post-game bonus: Led the team in points, worst plus/minus on the team.

Dario Šarić

22 minutes, 17 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 turnover, 4 fouls, 6-for-9 shooting, 2-for-3 threes, 3-for-5 free throws, 75.9% TS, +12

When the Warriors waived the pseudo-white flag, they turned to an energetic young bench lineup, with Šarić the lone veteran. And he not only thrived with the group, but led them.

Šarić has had a lovely debut season with the Dubs, but his scoring output has mostly relied on the team’s motion offense and the quarterbacking of Paul. In this game, he shouldered a heavier load, and did so brilliantly. He put his dribbling skills on display, bullied his way to the hoop, and Euro-stepped his way around defenders. The Warriors have been looking for Jonathan Kuminga to fill the role of isolation scorer off the bench, but Šarić put in one hell of an audition to get some of those chances as well.

The other day I was talking with my colleague, Paul Hudrick, who runs our sister site for the Philadelphia 76ers. He was gushing about how good Šarić is, and how people forget that he’s so much more than just a tall shooter. That’s been on full display lately, and Šarić now has per-minute stats that paint the picture of not just a starter, but a high-level one, too.

He is very good. And if the Warriors can get back to the point where the bench doesn’t need to bail out the starters, he’ll be an asset that could swing a season.

Grade: A+

Jonathan Kuminga

21 minutes, 7 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 steal, 5 fouls, 3-for-7 shooting, 0-for-1 threes, 1-for-2 free throws, 44.4% TS, -1

I loved the aggression we saw from JK in this game, but unfortunately it didn’t really translate. He’s not letting passivity creep into his game, which is great, but he’s still really struggling to use his aggression and athleticism for efficiency, even if he looks far more composed than in his first two seasons.

A pretty bad defensive game from him, too.

Grade: C-

Trayce Jackson-Davis

15 minutes, 6 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 3 fouls, 2-for-3 shooting, 2-for-5 free throws, 57.7% TS, -5

Really fun to see TJD out there, as he hadn’t gotten a chunk of minutes in quite a while. He gave the Dubs a different and much-needed look in this one, and continues to play with poise and control befitting a 10-year veteran.

If Kerr was thinking of giving Jackson-Davis a bigger role, this game will provide more reason to.

Grade: A-

Gui Santos

8 minutes, 2 points, 1 rebound, 2 turnovers, 2 fouls, 1-for-1 shooting, 100.0% TS, +3

Santos played in non-garbage time NBA minutes for the first time in his career, when Kerr timidly waived a vaguely white flag in the third quarter. There were the bumps and bruises that you would expect for a player who entered the contest having played all of four minutes in his NBA career, as the turnover and foul numbers will attest to.

But you could also see very clearly that Santos has spent time in Santa Cruz, and you could see why the coaches there rave about him. He understood what to do in the system, and didn’t look like a deer in the headlights.

Getting him minutes won’t be easy, but I’m very excited to see his development.

Grade: B+

Cory Joseph

16 minutes, 3 points, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 turnover, 3 fouls, 1-for-3 shooting, 0-for-2 threes, 1-for-2 free throws, 38.7% TS, +12

Easily Joseph’s best game of the season. The numbers don’t pop off the page, but with Curry struggling and Paul ejected, Joseph came in with the bench unit and made sure that the ball was constantly moving.

I don’t think there’s any path towards CoJo having a serious role in the rotation, but he’s a great luxury to have for games like this. Sometimes you need your third or fourth option, and he has the talent and decision-making to play, with the veteran preparedness to step in after a long stretch of not playing.

Grade: A-

Moses Moody

23 minutes, 8 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 1 turnover, 5 fouls, 4-for-8 shooting, 0-for-1 threes, 0-for-1 free throws, 47.4% TS, -3

One thing I love about Moody is that he seems to relish the role of boosting the team’s energy. The more lethargic and ineffective the starters, the more Moody seems to fly all over the court, closing passing lanes on defense, attacking the glass, and getting out in transition.

It was a mixed bag in this game, as he nearly fouled out in less than half a game, and wasn’t very efficient. But he also outrebounded everyone else on the court, on both teams.

Not a great game per se, but you can’t knock the hustle, which is a lot more than you can say about some players on the team.

Grade: B
Post-game bonus: Led the team in rebounds.

Brandin Podziemski

23 minutes, 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 1 foul, 4-for-9 shooting, 1-for-3 threes, 1-for-2 free throws, 50.6% TS, +20

Well, here’s the oddness of this game, and at some level this season. Kerr may have waived the white flag — twice — but Frank Vogel did not. Podziemski’s minutes came when the Suns were very much trying, as evidenced by the fact that Kevin Durant played 34 minutes. And in the 23 minutes that Podziemski played, the Dubs outscored the Suns by 20 points. In the 25 minutes he sat, they were outscored by 28 points.

Wowzers.

At this point it’s abundantly clear that Podziemski can do two things: play, and provide a spark.

His talent is evident, and at this point the sample size is clearly large enough to determine that he is A Thing, and not just a rookie who had a few decent games. He’s a good NBA player, who deserves his growing role in the rotation. He does good things that help the team win.

And my goodness does he have a spark. He has all the confidence and brashness that made Warriors fans love Green and Jordan Poole as youngsters, but seems to have far more composure with his emotions than the latter, and far greater composure with his shot selection than the latter. He fearlessly mixes it up with players, and seems completely unintimidated by his more accomplished peers, which was highlighted on Wednesday when he got into it with KD. There’s more than a little Trae Young in his game, both stylistically and in how he comports himself.

He was the Warriors best player on Wednesday, and almost led them back from a 20-point deficit against a title contender. Kind of surreal to say.

Grade: A
Post-game bonus: Led the team in plus/minus.

Wednesday’s inactives: Usman Garuba, Draymond Green, Gary Payton II, Lester Quiñones, Jerome Robinson

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