Barring any injuries or unforeseen circumstances, the Warriors’ starting unit will run it back next year
However, it remains to be seen who will round out the rotation for the defending champs.
While they did salvage their off-season with a couple of solid additions, free agency was not too kind to the defending champs. The Warriors’ depth absorbed a sizeable blow with the losses of key role players Otto Porter Jr. and Gary Payton II. Reserves Juan Tuscano-Anderson, Damian Lee, and Nemanja Bjelica all departed for new teams as well.
Naturally, this variation provokes several questions surrounding the Warriors’ bench.
One certainty regarding the Warriors’ second unit is that Jordan Poole will remain the team’s sixth man. The Michigan product burst onto the scene last season, starting in place of an injured Klay Thompson and excelling in his role. Poole earned the full trust of the Warriors’ coaching staff last season, showing off his elite scoring chops, improved playmaking, and just the right dose of iso-ball. The fourth-year guard relieved Steph Curry of some defensive attention and took control of the offense when the two-time MVP needed a breather. Poole would re-claim his spot on the bench when Klay Thompson finally returned but his impact never wavered. He will undoubtedly be the featured player in the second unit.
The other guarantee is that James Wiseman will assume the backup center position. Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr dubbed Wiseman the second-stringer in an interview with The Athletic’s Anthony Slater last week.
“I think this will be a more natural progression for James, one that didn’t really happen his rookie year because of the situation,” Kerr said. “[Kevon Looney] is the incumbent, the championship-starting center who has seen everything. Then you have James, who will learn from him and with him and will get his chances as we go. It’s a healthy growth situation for James.”
Wiseman is set to return for the Warriors after missing all of last season with a knee injury. The former third overall pick was able to get his feet wet in this year’s NBA Summer League, averaging 10.5 points and 5.5 in four games.
Though his game does have its raw components, the 7-footer is oozing with potential. He presents a solid interior presence and boasts some impressive self-creation skills for a center. Wiseman’s combination of size and versatility could enhance the Warriors’ pick and roll game significantly.
Wiseman is a rare breed of big-man that can stretch the floor, play on the interior, and handle the ball well enough to get his own. That could inspire the coaching staff to try out some inverted pick-and-roll action with Wiseman as the ball handler and either or Curry Poole as the screener. Wiseman can also hunt mismatches from anywhere on the floor. The big man wields the tools to punish ill-equipped defenders on the block or simply rise above them for a 20-foot jumper.
Wiseman still has some kinks to work out within the Golden State system but the two-man game between him and Poole will be intriguing to revisit down the line.
Moody and Kuminga??
Aside from Poole and Wiseman, no reserve has emerged as a staple in Coach Kerr’s rotation. Among the remaining candidates, Warriors’ 2021 draftees Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody are likely to carve out key roles for themselves off the bench. As rookies, both Kuminga and Moody saw limited game-time. However, as the injury bug spread throughout the roster, the lottery duo was thrown right into the fire, shooting up the depth chart and even starting in a few games.
Moses Moody is expected to step into a much larger role this year. The Arkansas product showcased a beautiful stroke from beyond the arc in Summer League and demonstrated his aptitude on defense. Provided Moody can consistently knock down his open threes while maintaining his peskiness on defense, he will be the ideal “3 and D” guy to compliment Poole and Wiseman off the bench.
Jonathan Kuminga made the most of Summer League by getting up as many shots as he could as the number one option. Kuminga utilized his physical gifts to generate a ton of quality paint touches – an encouraging sign in his development. On the rare occasions that Kuminga was not hunting his own shot, he was driving hard to the basket, collapsing opposing defenses, and kicking the ball out to shooters. If he can find the right balance, he will be a practical option off the bench for the Dubs.
The New Additions
Many have labeled the Warriors losers of this off-season and understandably so, but in time Donte DiVincenzo and JaMychal Green could prove to be steals of free agency.
DiVincenzo was moved to the Sacramento Kings at the trade deadline last year and was never really able to find his footing. Prior to that transaction, DiVincenzo dealt with a series of injuries and setbacks that he never fully recovered from. At his best, the fifth-year wing is a solid role player who can impact the game in a multitude of ways. He is an above-average shooter and a sneaky off-ball defender who pounces in the passing lanes and navigates screens with proficiency. While DiVincenzo will likely be more of a situational player, his skill-set will come in handy in certain matchups.
JaMychal Green experienced a down-year in his last season as a Denver Nugget, shooting only 27% from three and playing under 18 minutes per game for the first time since the 2014-15 season. Though this seems like natural regression for the 32-year-old, Green faced much more defensive pressure than usual on a banged-up Nuggets team. That will not be the case on a stacked Warriors team that could bring the best out of the eight-year vet. Green is a versatile forward who stretches the floor, cuts hard off the ball, and crashes the glass with the best of them. Like DiVincenzo, Green won’t be a 20-minute per game guy, but he could slot in nicely when Draymond Green needs a rest.