Last season, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said they weren’t chasing wins. Golden State finished eighth in the West, lost a nail-biter on the road to the Lakers in the play-in tournament, got upset by the Grizzlies in overtime in a make-or-break play-in game and missed the playoffs.
“We’re chasing wins,” Kerr said before cracking a wry grin.
The Warriors could catch plenty.
Kerr’s original comment generated controversy, because Golden State looked capable of doing so much more. The coach was responding to a question about why Stephen Curry didn’t get more than 34 minutes per game. Kerr said he didn’t want to run Curry into the ground, a reasonable consideration for a player into his mid-30s but indicative of the Warriors’ organizational arrogance.
That hubris hasn’t dissipated. Golden State has kept James Wiseman (last year’s No. 2 pick), Jonathan Kuminga (this year’s No. 7 pick) and Moses Moody (this year’s No. 14 pick) in a bid to win now and later.
My take: It’s hard enough to win now. The Warriors should prioritize the present. Later can be handled later.
That’s not the right approach for every team. But Golden State isn’t necessarily that far from major achievements.
Curry and Draymond Green flat know how to win. Curry rated second on my MVP ballot, Green third on my Defensive Player of the Year ballot last season. They have great chemistry together.
The Warriors outscored opponents by 6.9 points per 100 possessions when those two shared the court last season.
Of course, many teams thrive when their top players play together. Golden State can’t play Curry and Green all 48 minutes.
But the Warriors also quietly excelled last season when merely excising ill-fitting players from the rotation. Golden State had a +9.9 net rating when playing with neither Wiseman nor Kelly Oubre.
For perspective, the Jazz led the NBA with a +9.0 net rating. The eventual-champion Bucks had a +5.8 net rating.
Wiseman has hopefully developed since his rookie year, ideally toward a style that’d better fit with the Warriors’ veterans. If not, Golden State could deemphasize him. Oubre left for the Hornets.
That doesn’t even factor Klay Thompson, who missed the last two seasons and is on track to return this year. The Warriors also added Otto Porter, Nemanja Bjelica and Andre Iguodala in free agency.
Golden State isn’t even a lock to make the playoffs, let alone advance deep.
But there’s a much better chance when actually chasing wins.