The Golden State Warriors are far from the only team in the NBA that’s surprisingly struggling. Hell, there are surprises all over the league. The Utah Jazz gutted their team and have the best record in the Western Conference.
What’s most puzzling about the Warriors’ struggles is why. This was a team that was supposed to be among the deepest in the NBA. Sure Otto Porter, Gary Payton II, and Nemanja Bjelica are gone, but that was supposed to clear space for Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, and a healthy James Wiseman to pick up the slack.
Through 11 games the Warriors are 4-7, and they are not getting enough from their bench outside of Jordan Poole. It has resulted in various players getting hit with the dreaded DNP-Coach’s Decision. Wiseman and the recently signed JaMychal Green have one and Kuminga has three. There have been games where Moody has played 24 minutes and others where he has played eight. Kuminga’s minutes have no consistency. One of the few players whose minutes have held steady is Ty Jerome who is almost always on the court for 12-15.
Not even one-quarter of the season has been completed so there is plenty of time for improvement. However, in order for that to happen, head coach Steve Kerr is going to have to settle on a rotation, and stop giving so many players so many minutes.
There are 13 Warriors who have played in at least eight games this season. Of that 13, 12 are averaging at least 14 minutes per game. Only Wiseman is playing less than that, and he’s averaging 13.8. This a clear sign that the Warriors’ staff still is not quite sure what to do with their roster.
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Other top NBA teams with championship hopes are not dishing out significant minutes to nearly the entire roster. On the Milwaukee Bucks, only nine players are averaging 14 or more minutes per game. The Boston Celtics only have eight players averaging that many minutes. A team with similar minute distribution to the Warriors that also plays in the Western Conference is the Phoenix Suns. They have 10 players who are on the court for more than 14 minutes a game and one playing 13.9 minutes — but it stops there. The Suns’ players who average the 12th and 13th most minutes are at eight and 5.1 per game respectively.
With Donte DiVincenzo now healthy, that’s a 14th player in the Warriors’ rotation. The political way to handle the Warriors’ situation would be to blend the old with the new off of the bench. Make sure both sides are represented on a team that is, in the near future, going to have to rely on either young talent currently on the roster, or find more of it from elsewhere.
It’s hard to keep a focus on developing young talent on a championship team. The youngsters shouldn’t be immune from getting put on the bench for poor or dispirited play, but they do need the freedom to play through mistakes. Patience is what allowed the current Warriors’ core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green to develop into their best NBA selves. They were given the space to grow into who they are now, but they were drafted by a franchise that hadn’t won an NBA Championship since 1975.
These days the Warriors are in the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Yankees/Los Angeles Dodgers/Dallas Cowboys group when it comes to relevance in American professional sports. Their ticket prices reflect that.
Now that the Warriors, once an amusing NBA franchise, are now a crown jewel, do they have time to devote to developing the promising youngsters, or would they be better off delaying that in pursuit of a fifth championship in nine seasons? That question doesn’t have to be answered today, but it needs to be soon. If they get too far into this season without making a firm decision on how minutes will be allocated, the Warriors will end up setting their franchise back both in the now and in the long run.
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