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The 3-1 mailbag

All of your questions answered ahead of the biggest game of the season.

Draymond Green smiling with Anthony Davis smiling behind him Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors are on the brink of elimination, as they trail the Los Angeles Lakers 3-1 in the Western Conference Semifinals. With a must-win game lined up for Wednesday night, it seemed like a good time to take your mailbag questions.

Thanks to everyone for the great questions!

I don’t think there’s a single option that isn’t without risk. Whatever Steve Kerr chooses as his starting lineup, he’ll be dragged on Twitter for it, and it will run the risk of not working. That’s just the reality of this matchup.

That said, I’d stick with the Game 4 lineup. I thought Gary Payton II’s defense was a huge part of Golden State having a great first-half defense. And just as importantly, his ability to get down the court quickly and athletically opened up a lot of things on offense. He had 15 points, most of which came on uncontested shots at the rim, and he did a great job forcing Anthony Davis and LeBron James to run, which tired them out.

I’m not opposed to Kevon Looney starting if he’s feeling fully healthy. But I would like to see him continue to be on the court when Anthony Davis is off it, so he can feast on the Lakers bench.

As far as shortening the bench, I think the answer is kind of. I think Kerr will still play 10-11 players, but I think he’ll only give heavy minutes to 7-8. The problem is, it’s not clear what players will help win in this series, and a lot depends on how each player is playing on both teams (hello, Lonnie Walker IV). So I expect that we’ll see Kerr get a look at everyone in the first quarter, and then settle into a shortened rotation for the rest of the game.

As for Klay Thompson, yes, the Warriors will keep going with him. Even when he struggles, he still offers them the best chance to win. The reality is that Klay is a valuable player right now, even though he’s not scoring well, because the Lakers (and all other teams) still guard him like the second-best shooter in the world. His gravity opens up the floor for everyone, and that includes Steph Curry. Despite playing poorly, Klay has played more minutes in this series than any other Warrior, and there’s a reason for that. They’re not going to go away from it now.

There’s nothing to consider here. They are.

Taking these two questions together for obvious reasons.

Jordan Poole absolutely still has trade value. He’s incredibly young still, and his 2021-22 season showed what he’s capable of. A bad team will absolutely want to take their chances that 2022-23 was a Draymond Green punch-fueled aberration.

That said, he doesn’t have a ton of trade value because of the contract size. He has value in the sense that a handful of teams would like to employ him on that contract. That doesn’t mean they want to give up a lot to get him.

But that’s OK. If the Warriors do trade Poole, it would primarily be for cost-saving purposes. They’ll be trying to shed the contract, and if they can get some draft picks or an intriguing role player or two along the way, then great.

Remember: if you trade a player into a team that has the cap space to absorb their contract, then you don’t need to take back matching salary. So the Warriors could, for example, trade Poole to the Orlando Magic for a player and a pick.

Someone. Anyone. Make no mistake, this series is far from over. But also make no mistakes: the Warriors need a lot more out of Poole, Klay, or Andrew Wiggins if they want it to happen.

It could be any of them, honestly, but I think Klay stepping up would be the biggest step forward. Partially because Thompson has such a sense of the moment, partially because he has the highest ceiling, and partially because it really just takes a slight positive regression to the mean for him to be shooting well enough that the Warriors win easily.

As for Looney, the broadcast said during Game 4 that he was still sick. No word yet on how he’s feeling going into Game 5.

Let’s be honest. If Joe Lacob could access a time machine, the first thing he’d do would be figure out how it works, then go back in time to before it was invented, and invent it himself.

Light years, baby.

Hard to say. Hindsight is always 20/20.

For instance, let’s go back to 2020, when the Warriors drafted James Wiseman No. 2 overall, a move that they claimed was, in part, about readiness. But let’s say they drafted a more conventional NBA-ready pick.

Is that player Tyrese Haliburton? Because then they’re obviously in pretty damn good shape right now. But Obi Toppin was seen as NBA-ready, and Patrick Williams was seen as NBA-ready, and Saddiq Bey was seen as NBA-ready, and Onyeka Okungwu was seen as NBA ready. Are any of those players moving the needle?

