There hasn’t been much not to like about this Warriors crew at the mid-point in the season. Not too many people could have foreseen the type of season Dub Nation is having coming into the 2021-22 NBA season and after having a couple of seasons derailed by injuries, they deserve to enjoy every second of it.
Every season has its bumps in the road and that stands true for the Warriors as they’ve recently hit a rough stretch. But with a tightening MVP race and two growing lottery picks, there’s plenty to look forward to in the second half of the season.
Warriors Hit a Lull
Golden State is 2-4 over the course of their last 6 games. Shooting woes in a 17-point loss to the Mavericks and a 101-96 loss to the Pelicans without Draymond Green and Stephen Curry can be forgiven, and in a month or two from Warriors, fans will likely have completely forgotten about this stretch of play but a 116-108 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies who are currently right on the heels of the Warriors in the Western Conference standings might make the fan base hold their breath a little bit.
Granted in that loss to the Grizzlies, Green was missing from Golden State’s lineup but Memphis just looked a little too comfortable out there. The game seemed to mean a little more to the Grizzlies; and when I first thought about that statement, it made sense – Memphis is the young, hungry, up and coming team while Golden State has been here and done that. They’ve had hyped regular-season games that ultimately don’t mean much when the season is all said and done.
But many of this Warriors roster hasn’t “been there and done that”. Key cog Jordan Poole has never seen the playoffs in his young NBA career, Andrew Wiggins has played in a grand total of five playoff games in his NBA career, Gary Payton II who’s increasingly becoming a more and more important part of this Warriors team has never played in a playoff game, Damion Lee has never appeared in an NBA playoff game, and Nemanja Bjelica only has seven career playoff games under his belt. These are all rotation players with very little playoff experience. Regular season games like the one against Memphis on January 11, should have felt like a playoff game for some of these guys. But that didn’t appear to be true.
And maybe it’s not fair to put it like that. Maybe Memphis was just hitting shots and there was nothing Golden State could’ve done differently to start that game, but that’s not how I felt watching it unfold. It truly felt like one team cared more about the outcome on that given night than the other team did.
This team has championship experience and plenty of it, to be blunt. But other teams shouldn’t want games more than they do – there’s no excuse for that. This isn’t a roster that’s running it back trying to win back-to-back titles or gunning for a 3-peat. This roster is gunning for its first title together, even if a handful of them have already won some together.
But credit where credit is due, after falling behind by as many as 18 points in the first half against the Grizzlies, the Warriors pulled it together and fought their way back. They came out hot to start the 2nd half and it quickly became a back and forth game, but if the Warriors didn’t let Memphis throw a couple of haymakers early in the game that hot 3rd quarter could’ve put Memphis in a steep hole instead of getting the Dubs back to even.
Golden State hasn’t made a habit out of coming out slow or lacking a sense of urgency during games so fans shouldn’t be worried but it’s something to keep an eye on going into the 2nd half of the regular season.
Curry in the MVP Conversation
Stephen Curry in what has been a relative down season shooting the ball is still the betting favorite to win this year’s MVP award. Slightly ahead of Kevin Durant on most sportsbooks, it’s rather incredible that Curry finds himself as the MVP favorite halfway through the season. Curry’s FG% and 3PT% are the lowest they’ve ever been in his career, sans the 2019-20 season in which he played just five games.
42% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc certainly aren’t numbers to scoff at. Shooters across the league would be thrilled with such efficiency on the volume that Curry lets ’em fly at. But, Curry has raised the standards for himself. Do I think he’ll finish with career lows in FG% and 3PT%? No. I’m always going to believe in a guy like Curry who has put the work in and has produced year after year after year. But I wouldn’t necessarily be shocked if those numbers don’t drastically improve by Game 82.
I’m sure Klay Thompson coming back into his own will help Curry get cleaner looks and raise those numbers but sometimes the rock just doesn’t fall your way as much as you’d like. That’s just how this game goes.
If Curry can raise his efficiency a little bit, I think he’ll win the MVP award fairly easily. But if he stays right around where he is now, I don’t think he deserves that award. There’s still a lot of season left and the MVP conversation is only going to get tighter and tighter as the season winds down in the coming months.
Since neither of the Warriors’ lottery picks have gotten much run with the big club this season, we’ll start with an evaluation of their G-League play.
Moses Moody has done everything you could ask him to do in his eight games with the Santa Cruz Warriors. He’s shooting the snot out of the ball, to say the least. He’s knocking down nearly 4 triples a game and knocking them down at an efficient 37.2% to go along with 27.5 points per game. Not only has he shot well in his time with Santa Cruz but he’s rebounding well on both sides of the glass and causing havoc as a defender which are all things that made him such an appealing prospect coming out of the University of Arkansas.
Moody hasn’t gotten a ton of opportunity with Golden State nor has he really capitalized on the minutes they’ve given him, but with his promising play in the G-League, Warriors fans have no reason to get worried.
Jonathan Kuminga on the other hand has taken advantage of both his G-League and NBA opportunities this season. He’s actually been much more efficient in his minutes with the big club and I think he may carve out a consistent role with Golden State in the latter portion of this season.
Kuminga has been impressive in his opportunities with Golden State. He’s had two games scoring 25+, one of which came against the #1 team in the East, the Chicago Bulls, and helped uplift the Warriors to a blowout win in Chicago. And In Kuminga’s last three games he’s averaging 19.7 PPG and 5.7 RPG while shooting 52.5% from the field. The tools are all there, that much is clear.
I like how the Warriors are bringing both these guys along. They identified that Moody wasn’t quite ready for the big show and are letting him flourish in Santa Cruz and Kuminga is a guy that they recognize could give them useful minutes and are putting him in a role to do so.
They’re not making him be a playmaker or asking him to do anything too complicated; Kerr is just asking him to play hard and let his natural gifts take care of the rest. Dudes that are 6 foot 8, 230 pounds, and hyper-athletic don’t grow on trees even in this league, and Kerr knows he has to at least try and take advantage of that.