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Player grades: Warriors vs. Wizards

Assessing every Golden State player’s performance from the team’s 129-118 win over Washington.

Steph Curry shooting between two Wizards defenders. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

On November 5, the Golden State Warriors lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers, snapping a five-game winning streak that had them sitting pretty in the opening weeks of the NBA season. And then they had to wait until this past Sunday — eight days from Christmas — to win consecutive games again.

Now that win streak has stretched to four games, after a 129-118 victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday, in a game that wasn’t as close as the not-very-close score would suggest. To say the Warriors are back in contention would be to overreact to a good-not-great game at home against one of the worst teams in the league. But they’re clearly starting to figure things out, even with (or perhaps, at some level, because) of the absences of Draymond Green and Gary Payton II (and, in this game, Andrew Wiggins).

So let’s grade the players. I’ll try to make it quick for an obvious reason: it’s Friday night, during the holidays! As always, grades are based on my expectations for each player, with a “B” grade representing the average performance for that particular player.

Note: True-shooting percentage (TS) is a scoring efficiency metric that accounts for threes and free throws. Entering Friday’s games, league-average TS was 57.9%.

Jonathan Kuminga

27 minutes, 22 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 2 fouls, 9-for-11 shooting, 1-for-2 threes, 3-for-3 free throws, 89.3% TS, +9

The rotation has been a hot topic in Warriorsland all year, and that is not going to change. Because one thing is abundantly clear: Jonathan Kuminga needs to stay in the starting lineup.

Kuminga has replaced the suspended Green, not the struggling Wiggins, which means he should be in the starting lineup for the forseable future, and won’t be displaced if Wiggins returns to his old ways. But once Green returns, Steve Kerr will have a choice to make.

Draymond cannot be removed from the starting lineup, when available. Given the passable three-point shooting of Kuminga and the dramatically-improved shooting of Green, can Kerr get away with playing both of them and Looney? Do the Dubs go small and play without a true center? Will Looney be removed from the starting five in favor of Dario Šarić?

I don’t know what the answer is. All I know is that Kuminga’s combination of energy, athleticism, and skill, is not one that can be removed from this lineup. In has last seven games, he’s averaged 16.6 points per game, while shooting 36-for-57 from the field. He’s been a presence on defense and on the glass, and has had just a single turnover in each of the last six games.

His minutes are vital towards his development and seeing if he can be a core player in the coming years. More importantly, they’re vital for winning games.

Grade: A

Kevon Looney

11 minutes, 5 points, 5 rebounds, 2 fouls, 2-for-3 shooting, 1-for-1 free throws, 72.7% TS, +1

Looney is still the starting center in name, but at the moment you could make the claim that he’s the third-string center. That’s really not an indictment of him as much as it is of the players around him ... Golden State’s core looks notably older this year, and their veterans have struggled, and as such, the floor-stretching of Šarić and hyper-athleticism of Trayce Jackson-Davis has been far more important that the slow-and-steady plodding under the hoop that Looney provides.

Something tells me he’ll still play a huge role in some games this year, though.

Grade: B-

Steph Curry

27 minutes, 30 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 9-for-18 shooting, 8-for-13 threes, 4-for-5 free throws, 74.3% TS, -1

Two exciting Curry notes.

First, he didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter. If the Warriors want to get where they’re going, they need more of that. You can say that all that matters is winning, but how you win means a lot. When the Warriors have had their deepest playoff runs, it’s been with stars who were rested from telling jokes during blowouts instead of fighting to grind out every last W.

Second, he had a negative plus/minus. That is not a shot at Curry. It’s a reminder as to what this Warriors team does so well relative to past iterations: win the non-Steph minutes. It was the fifth time this year that the Warriors have won a game in which Curry had a negative plus/minus; they had only three such games all last year.

Curry also played freaking awesomely, which seems important to note.

Grade: A
Post-game bonus: Led the team in scoring.

Klay Thompson

27 minutes, 20 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 8-for-17 shooting, 4-for-10 threes, 58.8% TS, +7

The Warriors have been playing better largely because of how their young players have stepped up, and due to finally getting a little bit of a hold on the turnover problem.

But don’t look past Klay. Is he playing like prime All-Star Klay? No. But is he playing like a certified weapon who is an above-average starting guard in the league? Yes.

Thompson has scored at least 20 points in all five games since getting benched down the stretch after a brutal contest against the Phoenix Suns. During that time he’s averaged 25.2 points per game, and shot 27-for-56 (48.2%) on threes.

That’s a big reason for the Dubs’ success right now.

Grade: B+

Brandin Podziemski

29 minutes, 10 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 2 fouls, 3-for-9 shooting, 2-for-5 threes, 2-for-2 free throws, 50.6% TS, +16

Friday changed in a hurry for young Podz. He started the day questionable due to the back injury that he sustained on Tuesday. While I would be thrilled to see Wiggins recapture his All-Star magic, I’ll admit that there was a tiny part of me sad that Podziemski might relinquish his recently-gained starting spot to Wiggins, and never get it back.

And then, in quite a reversal, Podziemski proved healthy enough to play, while Wiggins caught an illness and didn’t suit up.