Same with 2021. Sure, it’s fun (or painful) to think of what the Warriors would look like if they drafted Franz Wagner and Alperen Şengün. But if you remember what the pre-draft rumors suggested, the Warriors were likely to go the NBA-ready route and draft Davion Mitchell and/or Chris Duarte. How much do those players help this team? Not much.

The reality is, whether you’re drafting for upside, floor, positional need, or NBA readiness, there are a lot more misses than hits in the draft. And it’s easy to point to the players you should have drafted, but that misses the point that even if you changed the philosophy you’re probably still going to miss. A lot of teams drafted for NBA readiness in 2020 before Haliburton was selected.

Yeah, hard to predict. Very easy to predict what the Warriors are hoping to get out of Jonathan Kuminga in year three, but very hard to predict what they will get, and thus what the expectations should be.

My expectations: a solid role player who plays 15-25 minutes every single night, brings energy and effort every single night, and continues to commit to defense.

I think those are good expectations because A) they’re attainable, and B) if he doesn’t do that, he’ll probably be traded.

/hides under the table and whispers very quietly.

Jordan Poole. A lineup of Curry, Poole, Thompson, Wiggins, and Green.

Mind you, I’m not advocating for this lineup. It could end the season in the span of six minutes. It could also keep the season alive in those same six minutes. The spacing and ability to get up and down the court would be incredible. They could run the Lakers off the court. And Poole, who has done so much better as a starter, would have his best chance of breaking out.

It’s risky as all hell, and I absolutely don’t think they should do it. But it’s probably the highest-ceiling starting lineup they can throw out there.

Depending on the day, I fluctuate between fresh air and sunshine, some social time where I can get lost with friends, and a whole lot of beer.

This article you linked offers 11 steps. Let’s run through them.

  1. Talk to other fans. Are those fans your friends that you’re hanging out with or texting? Then yes. Are they people on Twitter? Absolutely not.
  2. Turn off the TV. Are you watching on NBA Sports Bay Area and Kerith Burke is giving you some interesting insight into the attitude of the locker room that might encourage you for the future, or just fascinate you? Then yes. Are you watching TNT and Charles Barkley is making jokes about the Bay Area? Absolutely not.
  3. Acknowledge your feelings. Yes. Always acknowledge your feelings. Not just when your favorite team loses.
  4. Eat something. Yes. Big food fan over here. Big proponent of eating things.
  5. Get a little exercise. Yes, but only if you didn’t drink four glasses of whiskey to get through the game in the first place.
  6. Remember that it’s just a game. No. Screw perspective. Not the time, dork.
  7. Stay loyal to your team. Yes. Duh.
  8. Remember the good times. This one has mixed results. Pulling up the mini movies from the 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2021 NBA Finals might work for you. They also might make things worse.
  9. Be prepared to deal with taunting from other fans. Screw those fans, they root for stupid teams.
  10. Be optimistic. Ehhh.
  11. Talk to a therapist. If the Warriors losing impacts you enough that you need to talk to a therapist, then you probably need to talk to a therapist for other reasons. But yes, do this. Therapy is good. Not relevant to the Warriors losing. But therapy is good. Go to therapy.

I lean towards no, just because of how much their stars have had to be worked. Anthony Davis averaged 36.4 minutes per game in the first round. LeBron James averaged 37.1. Those numbers are up to 38.2 and 35.9, respectively, in this series, and will go up if the Warriors extend this series.

Both have had physically taxing seasons in which they missed more than 20 games due to injury. Both are still dealing with soreness from their injuries. Davis has a body that shouldn’t hold up to excess wear and tear, and LeBron has significantly more miles on his odometer than any other player in the NBA.

What they’ve done in this series is remarkable, but we’re already seeing them slow down. They ran out of gas in Game 2. They looked to be out of gas for the first half of Game 3, before LeBron found a reserve tank and Davis feasted on the self-destructing Warriors. And both players looked a little worn out in Game 4, which the Lakers likely would have lost by about 10 points were it not for Walker.

I’m just not sure they have enough energy to put the Warriors away and then go through either a Phoenix team that has two of the best scorers in the NBA, or a Nuggets team that is an offensive juggernaut playing at altitude.

Also, I’m not ready to assume the Lakers win this series.

It might take him a few months, but by season two he would be the best netball player ever, and then he would retire, join the PGA Tour, and win at least three majors.

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