Buying or Selling Warriors' Biggest Concerns Entering December

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBAFeatured Columnist IVDecember 1, 2022

Buying or Selling Warriors' Biggest Concerns Entering December

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    SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 13: Jordan Poole #3 of the Golden State Warriors celebrates a three-point shot with Klay Thompson #11 against the Sacramento Kings in the first quarter at Golden 1 Center on November 13, 2022 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
    Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

    The Golden State Warriors ended the 2021-22 NBA season as champions of the basketball world.

    They've reached the quarter-mark of the 2022-23 campaign as something decidedly less than that.

    They could still elevate to that level at some point, but the early results have been rocky. Despite recently reeling off eight wins in an 11-game stretch, they're still just .500 after their first 22 contests.

    Plenty has gone awry so far, but how many of these struggles should seriously worry the front office? To tackle that question, we're giving the buy-or-sell test to three of the team's top issues so far.

Klay Thompson Isn't the Same

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    SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 25: Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors looks on against the Utah Jazz during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game at Chase Center on November 25, 2022 in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    At certain times this season, Klay Thompson has been completely unrecognizable—and not in a good way.

    He shot just 33 percent from three across his first dozen outings, and even now, his field-goal percentage still sits at a career-worst 40.1 percent. His 17 points per game are the fewest he's averaged since 2012-13, while his 116 defensive rating and minus-2.1 defensive box plus/minus either match or set the worst marks of his career, per Basketball-Reference.

    Having said all of that, though, he's been on an absolute heater lately, and it makes you wonder—or at least hope—that that part of his game is back. Over his past six games, he's put up 20.8 points per night on 50.6/51.8/80 shooting.

    Verdict: Partially buy. His offense is quickly coming around, but his defense probably isn't getting back to his peak.

This Is No Longer a Championship-Level Defense

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 27: Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors reacts to a call on the floor in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center on November 27, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Warriors defeated the Timberwolves 137-114. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
    David Berding/Getty Images

    Last season, only the Boston Celtics—Golden State's Finals foe—had a stingier defense than the Dubs, per NBA.com. This season, though, a whopping 20 teams top them in the category.

    What's gone wrong? Well, a lot of things, but their attention to detail in pick-and-roll coverage and energy in defending transition attacks might top the list. Of course, the personnel changes are a factor, too, since the summer departures of sturdy stoppers like Otto Porter Jr. and Gary Payton II opened voids that are now being largely filled by inexperienced, less reliable young players.

    Point-of-attack defense could be a challenge, particularly if Thompson can't find a way to get any closer to his old form. Still, there are lineups that can overwhelm opposing offenses, like those featuring all three of Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney.

    Verdict: Partially buy. There aren't enough perimeter stoppers, but the frontcourt remains tremendous on that end, so it could balance out.

The Bench Is Too Inexperienced to Help

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    SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 14: Jonathan Kuminga #00 talks to Jordan Poole #3 of the Golden State Warriors during the game against the Washington Wizards on March 14, 2022 at Chase Center in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

    Most Warriors' losses this season have followed a similar script. The starting lineup fares just fine, but the bench comes in and immediately drops the ball. The pattern has repeated itself often enough to know this is a major concern for the club.

    Golden State's starters have a plus-22.9 net rating across 258 minutes, per NBA.com. That's juggernaut-level domination. What keeps this team from reaching juggernaut status, though, is that the reserve unit has been the league's least efficient, posting a minus-5.7 net rating over 395 minutes.

    Coach Steve Kerr has already started attacking this issue. James Wiseman was dropped from the rotation, Moses Moody has been benched, JaMychal Green has been passed over at times and, more imporantly, Draymond Green has started getting run with that unit, which not only strengthens the defense but also ensures that the ball keeps moving at the other end.

    Verdict: Slight sell. There have been more growing pains than Golden State would like, but the Warriors are finding a few reliable reserves and have the resources to trade for more if needed.

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