Buying or Selling Warriors' Biggest Concerns Entering December
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
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
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
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.