Should we be worried about the Warriors' bench struggles
When a team has four perennial All-stars, and two MVP’s, there isn’t much to warrant a complaint. But when that team has its first losing streak of the season and loses three of their last four games against Western Conference playoff contenders, there’s cause for concern. But with Jordan Bell still out with an ankle sprain, and the continued struggles of Patrick McCaw, the Golden State Warriors could use a spark from one of the young guys.
The season takes a toll on every team, but going to the NBA Finals for three straight years does even more. The Dubs have played a total 62 games in the last three postseason’s, not to mention the 2016 Olympics games where KD, Klay Thompson and Dray all spent their summer in Rio.
But title contenders like Golden State and Cleveland are often so top heavy in their payrolls that solid bench players are nearly impossible to get. The Cavs signed Derrick Rose to a 1 year, $2.1 million deal, and the Warriors signed David West for 1 year, $2.3 million. While the difference in productivity in these two players is obvious, it’s a good measure of the type of guys available.
One of the most favorable ways to acquire cheap talent is by acquiring and stocking up on draft picks. For the teams at the top of the standings, it means that they’ll need to use their lower picks wisely. But Golden State has done so. It started with drafting Draymond Green in the second round, getting Kevon Looney with the 30th overall pick, and then buying the picks that became Patrick McCaw and Jordan Bell.
While all three of those young players have shown their potential, there’s only so many minutes to go around. With an abundance of big name vets on cheap deals, and a depleting Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, there isn’t a game changing substitute they can turn to. The last instant offense guy these Warriors had off the bench was Leandro Barbosa, whose now playing for a team in his home of Brazil.
It’s a tough decision with talented rookies: do you sacrifice playing time and have them learn championship ball first hand, or do you take the mistakes that come with young players and keep the vets out of rhythm? It’s a subjective answer, but for a team like GSW, the former is probably the case. But we’ve seen in the past that coach Steve Kerr is happy to stick with his guys. Anderson Varejao got Finals minutes in 2016, and at the 2017 championship parade Kerr made sure to thank James Michael Mcadoo but forgot to mention Steph Curry.
Thankfully, the Dubs have their G-league team in Santa Cruz to give their young guys some minutes. Second-year player Damion Jones has been playing in Santa Cruz all season, and then on Wednesday McCaw was assigned to Santa Cruz. McCaw said at practice that “It’s about getting those reps and getting those shots up just so I can get a feel for my release and shots that I’ll be able to take in the game,” McCaw told the San Jose Mercury News. What’s most amazing about the assignment, is that McCaw made the decision executively. He’s been as conscious of his struggles as anyone, and it’s a sign of how mentally prepared he already is for this league.
But I wouldn’t expect any bench bolstering trade at the deadline. This team wasn’t built to show up to every regular season game, they’re expecting a fourth straight Finals trip. When rotations start to shrink and concern over the rookies producing and one year vets being engaged isn’t going to determine the championship. Ultimately the egalitarian style of play that the Warriors have set expectations that everyone can eat, but when it matters, it won’t really matter.