Warriors

Warriors’ Quarter-Season Mark Manifests Mediocrity

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Well, they did it again.

The Golden State Warriors tricked off another game in a new way. A couple of weeks ago, the Warriors failed to foul Chet Holmgren up three at the end of regulation. The exact scenario came again against the Thunder on Friday night. Draymond Green committed a critical mistake by going for a steal, and then proceeded to foul Holmgren in the act of shooting a three.

The Warriors went on to lose again in overtime. That’s three-straight losses on the road with mistakes at the end of each game.

The Warriors had a total of 28 turnovers, which was an NBA season-high this year. The starting lineup committed 17 of the 28. The previous mark was 25 turnovers by the Spurs.

The Spurs are 3-18.

Despite being a four-time champion, Green did something that even a 3-18 team couldn’t do if they tried. Golden State has discovered new ways to lose games. They are the same team a quarter of the way through this season as last season.

There is no more room for excuses. The blame can be put on uncharacteristic mistakes a finite amount of times. Steve Kerr and the veterans can’t talk about how they have to “figure it out” all season long. It’s been 22 games, and the Warriors haven’t shown any sign of being close to a title team.

The season has been a disappointment thus far. Moreover, the upside of the team is hindered by the inconsistency in rotations and roster construction. Ultimately, this first quarter has been a massive gut check. Either they respond with wins and better play, or this starts to spiral.

“Bad Teams Find a Way to Lose”

The Warriors could be on a six-game winning streak.

Instead, they are 3-3, with all three losses having blown leads of 15+ points. In each loss, we’ve heard the same type of answers with no changes in productivity.

Throughout their years of success, the Warriors would pride themselves in their basketball IQ and late-game execution. As much as they were a team that would toe the line of sloppiness, they would still be able to get stops and buckets when they needed it.

That part of their formula has not been in their games since they rose the Larry O’Brien trophy in 2022. Ever since then, it’s been a roller-coaster ride with how they finish games. If they don’t blow leads and actually complete games like a normal team, they’re easily 14-8.

They can use that line of thinking as much as they want— it won’t change a thing. For whatever reason, the veteran know-how at the end of games isn’t there anymore. The same core that brought them a championship has had over a whole season to get back on track, but they haven’t shown it. Everything they say to the media can go in one ear and out the other. It’s time to show they still have that juice.

Same, but Different

The Warriors are trying to recreate the magic they found in the 2021-22 season.

They have the same core mixed with solid veterans like Chris Paul and Dario Šarić. The rookies in 2022 are now mainstays (hopefully) in the rotation. But what everyone in the organization is afraid to admit (publicly), is that the vets have regressed and the young guys haven’t reached that level of consistency they need.

It’s the perfect storm for a mediocre team. Steph is still a player that can be the best guy on a title team. Draymond is still a defensive force and an integral part of what they do on both ends. Everyone after that is a complete hit or miss almost any given night. The starting lineup that Kerr is so keen on keeping together hasn’t been the same.

The starting crew of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney was elite in the 2022 playoffs, as well as the 2023 regular season and playoffs. According to Cleaning the Glass, that starting unit had a point differential of +17.1 throughout the 2022 playoffs. In the 2023 regular season, their point differential was +22.1. In the 2023 playoffs, it was +19.8.

So far this season, that same lineup is a -8.3. The difference from last year and this year is 30 points.

Their struggles combined with Kerr’s blind faith in them has shaken the roster in ways that might not be fixable without a dramatic change. The team has no more room to be patient. There’s no sign of it improving, so staying idle is the worst way to combat their struggles.

Can They Accept Change?

The fans have shared their frustrations with Kerr’s unwavering allegiance to his veteran core players.

Three of them have not been playing up to their championship standard for a better part of this early season. Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney have been struggling a lot. Kerr is adamant about giving them a chance to get into their groove. It’s been brought up before, but it’s time to switch it up.

As a result of the veteran’s struggles and missed games, guys like Moses Moody, Brandin Podziemski and Jonathan Kuminga have been given their chances. It’s on them to continue to take advantage of the opportunities. They get more minutes if they’re forcing their way into the rotation.

Moreover, we saw a young Draymond Green make his mark in the 2014 playoffs against the Clippers. With the help of a David Lee injury the following year, he took that starting PF spot, and the rest is history. Fans are clamoring for Kuminga or Moody to take a spot in the starting lineup or to get more minutes. The reality is they must have a level of impact like Green had back then. They’ve shown signs, but it must continue.

Part of the reason why Kerr stays firm in his vision for the vets is because the young players aren’t forcing their way in enough. They show flashes, but it needs to be more consistent and more impressive. Additionally, vets like Thompson and Wiggins have moments that reinforce Kerr’s stance. The seesaw of this dynamic forces tough decisions for the coaching staff and the organization, but that’s the cost of having this roster construction.

It’s not so much of abandoning everything that has been built up to this point. But there has to be a sense of urgency when clearly their talent can’t matchup with every team in league like the past. The Warriors were once able to play ugly and still win because of their talent.

What made them historic was the cohesiveness joined with that talent. They praised how connected they were entering the season, so maybe we can still give them that benefit of the doubt. But what’s even more clear is that their high-end talent isn’t what they thought it was. That calls for a pivot in approach.

Adaptability is the Key

Kerr and the Warriors have always been able to adapt to matchup disadvantages even in their most important periods of the dynasty.

In 2015, Andre Iguodala replaced Andrew Bogut in Game 4 of the Finals to be faster and more switchable on defense. The Warriors were down 2-1 in the series and needed to switch up their approach. Iguodala went on to win Finals MVP (which should have gone to Curry). In addition, Otto Porter replaced Kevon Looney in the starting lineup for the final three games of the 2022 Finals. Kerr has pulled these changes out in the playoffs while the team’s back was against the wall. If he can just apply that urgency for this season, there’s a chance it can turn around without having to make a drastic move.

Another way to adapt is to correct mistakes when they happen. Steve Kerr said they focused a lot on limiting turnovers in training camp. They just set the season-high in turnovers in a game, and they become exponentially ridiculous when it’s a critical time in a game.

Again, it’s not about going away from what has gotten them four titles. It’s about mixing in new strategies and new ways of thinking. The most frustrating part about watching this team this year is that they’re stale. The offense, the game-to-game approach, the overall coaching, are all clearly outdated for the 2023 NBA.

The league is changing at a rapid rate, and the Warriors have to match it. The famous “light years ahead” phrase from Joe Lacob is hitting them back like a prized fighter in the ring.

It’s Only Up From Here?

You would hope that the first blown loss against Oklahoma City earlier in the season would have woken them up.

The same can be said with the losses in Sacramento and against the Clippers. Friday night was the tipping point. The only way the team can feel better about themselves is by winning. It’s always going to be the ultimate cure in sports.

The trade deadline isn’t until February. That gives two months before anything major can really happen. They have about a month before they can start to sniff around with trades, so it’s all on them.

Golden State has 13 home games out of the next 17. This is the stretch. This is the time to cement themselves in the mix and prove to the league that they’re still a serious team.

https://twitter.com/NBCSWarriors/status/1733351534166233356

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About Christian Oblena

Born in San Francisco, raised in the East Bay, lifelong Bay Area sports fan. Here to give my own opinions on everything Dubs.

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