The Dubs have been better without rookie James Wiseman in the lineup and Kelly Oubre Jr. coming off the bench.
It’s been an up-and-down season for the Golden State Warriors. The franchise suffered a massive blow before the first game on the schedule when word broke that All-Star guard Klay Thompson would miss his second-consecutive season due to injury.
General manager Bob Myers reacted quickly to mitigate the loss by trading for Kelly Oubre Jr. The Dubs also used the No. 2 overall pick on Memphis center James Wiseman, and the roster looked set.
No one expected the Warriors to contend for a title without a talent like Thompson in the lineup. But, Golden State still has the amazing Steph Curry and Draymond Green leading the troops.
The early returns weren’t encouraging. The Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks blew out the Dubs to start the season, and the team couldn’t find any inconsistency. The Warriors were neither good nor bad, but rather average. Oubre struggled to find his footing and seemingly missed every 3-pointer he took over the first few weeks of the campaign.
They didn’t go on a three-game winning streak until February, but they followed that up by losing four games in a row. Head coach Steve Kerr failed to find success with his rotations. The non-Steph Curry minutes (first six of the second and fourth quarters) either made or broke the team. The second unit lacked playmakers until a familiar face stepped his game up.
After being recalled from the G League, Jordan Poole has been a revelation. He averaged 18.5 points in the month of March and helped keep Golden State afloat when Curry was out of the lineup with a tailbone injury. Poole gives Kerr someone who can heat up and create off the dribble, something the jettisoned Brad Wanamaker struggled to bring.
But the injuries continued to pile up. Eric Paschall has missed extended time, while Wiseman injured his knee during a win over the Houston Rockets. The rookie has missed the eight games, but his absence has also allowed Kerr to find the right lineup combinations.
Kevon Looney has been solid since being thrust into the starting lineup, and the Warriors have found success by playing Green at the 5. The main reason why Golden State is 7-3 over its past 10 is the all-world play of Curry.
The two-time NBA MVP is averaging a ridiculous 38.4 points per game since April 5. Curry is connecting on 49 percent of his 3-point attempts over that time and is somehow getting some love as a potential MVP candidate, despite his team sitting in the middle of the pack in the league standings.
But the Dubs have been playing much better as a team in recent weeks. Kerr inserted veteran Kent Bazemore into the starting lineup in place of Oubre (who missed five games with a wrist injury), and the results have been encouraging.
Bazemore isn’t as dynamic as Oubre but has been a steady hand for Golden State all season. Bringing Oubre off the bench gives Kerr a nice one-two punch on the second unit along with Poole. Oubre is averaging 18.8 points in the four games he’s come off the bench and is shooting a respectable 48.2 percent from the field.
All of the changes to the roster throughout the schedule have finally seemed to settle down, and the Warriors are benefitting from it. The Dubs are fourth in scoring over their past 11 games, averaging 118.7 points per contest and fifth in 3-point percentage.
The underlying numbers have been encouraging as well. The Warriors lead the NBA in net rating, rank second in defensive rating and fifth in offensive rating since April 5 and have quality wins over the Denver Nuggets (twice), Bucks and 76ers.
The stress of at least getting into the NBA’s play-in tournament has dissipated with the recent run. Golden State has a comfortable lead over the New Orleans Pelicans in the standings and has an outside chance of catching the Dallas Mavericks for the No. 6 seed with 11 games left on the schedule. The two teams will face off in a big matchup on Tuesday.
After that, the Warriors have a favorable schedule. Their next games following the matchup with the Mavs look like this: @ Timberwolves, @ Rockets, @ Pelicans, @Pelcians, vs. Thunder, vs. Thunder.
If Golden State can get by Dallas on Tuesday and pull to within two games, it should give itself the opportunity to climb even further up the Western Conference standings.
The past 11 games have given the team some hope that they can compete with some of the upper-echelon teams in the NBA. If Kerr can continue to get this type of production from the second unit, the Warriors will be a scary opponent for any team in the postseason.