It wasn’t the most dynamic we’ve seen Podziemski play, but he continued an extremely encouraging trend: the team simply plays well when he’s on the court, and he shockingly seems to avoid all the young player pitfalls that make inexperienced prospects so hard to play when you’re trying to win games.

I watched this game with my dad. He doesn’t follow the team closely, and this was the first Warriors game he watched this year. Early on in the game he pointed at Podziemski and asked, “Is that guy young? He looks young,” making a note of the energy on display.

The rebounding is still somewhat jaw-dropping, especially since the pre-draft reports all suggested he’d have a hard time getting his athleticism to stay afloat at this level. He’s only a few games away from being third on the Warriors in total rebounds.

Stunning.

Grade: B+

Dario Šarić

20 minutes, 13 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 foul, 5-for-11 shooting, 1-for-4 threes, 2-for-2 free throws, 54.7% TS, +17

Is it too early to start worrying about how the hell the Warriors are going to replace Šarić’s production next season when he invariably parlays his dynamic 2023-24 into a much-deserved massive pay increase?

Grade: B+

Usman Garuba

2 minutes, 0 points, 1 assist, 0-for-1 shooting, 0.0% TS, -4

This season will take some getting used to for Garuba. The third-year center, who was the No. 23 pick in 2021, played in 75 games for the Houston Rockets last year; but this was his season debut in his first year with the Dubs, and it came in garbage time.

He’s on a two-way contract and getting valuable development time in the G League. He has tons of tools, so don’t rule out him being a quality player for the Warriors some day. But probably not a day in this season.

Grade: Incomplete

Trayce Jackson-Davis

25 minutes, 10 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 1 turnover, 2 fouls, 5-for-7 shooting, 71.4% TS, +10

For the third straight game, TJD — the No. 57 pick in the draft just a few months ago — was the best center for the Dubs. I expected him to be about as NBA-ready as a second-round pick can be, but even this is fairly shocking.

In the last three contests, he’s had 34 points and 36 rebounds, while shooting 16-for-23 from the field. Perhaps most impressive is that he’s accumulated just four turnovers and seven fouls in 72 minutes over those three games. Like Podziemski, he’s not only putting a positive imprint on the game, but almost entirely avoiding a negative one.

He gives the Dubs a lob threat. He’s learning to use his exquisite defensive instincts without fouling. He is a mesmerizing combo package of length, agility, and energy.

It’s not hard to envision a world in which he is not only the Warriors starting center, but playing 30+ minutes a night. Soon.

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

Gui Santos

6 minutes, 7 points, 2 rebounds, 1 foul, 2-for-3 shooting, 1-for-2 threes, 2-for-2 free throws, 90.2% TS, -12

I’m not sure how much can be gleaned from a handful of garbage-time minutes. Still, Santos looked mighty impressive in these minutes: he’s so fluid on the court, and I’m not just saying that because of his hair. He cuts and moves gracefully and, more importantly, to the right spot. He is seemingly always in motion, but it’s functional motion.

The Warriors bought themselves a whole lot of flexibility by making Santos’ contract full of non-guaranteed money, but it sure seems like they want to keep him around.

Grade: A very encouraging incomplete

Chris Paul

25 minutes, 4 points, 7 rebounds, 10 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 2 fouls, 2-for-7 shooting, 0-for-3 threes, 0-for-1 free throws, 26.9% TS, +27

I would like to redirect you to my point about how the Warriors have now won two more games than all of last season when Curry has a negative plus/minus.

The primary reason is Paul. The secondary reason is also Paul. I believe the tertiary reason is Paul, too. That’s why his name is CP3.

Basketball-Reference hasn’t updated their stats to include Friday’s games, but using Paul’s stats after this win, plugged into the league stats through Thursday, reveals something staggering:

Paul has the seventh-most assists in the entire NBA. He has the 130th-most turnovers.

The Warriors need this. Desperately.

Grade: B+
Post-game bonus: Led the team in assists and plus/minus.

Cory Joseph

14 minutes, 0 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 3 fouls, 0-for-3 shooting, 0-for-1 threes, 0.0% TS, -7

A rather surprising string of minutes for CoJo, since neither Curry nor Paul were dealing with injuries or foul trouble. He held his own, I guess. But uhh ... didn’t look very good, unfortunately.

Grade: C-

Jerome Robinson

2 minutes, 0 points, -4

Robinson played in just his second game since joining the Warriors, but it was enough for us to learn that he reads Plato on team flights, so that’s a fun fact.

Grade: Incomplete

Moses Moody

19 minutes, 5 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, 1 foul, 1-for-4 shooting, 0-for-3 threes, 3-for-4 free throws, 43.4% TS, +8

Moody hasn’t been playing super well lately. But he still puts his hard had on every time out. He’s been so much more aggressive this year, which is earning him far more free throws and looks at the rim on offense, and charges taken on defense.

Grade: C

Lester Quiñones

6 minutes, 3 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 1 foul, 1-for-3 shooting, 1-for-2 threes, 50.0% TS, -12

Always fun to see Q out there, especially with how high the Warriors coaches and players seem to be on him. He had as big of a shot as you can have in garbage time, making a clutch three that eliminated Washington’s brief hopes of getting back into it.

Grade: A very fun incomplete
Post-game bonus: Tied for the worst plus/minus on the team

Friday’s inactives: Draymond Green, Gary Payton II, Andrew Wiggins

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