This was the year of “win now and win later,” the season the defending champion Golden State Warriors were going to lean into their young players to take on bigger roles while keeping the core six that won a ring last season in their roles.
Sunday night, the Warriors dropped to 0-7 on the road to start the season, 5-8 overall, with a loss to Sacramento in a game they could not stop Domantas Sabonis. For the Warriors, Jonathan Kuminga played 14 unimpressive minutes off the bench, while James Wiseman and Moses Moody remained out of the rotation entirely. Even Jordan Poole, who was rewarded with a new $140 million contract before the season, has seen his efficiency and scoring slip (33% from beyond the arc, for example).
Kerr realizes the Warriors are in a tough spot, as he told Anthony Slater of The Athletic.
“The hard part for Moses and JK and Wise is they’re young guys who need to learn by making mistakes to figure out what they can and can’t do,” Kerr said. “But we’re not a team that can afford to let guys make mistakes. It’s unfair to them, but it’s the reality of what we’re facing. The way we’re playing, we’re not good enough to withstand a lot of mistakes.”
Make no mistake, the Warriors’ early troubles are not all on their youth, Klay Thompson has not found his form yet (especially defensively), Poole is slumping, there have been injuries. But the youth movement is not picking up the slack. The Warriors’ offense has been middle of the pack — and carried by an MVP-level start to the season from Stephen Curry — but it’s the defensive end that is killing the team is 27th in the NBA this season (24th if you filter out garbage time as Cleaning the Glass does, but still). When the Warriors are at their best the defense sets the tone (it was No.1 in the league last season).
It still feels too early to worry about the Warriors (unlike some other underperforming teams). Four rings in eight years earns you the benefit of the doubt. Thompson is off to a slower-than-hoped-for start, but he is putting in the work and should find his stroke. Poole will as find his as well. Donte DiVincenzo is finally healthy and will get into a rhythm with this team. Curry is Curry and the only concern is just wearing him down (which is not easy to do). This is a team that wasn’t the favorite at the start of last year’s playoffs (that was the 64-win Suns) but pulled it together when it mattered. They could do it again.
But they need more out of their young talents, and the fact they are not getting it is a concern.