Warriors Players Who Have to Elevate Their Game in 2023
Things are far from golden for the defending NBA champions.
Following Tuesday's 38-point loss to the New York Knicks, the Golden State Warriors lost 143-113 in Wednesday's showdown with the Brooklyn Nets. The Warriors have now lost seven of their last nine games. That downturn, by the way, preceded Stephen Curry's shoulder injury, so it's not like these struggles can be pinned solely on his absence.
This team has issues. Injuries are part of that, but simple two-way execution is, too. The Dubs don't have a top-10 offense (13th in efficiency) or a top-20 defense (21st), per NBA.com. Their bench might be the worst in the business; their league-worst minus-5.2 net rating suggests that the "might" qualifier isn't necessary.
It's been a brutal start in the Bay Area, but if the following three players can get on track during the new year, things could still turn around.
While Jordan Poole didn't win last season's Most Improved Player award—somehow he wasn't even named a finalist—he felt like the people's champion for that honor. His ascension was so rapid and significant that it seemed as if Golden State's next star had risen.
He's pumping in a career-high 19.1 points per game this time around, yet it doesn't feel like his trajectory is an arrow pointing straight up anymore.
His shooting rates have declined at each level of his 43.0/31.8/87.0. His assists are up (4.0 to 4.4), but so are his turnovers (2.5 to 3.3). His defense remains an eyesore.
He can still go on bucket binges, but his scoring isn't consistent, and his contributions aren't providing the same lift. Last season, his plus-0.9 Overall RAPTOR ranked him tied for 105th among 250 qualified players, per FiveThirtyEight. However, this season's minus-4.6 mark puts him tied for 241st out of 250.
You want to give Klay Thompson the benefit of the doubt based on both his track record and all of the work he's put in to come back from a pair of devastating injuries.
Unfortunately, you can't extend the benefit of the doubt when discussing teams with championship dreams. There is no margin for error at the mountaintop, so rather than subjectively rooting for Thompson, you must objectively note that Golden State needs more out of him.
Every once in a while, the 32-year-old enters human-torch mode and roasts opposing defenses. He has twice pumped in 34-plus points this season and shot better than 53 percent in those contests. Those outbursts aren't coming often enough, though. He's had nine games with 20-plus points and another seven in which he scored 12 or fewer.
His 37.8 three-point percentage is the worst of his career; the same goes for his 39.9 field-goal percentage. He's never had a lower offensive rating (101) or higher defensive rating (116), per Basketball-Reference. This championship hill gets a lot harder to climb if he's no longer a star.
It was tempting to eschew any analysis here and just drop in a shrug emoji instead.
At this point, it's hard to tell what needs to happen to get James Wiseman going—or if that's even possible in Golden State. It would behoove the Dubs to develop him, but they get burned any time they try. He has played 15 NBA games this season and posted a negative plus/minus in all but two of them.
His play style just seems a particularly poor fit with how the Warriors like to operate. His decision-making is neither quick nor consistent enough for this to work.
A change of scenery seems ideal for everyone involved, but Wiseman needs to pick things up just to make that happen. It's possible that rebuilders could still have interest in him given his physical tools and pedigree (No. 2 pick in 2020), but he has to show a lot more to elicit anything better than the lowest of the buy-low offers.