Basketball

Warriors Hit The Ground Running

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After five games, the Warriors sit near the top of the Western Conference with a 4-1 record, but that didn’t come without the good, the bad, and the ugly. When you win four out of your first five games, there is going to be more good than bad, but the Dubs do have some kinks to work out as the season progresses.

Five games is obviously a small sample size, but after getting handed their first loss I think it’s a good time to assess where the Warriors are at.

The Good

Bench Production

I cannot stress enough just how vital Damion Lee has been for the Warriors’ success thus far. Coming into last night’s game against the Grizzlies, Lee was averaging 14.3 points while shooting 47.5% from the field, 47.1% from deep, and over 91% from the charity stripe. Steve Kerr even opted to go with Lee down the stretch of the 4th quarter and overtime over Jordan Poole and although the Warriors didn’t get the win, Lee hit big shots in both the 4th quarter and overtime. He finished the night with 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 3-pointers.

Lee has been the leader of one of the more productive bench units in the league so far this season and while his shooting will naturally see some regression, if he can continue to be productive as a shooter off the bench it’s going to make life a lot easier for this team.

And while Lee is due for some regression shooting the ball, Otto Porter Jr. has started to find his shot over the last couple of games. I think he’s only going to get better as the season goes along. I expect these two and Andre Iguodala to pace the Warriors bench unit until Klay Thompson gets back into the lineup, likely pushing Jordan Poole back to a bench role.

I’m not sure if it has to do with them being a veteran group or just them grasping the offense quicker and better than the Warriors bench group did last season, but the flow of the offense is much more smooth with this year’s bench compared to last year’s and they’re not even at full strength yet.

Sharing The Basketball and Guarding Your Yard

Sharing the basketball is just what the Warriors do, but that doesn’t make it any less of a positive.

The Warriors are leading the league in assists per game and while the offense does have issues it needs to work out, this team is at their best when they’re sharing the basketball, and that’s exactly what they’ve done early in the season.

Another area where the Warriors have been excellent is on the defensive side of the ball. They’ve passed the eye test and the numbers back it up. They have the 7th best defensive rating in the league and despite being undersized they’ve limited their opponents 2nd chance opportunities to just 7.6 points per game (2nd best in the league), they have the 3rd highest defensive rebounding percentage throughout the league, and are giving up just 43.6 points per game in the paint which is good for 10th best in the NBA.

Two things elite teams typically do are share the ball and play defense. If the Warriors can continue to do that at the level they’ve been doing to start the season, they should be in good shape for the long haul.

The Bad

Jordan Poole has been bad and there’s really no way around it. He’s had good moments but just when it looked like he may have finally settled in after putting together a complete game in the team’s win at Sacramento, he takes a step back. He’s averaging 14 points and 4 assists per game but he’s been extremely inefficient from the field shooting just 40.8% overall, 22.6% from beyond the arc, and averaging 3.6 turnovers per game.

As someone who had Poole winning this year’s Most Improved Player award before the season, I’m not going to give up on that after just five games. However, his erratic play does have me a little concerned. He’s not going to shoot sub-30% from three all season long but his tendency to take bad shots from out there is frustrating to watch, especially when he’s been pretty effective inside the paint. Every single one of his buckets over the last two games has come inside the arc and all but one of those have come at the rim.

There’s only one way to get out of a slump and that’s to keep shooting, but right now I’d really like to see Poole focus on getting to the rim more and settling for jumpers less. I did like what I saw from him against OKC; he wasn’t efficient shooting the ball but he made an effort to create for his teammates and found ways to get in the paint all night long which resulted in seven assists and just one turnover. The potential is there, he just has to put it all together more consistently.

The Ugly

Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. I’m not going to lie, I was actually surprised to see the Warriors are averaging only 16.6 turnovers per game so far this season, which is the 7th worst in the league right now. The outlier was the game against the Kings where they had just six turnovers. This game showed that this team is capable of taking care of the ball, but there has to be conscious effort to do so and it starts with the Warriors guards.

The Warriors starting backcourt is averaging a less-than-stellar 8 turnovers per game – Stephen Curry with 4.4 and Poole with 3.6. In their loss against the Grizzlies, the team had 22 turnovers, and the starting backcourt combined for half of those. That just can’t happen. As the only two guards in the rotation that I would consider to be “ball-handlers”, Curry and Poole have to hold themselves accountable because if they let that become a common theme over the course of the season it will bite this team where it hurts.

Onto The Next

After blowing a lead that got well into double digits on Thursday night, I expect the Warriors to come back focused against a Thunder team that almost got the better of the Warriors earlier in the week and quite frankly outplayed them for most of that game. I think we’re in store for a Jordan Poole breakout game come Saturday, as the Warriors should come out locked in against a much lesser opponent and march to a big win.

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