The Warriors roster looks pretty similar this year. So what can we learn about their best lineups from a year ago?
The Golden State Warriors roster doesn’t look that much different than it did a year ago. The biggest difference between the 2020-21 and 2021-22 rosters — by far — figures to be the health of Klay Thompson.
There are changes, to be sure. Kelly Oubre Jr., and Kent Bazemore are gone, with the team welcoming Otto Porter Jr. and Nemanja Bjelica, and opening their arms for a second stint of Andre Iguodala. Fringe rotation players Nico Mannion, Eric Paschall, and Alen Smailagić are out, replaced by the higher ceilings of Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.
But, barring a trade, this is still a team that is going to be very reliant on Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, Kevon Looney, and Jordan Poole. Which means last year’s team should be able to tell us a bit about this year’s … right?
Well, yes and no.
The premise of this article was to look at the best lineups that the Warriors used last year that can still be used this year (i.e. lineups not including Oubre, Bazemore, Mannion, Paschall, Smailagić, Brad Wanamaker, Marquese Chriss, or Jordan Bell). But I quickly ran into a problem.
Bazemore and Oubre combined to start in 68 of the team’s 72 games a year ago, meaning it’s nearly impossible to find continuity in any five-man lineups for the Warriors.
Shockingly, per the NBA’s stats page, the Warriors only had six five-man lineups that played more than 50 minutes last year. And none of them consisted entirely of players on this year’s team.
So we have to move down to four and three-man rosters, where we can find some interesting lineup data.
First, the barometer
Before we dive into the offensive, defensive, and net ratings of the Warriors four and three-man rosters, let’s get a barometer for those numbers.
Per Cleaning The Glass, the 2020-21 Warriors had an offensive rating of 111.1, a defensive rating of 110.7, and a net rating of +0.4.
The best offensive rating was the Brooklyn Nets at 119.4, while the worst was the Oklahoma City Thunder at 103.9. The top defensive rating was the Utah Jazz at 107.5, while the worst was Sacramento Kings at 117.6. And the league’s top net rating belonged to the Jazz at +11.3, while the worst sat with the Thunder at -11.3.
For those new to the metrics, offensive rating is points scored per 100 possessions, defensive rating is points allowed per 100 possessions, and net rating is the difference between the two — how much you outscored, or were outscored per 100 possessions.
The Warriors used seven different four-player lineups last year that A) are still on the roster this year, and B) played a minimum of 100 minutes together.
There aren’t too many big takeaways here. The Warriors struggled mightily with James Wiseman on the court. Curry is really good. Juan Toscano-Anderson didn’t receive a serious role until late in the season, but absolutely needs one going forward.
You knew all these things.
So what if we try some three-player lineups?
To avoid having way too many to sift through, let’s set the minutes minimum at 300.
That gets us 10 different lineup combos, starting with Curry, Green, and Looney, and ending with Green, Wiggins, and Wiseman.
Kind of similar stories, honestly. But my goodness, it really does highlight how much the Warriors struggled when Wiseman was on the court. You just don’t see Curry-led offenses put up that few points, or Green-led defenses concede that many.
It’s rather damning evidence, but thankfully for everyone, the 2021-22 Warriors get 2021-22 Wiseman, not last year’s version.
It also highlights just how important Looney and Juan Toscano-Anderson are. Wiggins might be the most important non-star on the team because of his ceiling, opportunity for growth, contract, and potential salary matching in a trade, but right now it sure feels like Looney and JTA are more important players to on-court success.
It’s unclear how many of these lineups will see significant play. Toscano-Anderson’s minutes were a bit of a roller-coaster late in the year, and Wiseman will have to earn a chance to get back on the floor with these core players. And of course, Poole, Porter, Bjelica, Iguodala, and eventually Thompson will factor in here as well.
The Warriors found some magic late in the season, when they ended the year on a 16-6 run, with a +8.5 net rating that was second in the league during that time span. Part of that magic was due to the team simply playing better and developing chemistry and rhythm, but some of it was an ability to start prioritizing the lineups that populate the top of these tables.
There’s a lot of good basketball to be found on the Warriors this year. It will sometimes be a riddle to find it, but it’s certainly there.
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