The Golden State Warriors have been reeling from costly injuries since 2019, so it is with a despondent acceptance that I note the absence of Juan Toscano-Anderson, and perhaps Stephen Curry, from tonight’s showdown against the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers.
The story heading into the game is mostly about the health of Stephen Curry’s left ankle. You don’t need to squint your eyes too hard, or delve all that deep into the past to envision what this iteration of the Warriors looks like without Curry. He has: the third most dramatic on/off impact, fourth highest usage in the league, and is the NBA’s leading scorer. According to Cleaning the Glass, the Warriors are 15.6 points worse per 100 possessions without Curry on the court.
If I was in charge, we would for sure be resting this man tonight. But as it stands at time of writing, Curry is listed as questionable for tonight’s game.
Given the severity of the roll, and my advanced doctorate in online medical expertise, I’m hoping the Warriors give Curry the night off.
Steph Curry and Kelly Oubre are questionable tomorrow against the Sixers. Curry tweaked his ankle in the fourth quarter last night in Boston. Juan Toscano-Anderson is out. Concussion from his hard fall.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (28-29) at Philadelphia 76ers (39-17)
WHEN: Monday, April 19th, 2021 // 4:30pm PST
WATCH: ESPN; NBCSBA
Making a case for Kent Bazemore
In an ironic twist, the only thing quiet about Kent Bazemore’s game may be his positive on-court impact. Initially known for his vociferous bench celebrations, the noisy appearance of Bazemore’s play style may now be disguising the sneakily sagacious aspects to his game.
It’s something that has been highlighted by the ongoing absence of Kelly Oubre (status still unknown for tonight), but Bazemore has slowly and quietly turning in one of the best seasons of his career. If we are going by the numbers, the starting spot should be his to keep, even after Oubre’s return.
The Warriors have four positive point differential lineups. According to Cleaning the Glass Bazemore is in half of them. But more importantly, the very best 5-man unit – one that would look at home on a championship-caliber team – is the Warriors’ current starting lineup, with Bazemore in place of Oubre.
Remember, of course that these are multi-player impacts, so it’s not so much that Bazemore is filling holes, but more so that he fits the nooks and crannies left in a lineup featuring the team’s best players.
Here’s Draymond Green discussing Bazemore recently, via Tim Kawakami of The Athletic:
“The one thing that has not wavered is he’s a wrecking ball on the defensive side of the ball. He was that same wrecking ball when he came into the league. He’s that same wrecking ball, maybe added a few more nuances, a few more tricks of the trade that he’s picked up over the years.”
Now, being a wrecking ball, in and of itself, isn’t always helpful, but there are a few distinct differences that help Bazemore stand out as an asset to winning.
One of the best measures of a player’s scoring efficiency is their effective field goal percentage (eFG%), which accounts for the value differential between a three-point field goal and a two-point field goal. Bazemore is shooting with an eFG% of 55.2, which Cleaning the Glass lists as the 69th percentile (nice).
For comparison, Kelly Oubre, the player that Bazemore has supplanted in the starting lineup owns an eFG% of just 50%, or the 34th percentile (which is not “nice”).
But there’s a deeper fit issue.
With a usage of nearly 22%, Oubre plays like a ball-dominant guard. To put it another way, Oubre’s usage is in the 73rd percentile (very high), while his points scored per attempt are in the 29th percentile. It’s not hard to see why a player that is top two-thirds in usage, and bottom third in scoring efficiency would be a drain. Especially galling when that drain is pulling away from high efficiency players like Curry, or supplemental low volume players like the efficient Looneys or JTAs of the team.
Combine that with the defense, and you get this sort of result. Here’s the team’s breakdown (excluding garbage time) of on-court impact. Bazemore has the third-best net point differential, for all the reasons details above.
On a team desperately looking for affordable good veterans to fill out the edges of the roster, Bazemore is standing out. I hope the Warriors front office is paying attention.
The Philly championship dreams are alive and well
Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons look like a prototypical modern championship core. With Embiid doing most of the heavy lifting on offense, and Simmons filling all sorts of defensive roles, the team has everything it needs to compete with other top end teams of the league.
Embiid, who is averaging 30 points and 11 rebounds this season has been on a tear lately, so the Warriors aren’t alone in being hard-pressed to slow him down.
Curry sits, Oubre returns, and the Warriors get blown out through two quarters before stunning the world with a furious 2nd half comeback. Warriors shock the world 121-120.