clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Mailbag: The broken Warriors

Fan spirits: not good.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Draymond Green holding his head in disbelief Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors are once again struggling. Seemed like a good time to dive into it and face the fears with a mailbag. Thanks to everyone for the great questions.

Hell of a question to kick things off with. If you haven’t already, I recommend reading Joe Viray’s autopsy of the team’s road defense. It’s good and explains a lot.

There were a lot of little things that went wrong in the team’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday. The team came out slow. After overcoming a double-digit deficit, they seemed to arrogantly think that they could do it again. And after doing it again, they seemed to really arrogantly think they could do it a third time. They settled for threes even when they were having success attacking the paint. They lacked chemistry, cohesion, and at times, focus and interest. They looked like a No. 2 seed losing by 10 to a No. 15 seed in the first round of March Madness ... just confused.

But all of that is small potatoes compared to the main reason they lost on Tuesday, which is that their road defense was stunningly bad. All those other issues are small wrinkles to iron out in a cozy win if they so much as play competent defense. That’s what went wrong.

Someone will have to check with the #WashedKing LeBron James to learn the exact definition of the term, but I don’t think a 23 year old can be washed.

Poole has certainly taken a step back from last year, which is frustrating. Has he gotten worse? Or did he get to a place where he got so good that he let it impact his decision making too much?

The truth is likely in the middle, but it’s worth remembering that Poole is still a good player. His year has been so frustrating, and on any given night he’s the player most likely to make you pull a few hairs out, but he’s still a good player. By EPM he’s still a comfortably above-average player, and seventh-best on the Warriors, behind the starters and Donte DiVincenzo.

Him returning to last year’s status would help a lot though, whether it occurs this year or on in future years. His story isn’t done yet, I’ll say that much.

Ooh, that’s a great question. Under Steve Kerr, the Warriors have made a habit of hiring established NBA head coaches to assistant roles, as those coaches look to boost their reputation or wait for the right head coaching opportunity to roll around. They did it with Mike Brown. They did it before him with Alvin Gentry. They’ve done it recently with Kenny Atkinson.

If we assume they go this route again, then there’s one name that really fits the Mike Brown mold: Nate McMillan. If the recently-fired Atlanta Hawks head coach wants to be an assistant for a few years — something he’s already done in six seasons in his career — then the Warriors would be a great fit. He’d rebuild his reputation after a fallout with Trae Young, get a chance to coach a championship contender, and get to play Brown’s roll shoring up the defense.

Would McMillan be interested in such a role? Who knows. He might get hired as a head coach this offseason, though there don’t figure to be many openings. He might want some time off — he’s coached in all but one NBA season since first taking a job in 1999.

But he’s an established defensive-minded coach who would be a great fit on the Warriors. As would Terry Stotts and Frank Vogel, for that matter.

If the Warriors go in a new route and don’t chase a veteran coach, there are always tons of intriguing names rising up through the ranks in the NBA, NCAA, and WNBA.

I’m going to give two very different answers.

First, because what he does wrong is very frustrating to a lot of people. Fans struggle with mental errors more than physical errors, and are more likely to be upset by poor decisions than a lack of talent. It’s also a lot easier to see a bad shot than a bad defensive rotation. And Poole’s explosion last year makes it that much more noticeable that he’s dead last on the team in three-point percentage (excluding Andre Iguodala’s four attempts and Kevon Looney’s one).

I could not agree more that Poole is only a tiny part of what’s going wrong with the team. But what he does do wrong is often on stage with a spotlight on it.

Second, it also depends on where you are. Depending on what segment of Twitter you’re on, what faction of the internet’s comment sections you reside in, and what train on BART you’re on, you might hear that Poole is the entire reason the Warriors are struggling. You might also hear that Steve Kerr is. Or that Bob Myers is. Or that Klay Thompson is.

Fandom is strange and Warriors fans are going through it.

Yeah, they do this a lot, and it’s really weird. Sometimes when the Warriors are out of rhythm they get stuck watching Steph, or kind of emulating him at the three-point line. In reality, Curry’s gravity opens up far more space at the rim than it does behind the arc. The Dubs need to do a much better job of keeping the actions going, and cutting relentlessly when Curry is on the court.

I’d say chances are pretty high that the Warriors trade Moody this offseason.

The data points in favor of it are plentiful. He’s firmly in Kerr’s doghouse. He hasn’t yet flashed too much potential. The Warriors reportedly looked to move him at the deadline. And perhaps most notably, the Warriors already have two raw youngsters that they seem more committed to in Patrick Baldwin Jr. and Ryan Rollins, not to mention any players they draft, or the potential addition of Gui Santos.

There are far fewer data points that suggest the Warriors will keep him, but they’re meaningful ones. A cheap, team-controlled wing player is a valuable thing to have. And despite what the playing time suggests, Joe Lacob recently said, “Moses is going to get his shot. I know Steve loves him.” I have a hard time imagining Lacob saying that unless it were true.

Does Kerr love Moody enough to think he needs to be a part of next year’s team? Probably not, but we’ll soon find out.

As for his market, I don’t think it will be much. I’d say the most likely return is a package of second-round picks, or player similar to Moody: an under-performer with potential who’s still on their rookie deal. Kind of like the James Wiseman for Saddiq Bey swap that we briefly thought the Warriors had done.

Yep, absolutely. It’s been a possibility ever since he signed the contract, and it will remain one.

The reality is that, even after shedding James Wiseman’s contract, the Warriors owe significantly more money next year than Lacob said he was willing to pay. Now, Lacob has hesitated to reiterate that claim, and has seemed to morph back into, “we’ll pay it if it’s worth it” territory, so I think there’s a decent chance that Golden State’s five players on big contracts are all suiting up in blue and gold when the 2023-24 season kicks off.

But there remains a chance that Lacob isn’t willing to pay that much. Or that the Warriors disappointing season has an equally disappointing conclusion, and the team reassesses its ability to win next year.

If those things happen, they’ll have to shed one of their big contracts. It won’t be either of the Splash Brothers. And it won’t be Draymond Green if he opts into the final year of his deal. So it’s either Green leaving of his own volition, or the Warriors trading Poole or Wiggins.

It starts with the road defense. The Warriors have the third-best home defense in the NBA and the third-worst road defense, per Cleaning The Glass.

There are other, smaller issues. But that’s the root of almost all of their problems. If the Warriors defense traveled the way it does for most teams, the Dubs would comfortably be the second seed in the West right now and they’d be discussed among the championship favorites.

But it doesn’t, so they’re not. And that needs to change.

Mostly because there aren’t any. The Warriors have a high-quality starting center in Kevon Looney. Most teams invest a lot more than the Warriors do in backup centers, but the reality is that you can probably count the number of quality defensive backup centers in the NBA on two, if not one hand. And most of the ones who are good defensively are so bad offensively, or such a bad fit, that they’d cause more harm than good.

I saw some Warriors fans clamoring for Nerlens Noel as a buyout candidate. Is his defense really good enough to make up for the massive dropoff in offensive ability when he plays over Draymond, Jonathan Kuminga, or heck, even JaMychal Green?

I’d say no, but that’s just me.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Golden State of Mind Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Golden State Warriors news from Golden State of Mind