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The Warriors Are At A Crossroads Because Steve Kerr Doesn’t Actually Like Small Ball

The NBA trade deadline was yesterday, and with 16 trades and 46 players trading teams, it was the busiest day in 35 years.

One team that was NOT active was the Golden State Warriors, which came as a bit of a shock for two reasons. The first is that Kelly Oubre is on an expiring and it would seem unlikely to remain a Warrior long term, especially considering the team’s problems with the luxury tax (they moved out two bench players yesterday purely for financial reasons). 

The second reason is more global. 

The Warriors find themselves in a conundrum. They have two generations of players on the roster which puts them in between a rebirth from the glory days of the Warriors dynasty with Steph, Draymond, and Klay still on the team and a rebuild with Jordan Poole, Nico Mannion, and of course, #2 overall pick and big man James Wiseman. Their Big 3 (who along with Kent Bazemore are the only players on the roster over 30) represent the ties to the past. The rest of the team? The future.  

If Steve Kerr had his way, this team would call this season a wash. No Klay, a condensed season due to the pandemic, thinking about Curry’s health for the long term. Take this lost year, get a high draft pick and allow Wiseman and Poole the reps to develop.  

Wiseman has all of the attributes Steve Kerr wants in a succession plan and big man for the future.. A physically gifted specimen, he’s a 7 footer with an awe-inspiring 7-foot-6 wingspan, 9-foot-6 standing reach and a max vertical over 12 feet. He drew comparisons to Giannis.

The problem is, he’s not only VERY VERY raw (he only played 69 minutes of college ball at Memphis before getting royally screwed by Mark Emmert and the NCAA) but he’s also a player that does not easily fit into Golden State’s complicated offensive scheme. In Kerr’s mind, throwing Wiseman into the deep end of the pool without the expectations of a playoff run will allow him to develop, season and fit into what the offense will look like once Klay gets back and they can make a real push. 

And it’s become clear that Wiseman was a Steve Kerr pick, because despite what you think you know about Kerr, he’s a traditionalist in the mold of his mentor Greg Popovich. Like Pop, Kerr HATES small ball (even though he is well known for the death lineup). Just like San Antonio, Kerr is always afraid of being outrebounded and having defensive matchup problems. So he only likes small ball in small doses, and will ALWAYS prefer to have a big man in the David Robinson and Tim Duncan mold who can pass and score. 

That’s what he sees in Wiseman, and it may spell trouble for the Warriors moving forward. Because the Wiseman-Curry experiment is not working, even when he forces it. And make no bones about it -- Kerr declaring (without prompt) that Wiseman is the starting center for the remainder of the year is him forcing Wiseman down everyone’s throats, including management.

And according to a recent report in the Athletic, management, and ownership seems to have a slight problem with this. 

The numbers show the problem clearly. When Wiseman and Curry are on the floor together, the Warriors have an offensive rating of 102.9. That number jumps to a whopping 117 when Curry is on the floor with ANYONE else. 

This organization needs to figure out where it’s going, what it’s vision is, and how to get on the same page. Because until Kerr changes his mindset and faces reality about what the modern NBA actually looks like, they’re going to CONSTANTLY run into these issues. Curry and Klay want one thing, and Kerr wants another. 

The Wiseman-Curry experiment is not working, even when Steve Kerr forces it on the court. Funny stat. When Curry and Wiseman are on the floor together, the Warriors have an offensive rating of 102.9. That number jumps to a whopping 117 when Curry is on the floor with ANYONE else. This organization needs to figure out where it’s going, what it’s vision is, and how to get on the same page. 

Brad Botkin recently wrote that if the Warriors want to maximize Curry’s remaining years, they only have two resources to trade for winning pieces: Wiseman and/or the Wolves first round draft pick. So the question is a pressing one: are they rebuilding, on a pause, or making a playoff push? It appears the answer to that question will vary widely depending on who you ask. 

We talk about this on today’s episode of THIS LEAGUE along with the surprising trade deadline moves that Boston, Philly and Miami made and how that helps their title hopes. If you want to watch, instead of listen YT link is below as well.