There’s been no hotter topic with the Golden State Warriors lately than the allocation of minutes. It’s a topic that’s been brewing all season, as veteran All-Stars Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins have struggled, while youngsters like Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga, and Brandin Podziemski have shown prolonged glimpses of excellence.
Steve Kerr himself — on the same night that he removed Kuminga from the rotation, only to have the third-year forward bail the Dubs out when inserted out of desperation — admitted that the Dubs might move to a fluid starting rotation, changing the opening look depending on the opponent and how each player has been faring.
It should come as no surprise that Kerr has gotten a lot of flack. And while I don’t necessarily want to defend Kerr right now — the team has a losing record, a jarring lack of composure, and has been the definition of average on both ends of the court, and the coaching staff absolutely deserves blame for that. But as it pertains to the minutes issue, Kerr is, perhaps, being unfairly maligned.
On any given game, a player or four are likely to play fewer minutes than they should, and hindsight analysis will always make it easy to find someone to blame. When Kuminga saved the day, it was easy to scorn Kerr for not playing him in the first half. But if Kuminga had played poorly after entering — something he’d been doing a bit of lately — Kerr would have received just as much criticism for not giving leash to Moody or Podziemski.
There aren’t enough minutes to go around, which means that anytime the Warriors lose, we have a built in person to blame as we point to minutes that weren’t handed out. Anytime Golden State stacks a new L in the standings column, it’s a “heads I win, tails you lose” situation for Kerr and the minutes.
And it’s very easy to show why.
Below are the 14 players on the Warriors (not including two-way contracts), and how many minutes I think, off the top of my head, each player should be playing every night. I’ll provide more context in a minute.
Steph Curry: 36
Draymond Green: 34
Klay Thompson: 30
Andrew Wiggins: 26
Chris Paul: 26
Moses Moody: 26
Jonathan Kuminga: 24
Dario Šarić: 24
Kevon Looney: 22
Gary Payton II: 20
Brandin Podziemski: 16
Trayce Jackson-Davis: 0
Gui Santos: 0
Cory Joseph: 0
There’s room to move these around, obviously. Most people will probably quibble with Thompson’s placement, but I’m of the belief that the spacing he and his gravity provide are absolutely vital for the Warriors offense. He’s fifth on the team in EPM, is one of the few players who doesn’t turn the ball over, and is starting to put things together — in his last eight games, he’s averaging 18.8 points per game and shooting 38.4% from deep.
Wiggins should probably play fewer minutes given how poorly he’s been playing, but the Dubs also need to give him enough minutes to try and fix whatever he’s going through. You can lop off some of his minutes and add more for one of the youngsters, if you’d like. I’d prefer to see a few minutes for Jackson-Davis, but I think he’ll have to settle for garbage time right now.
You can tinker with these minutes as you see fit, but I’m guessing most people view things somewhat similarly to how I have it arranged. Which brings us to the problem.
Total minutes listed above: 284
Total minutes in an NBA game: 240
Just on those estimates alone, the Warriors essentially need to be able to play six men all game long in order to give everyone enough minutes. And I would argue that these minutes totals are fairly conservative — we want to see Podziemski play more than 16 minutes, right? We’d love to see Moody or Kuminga play starter minutes, or GPII play at least half the game, wouldn’t we? Can’t we find some minutes for poor TJD?
Inevitable injuries open a few doors, but as the minutes show, they simply don’t open enough. Payton is injured right now, and that leaves the Dubs still a whole half of basketball over the limit.
There’s no easy solution here. The players who aren’t playing enough minutes deserve more. The players who are playing enough minutes deserve a long enough leash to start playing better.
I don’t envy Steve Kerr.