Revisiting our 5 preseason questions
The Golden State Warriors are 10 games into the NBA season. That’s not enough time to draw any final conclusions about the team, especially with this much new personnel still getting acclimated to Steve Kerr’s system, but we can at least take a peek at some first impressions.
It doesn’t take a deep dive to see the Warriors are off to an impressive start. They’re 6-4 and already notched a signature win against the Clippers, and have also beaten the Blazers and Raptors. Two of their losses came in their first two contests, both blowouts at the hands of Top 5 teams, and those may as well be mulligans for analytic purposes — we’re simply not watching the same rusty, unfamiliar, incomplete squad we saw in those warmups.
Before the season opener, we posed five key questions that were facing the Dubs in 2020-21. The early returns have been nearly a best-case scenario.
But first: You’ll notice that Draymond Green is not on the list, and that’s because there was never any question about him. The narrative wondering whether he had declined was happening entirely outside of the Bay Area, and it’s already clear that he’s still a star who makes a critical impact. There’s also not a question about the club’s overall defense, which was always going to be at least decent and is unsurprisingly looking even better than that.
Can Curry still be an MVP?
Thru 10 games? Yes!
This was never a question about Steph Curry’s ability, or at least it shouldn’t have been. It was more a matter of how he’d respond to being the only Hall of Fame scorer on his team for the first time, without Klay Thompson.
Turns out Curry can still cook on his own, as if there was any real doubt. He poured in a career-high 62 against the Blazers on an off shooting night, and he’s scored 30 or more in half of his games, with an average of 28.6 per contest. His True Shooting is at .605 even without fully finding his groove from three-point range yet, partly since he decided to simply stop missing free throws ever (95.7%).
Part of the naysayer narrative was also the question of whether Curry could consistently be the guy every night. Indeed he’s been shut down a couple times, managing only 13 points against the Clippers once, and just 11 against the Raptors. But even then, the Dubs still beat Toronto, and hung with Los Angeles for most of that game, and despite not scoring Steph at least contributed shooting space for his teammates just by his very existence.
There’s a long way to go, but for now there’s nothing to worry about regarding this foundational pillar of any possible Warriors success. Curry is still an MVP-caliber player who can lead a winning team.
Is there enough deep shooting?
Thru 10 games? Yes, probably
The Warriors rank only 21st in three-point percentage (35.1%, league is 36.5%), but there are a couple big reasons for that. One is that Steph is at “only” 36.8%, far below his career norm. The other is that Kelly Oubre is in a historic slump, at 13.7% on notable volume (5 shots per game). Both of them will improve significantly over a larger sample.
Beyond that, there are three-point shooters all over the roster:
- Kent Bazemore, 50.0% on 1.8 shots per game
- Damion Lee, 48.7% on 3.9 shots
- Mychal Mulder, 44.0% on 2.5 shots
- James Wiseman, 40.0% on 1.5 shots
- Eric Paschall, 38.9% on 1.8 shots
- Andrew Wiggins, 38.5% on 5.2 shots
- Brad Wanamaker, 35.3% on 1.7 shots (5-of-8 last 4 gms)
With Steph creating space, and Draymond Green helping distribute, everyone else is feasting. Some of these rates will drop a little (except Wanamaker, who is only just hitting his stride), but there are plenty of sharpshooting wings, plus a starting center and a bench big who can each range out. Wiggins is way over his career average of 33.2% entering the season, and it might be sustainable.
Klay can’t be replaced by any one mortal, but the early returns suggest the Dubs’ ensemble cast should still end up above-average in this department once all the small-sample regression sorts itself out.
What will they get from rookie Wiseman?
Let’s rephrase that as a Yes or No.
Will rookie Wiseman contribute right away?
Thru 10 games? Yes!
The 19-year-old seven-footer is by no means a finished product, but James Wiseman is so talented that he’s already having a positive impact even as he learns on the job.
On offense, he’s big enough to be a serious bully inside as well as a perpetual lob threat, but he also has the quickness, handles, and shooting touch of a smaller player. On defense he’s still prone to rookie fouls (reasonable for a rookie) but has also shown promise as a rim protector. He’s already had two highlight plays in which he blocked the shot on one end, collected the ball, drove it the length of the floor, and either dunked it or drew a foul.
One of those times he didn’t even block it, he just … caught it out of the air. The other block-to-dunk is included in this reel, around 0:53.
Making plays on both ends for the @warriors… watch the best of #2 overall pick James Wiseman so far this season.
Warriors & Clippers clash tonight at 10pm/et on ESPN pic.twitter.com/Z7ICn4Ypbc
— NBA (@NBA) January 8, 2021
The Warriors haven’t had a player like Wiseman during the Curry Era, a full-sized center who can star on both ends of the floor in a fast-paced system, and it’s going to be fascinating to see Steph and Draymond work with him. He’s already a good starter and a perfect fit for this roster, and he’s turning out to be exactly what you want from a No. 2 overall draft pick — a potential franchise player.
Which role players will pan out?
Again, Yes or No please.
Will some role players pan out?
Thru 10 games: Yes!
The starting lineup had enough questions on its own. Steph is still great, Wiseman is helping, and yes, Wiggins appears to be an efficient secondary scorer and an effective defender.
But the bench needed to chip in too. Not only have they done that, it’s even felt like they’ve carried the team at times.
Lee is shooting the lights out, and he’s already got one game-winner plus another game-winning set of free throws. Paschall is the microwave scorer off the bench. Bazemore and Mulder are hitting shots, and Wanamaker can run point when Steph and/or Draymond are out. And everyone is playing defense, including Kevon Looney whom we already knew about.
Which role players have panned out? All of them, basically. It hasn’t been unusual to see the starters fall into a hole, only for the bench to lead a comeback against the opposing second unit, with some hybrid of the two units closing out the victory.
Can they stay healthy?
Thru 10 games? Not exactly
They lost Klay before the season even began, and couldn’t afford much more in the way of injuries. It only took two games to lose another rotation player, as backup big Marquese Chriss broke his leg during practice. Then big-man prospect Alen Smailagic had surgery for a torn meniscus.
So, not a good start. But not enough to completely sink them yet, if they can avoid the bug the rest of the way. Knock on wood, like, a thousand times.
None of these answers are final yet, with only 14% of the season in the books. But it would have been unreasonable to ask for a better start than this through 10 games.