Golden State Warriors need their frontcourt to pick up the slack

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There’s no vindication in the Golden State Warriors’ 10-9 start to the 2020-21 NBA season. With that said, head coach Steve Kerr needs his frontcourt to pick up the slack.

On Thursday night the Warriors logged their ninth loss of the season, losing 114-93 to the Phoenix Suns. Why is this so noteworthy? Phoenix was playing without its star player, Devin Booker. The Warriors playing on a back-to-back isn’t an excuse because the Suns were doing the same.

The box score from this contest is alarming. The Warriors had three players in double figures: Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins, and Eric Paschall. In contrast, the Suns had seven players in double figures and operated similarly to the Warriors from a rotation standpoint with a prominent point guard running the show (Chris Paul).

Even in the contests they’ve won, this offensive display has been a theme for the Warriors all season: they’re a two-man show.

Curry is doing his stellar thing offensively, averaging 27.7 points per game, while Andrew Wiggins contributes 17.7 points per game while shooting a career-best 40.0 percent from beyond the arc.

Then there’s the field.

Kelly Oubre Jr., who the organization surrendered a first and second-round draft pick to acquire, is shooting 22.1 percent from beyond the arc. While he has shown some promise, James Wiseman has been a bit underwhelming from a production standpoint and was recently moved to the bench; you can’t expect a rookie to be a profound player from the jump, anyway.

Draymond Green is averaging 4.9 points per game. That is not a joke. It’s a fact. Now, Green’s game has never been based on being an isolation or go-to scorer, rather being a facilitator and occasionally stretching the floor. At the same time, he needs to make more of an impact in the scoring department. It can come from him roaming the baseline, sticking jump shots from distance, or forcing the issue at the rim. He has to do more.

Outside of Paschall, Golden State’s bench has provided a minimal lift for the starting five. It’s occasional scoring jolts and a couple efficient shooters who aren’t chiming in much more than a mere three pointer and a couple free throws per contest.

The Warriors went into Friday 15th in the NBA in points per game (112.1), 20th in three-point shooting percentage (35.3 percent), and 22nd in field goal percentage (44.8 percent). They’re an at best middle-of-the-pack offensive team.

Watching Curry handle the rock is unique this season in that he’s practically hounded every time he touches the basketball. That image derives from teams knowing he’s the Warriors’ lone overwhelming threat. Therein lies the problem: there’s little help to alleviate the attention put on Curry from opposing defenses.

Wiggins has been efficient and seems to be gaining more confidence as the season progresses. Evidently, it’s not enough. Oubre has to be more assertive with the ball in his hands. He’s essentially making one out of every five three point attempts. Maybe he should attack the rack more?

Whether it be Wiseman, Paschall, or Kevon Looney (depending on matching up with the opponent), Golden State needs a reputable inside threat. Wiseman is their best bet, and the early rookie wall he has hit could help him. He can earn his minutes and play with more conviction as a result. Meanwhile, Damion Lee has little to show for his outside efficiency. He needs to step it up.

The good news for the Warriors is they have 53 games remaining in the regular season. They have plenty of time to take off and improve as a collective whole. Plus, a perceived turbulent start yielding a 10-9 record isn’t that bad, and the Warriors have a couple of impressive victories against the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers under their belt.

It’s also not like the Warriors are the only team in the Western Conference that has slumped and/or yawned out of the gate. Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, and the Dallas Mavericks are 8-11. The Portland Trail Blazers are 9-8. The Denver Nuggets have been up and down thus far.

Surely, Curry and Wiggins could do more. Maybe Curry could get others involved a bit more. Perhaps Wiggins could be better defensively. At the end of the day, they’re the only two highly impactful forces in Kerr’s rotation: the Warriors need consistency from others.

Talent wise, the Golden State Warriors are better than they’ve played across the first fourth of the season. But they actually have to play into that esteem to compete in the Western Conference.

The Warriors have a roster playing together for the first time and therefore are an unfinished product. But it’s not like they’re struggling to close out games: they’re struggling to get in or stay in contests they lose which stems from a lack of production with players like Green and Oubre.

The backcourt is playing well. The Warriors need their frontcourt to better complement the backcourt.


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