It’s a new look for the Warriors’ rotation in 2021. Golden State didn’t make a big change or accomplish anything drastic in free agency, yet Bob Myers has altered the core of this group.
Kelly Oubre is on the Hornets. Kent Bazemore is in Los Angeles. Otto Porter and Nemanja Bjelica came up with bargains. Andre Iguodala is back, and instead of changing their lottery picks, they selected Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga.
Rotation of Warriors 2021
Most important, of course, is the status of Klay Thompson. Without competitive basketball in two seasons, Thompson isn’t expected to return until a couple of months into the season, but his recovery is what will define the Warriors’ roof. Until then, though, Steve Kerr has a lot of issues to consider with the Warriors’ 2021 rotation.
Andrew Wiggins has thankfully been vaccinated, solving a potential problem. Three starters – Wiggins, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry – are locked up. Many question marks loom around the club beyond that trio.
The Wiseman experience
James Wiseman started last season in the starting lineup. It didn’t go well. Golden State had a net rating of -9.3 in minutes with Curry and Wiseman on the court. They were +8.8 with Curry and without Wiseman, which was a big reason behind his late season raise.
Selected second overall in 2020, there has to be a role for Wiseman. The Warriors need to develop it, but where that was a priority last season, things are different in the later stages of 2021. Winning is the focus. Giving Wiseman big minutes doesn’t necessarily line up with that.
While Kerr has a penchant for bench heavy units, executing Kuminga, Moody, and Wiseman together during parts of the game seems reckless. They need to mix their youngsters, but how does it work? Wiseman and Green together have also proven to be a poor fit.
Kevon Looney is the obvious choice to start all five. Kerr then has numerous late-game alternatives, but it’s hard to see where Wiseman fits in right now unless he can make a substantial leap as a tire and roller protector.
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How much smallball?
Golden State’s goal has always been green in the center. It was also an effective ploy last season. The Warriors were +7.4 in 879 minutes with Green on the floor without Looney or Wiseman. Sure enough, a non-shooter at this stage, playing Green as a nominal five makes the most sense for Golden State at the decisive moment.
Very few teams can get away with two non-shooters on the court. This is where Porter and Bjelica’s trucks were huge. Bjelica and Green in the frontcourt should be a perfect match. The same goes for Porter, which provides interchangeability and drop shots.
Given Green and Wiseman’s ugly minute returns (-9.4 net in 482 minutes), Kerr will likely lean on Green and Looney when he has two big lineups. Green and Looney had a net rating of more than +13.5 in 621 minutes together last season.
However, the use of Bjelica will be interesting. If the former King can defend at an acceptable level, he opens a lot from a literal and strategic point of view.
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Jordan Poole caught fire late last season. He became an integral member of the Warriors rotation in 2021 and could start alongside Curry on the backcourt. For a woefully short list on shot creation, Poole’s production is crucial, particularly on non-Curry minutes.
He was off down the stretch, led by a 38-point gem in a Game 71 win over New Orleans. While little can be read about preseason accomplishments, Poole depleting 3-pointers in Curry-esque range play can only be good news for an offense in need of firepower alongside his two-time MVP.
Poole will average considerably more than 19.4 minutes per game last season. Whether starting or assuming the role of Sixth Man, the former first-round pick is one of the NBA’s biggest x-factors in 2021-22.
Kerr has an important role to play in Poole’s development this season. It’s not just about whether he is a starter, but about the lineups he surrounds him with. Keep an eye out for Poole’s minutes from day one.