Welcome to Warriors Weekly with a (finally) closer to full squad.
The Week that Was:
While players like Ezeli and Barnes are still not 100%, this was the first time since Christmas that the Warriors really looked like the Warriors on the court in both personnel and play.
They blew the doors off Charlotte early before eventually letting them back in the game before closing it again behind Draymond’s third triple-double in a row.
The Pacific road trip began with comfortable wins over the Lakers (where Klay exploded in the first quarter) and Blazers before getting a closer than expected win in another less than spectacular performance in Sacramento. For some reason that keeps happening.
4-0 is 4-0, especially when holding a lead on the rest of the league.
Stephen Curry Above the Break Three Update: Stephen Curry has made 136 above the break three pointers this year, more than one team (he is also tied with Miami, Golden State’s first opponent this week). Curry’s 44.4% shooting from there is better than every NBA team but the Warriors from mid-range and all but four teams in the paint (non-restricted area) not even accounting for the fact that 3 > 2.
The Soapbox: It Ain’t Easy
In a way, the Warriors have created a fascinating problem for themselves. Harrison Barnes’ injury opened up minutes in the rotation and the coaching staff’s desire to have Andre Iguodala retain his role anchoring the non-starter minutes created an opportunity for Brandon Rush to play with the starters. Rush did a very nice job and showed how well talented shooters can do with that level of surrounding talent.
Rush’s success has led some to wonder if the Warriors should consider modifying Barnes’ role and at certain levels that makes sense. If Rush does so much better with Curry, Thompson and Green on the court, would that be maximizing value overall?
There are two problems with that train of thought: first, Harrison Barnes does much better with those players too and second the Warriors are deep enough to not need many minutes from Rush.
Every team has 144 minutes in regulation for shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards. Take Klay’s 32 off the top because those should be untouchable unless and until they start resting him for the playoffs. Assuming the Warriors limit Draymond’s minutes at center to five per game in the regular season, that means he gets about 27 at PF (which would actually be a downshift from his too-high 35 MPG so far this season). With just those two players off the board, there are only 85 minutes left. Iguodala has hovered around 27 minutes per game in his current role and Barnes has settled into about 28 per the last few seasons. Take out their allocations and there are a whopping 30 minutes left for Rush, Barbosa, Shaun Livingston (when playing with Curry), Ian Clark and heaven forbid Speights or McAdoo in some non-garbage PF minutes. [NOTE: That is not a dig on either man, just that the two big bench lineups do not work.]
Looking at the overall picture shows that there just is not a clear-cut niche big enough for Rush or anyone else even in the larger regular season rotation. What’s more, remember that the playoffs shift minutes to the best players which turns that 30 minutes into 15-20 or even less. Unless Brandon Rush should be playing over Harrison Barnes in the playoffs (which he should not), either Iguodala or Barnes should get the fifth starter spot.
I want to be abundantly clear that Rush’s success the last few weeks is a wonderful development for the team. That emergence makes him a logical fit to fill a similar role should another limitation occur and also serve as a nice fallback over the course of the season due to injury or ineffectiveness. That said, the Warriors face a wonderful, rare challenge that mirrors their issue with Mo Speights: a player they like who is deserving of time whose best role on a team this good is as a “Break Glass in Case of Emergency” guy. If Steve Kerr is amenable, the most fun wrinkle with Rush in the interim could be as a smallball power forward to drive bench units crazy. That could be awesome.
Managing egos and expectations can be part of the challenge for a team attempting to return to the mountaintop and keep an eye on how the coaching staff handles these kinds of delicate situations, especially since Rush and Speights are impending free agents.
The Week to Come:
A strange week in terms of travel and opponents.
The Warriors start out on Monday with a home game against the Heat then head to Denver for the front end of a back-to-back that brings them back to Oracle for Kobe’s last appearance at Oracle unless the Lakers make the playoffs (so his last time in Oakland).
From there, they head back out for a three game road trip starting Saturday in Detroit against Andre Drummond and the Pistons.
While both Miami and Detroit profile as teams with the depth and star power to get a win on a Warriors team still working players back in, 4-0 is a fair bet.