After just 15 games on an 82 schedule, it’s too early for the Warriors to believe their 71-win pace will ensure a return to the top of the NBA.
Too early for Stephen Curry and Draymond Green to make room for individual trophies, too early for CEO Joe Lacob to start Googling ring designs, too early for the Chase Center experts to plan a parade route.
It’s way too early for team president Bob Myers to start archery.
However, it’s not too early for coach Steve Kerr to fall in love with the roster given to him by Myers and his lieutenants.
“We have a deep, deep team this year,” Kerr confirmed Thursday night in Cleveland after the Warriors returned for a 104-89 win over the Cavaliers. “My hardest job as a coach is sometimes finding the right combination and playing the right guys because they can all play.”
The Warriors aren’t adorned with the shiny objects that Golden State fans debated during the off-season – remember Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, Ben Simmons, and others? What they have is a reasonably good answer to any problem Kerr faces.
Behind the predictable – Curry as an outstanding offensive machine, Green as an outstanding defensive machine – lurk 13 guys with skills that cover the spectrum of requirements for team success.
The Warriors head to Detroit on Friday with a top league 13-2 record, despite two key players, Klay Thompson and James Wiseman, not yet joining the collective. The team keeps rolling because it has men who meet important needs.
Are you looking for someone with a kamikaze spirit? Striker Juan Toscano-Anderson, practically the 12th man, receives the call.
The 6-foot-6 forward was pulled off the bench after getting minutes or no minutes at all in the heat of the action on Thursday in Cleveland in the last three games.
Answer from JTA? Play every minute of a crucial fourth quarter, defend wonderfully, take every shot he made and get five rebounds – three more than the sum for starting strikers Andrew Wiggins and Green. The Warriors overtook the Cavaliers with a 36-8 win in the quarter.
“Juan stayed ready as I knew he would after he finished the rotation and was just fantastic flying over the ground,” said Kerr.
In need of a 6-foot-10 3-point threat that is also capable of putting the ball on the ground and kicking in the paint for a nifty pass or advance to the trophy? There is striker / center Nemanja Bjelica, who is ninth in the team after minutes. His Thursday numbers: 14 points, three assists, three rebounds and three steals in 23 minutes.
Do you need someone who can defend all four positions, who specialize in harassing point guards and also offers the dimension as a praise threat? It’s a lot to be sure, but then Kerr calls in the 15th and final man on the team who signed Gary Payton II, a 6-foot-2 guard, hours before the season opener. GP2 scored six points and got a team-high-binding six rebounds. In 15 minutes.
The 14th and 13th men are young rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. Kuminga is an athletic, energetic wing with physicality. Moody has skills that flash from one side of the statistics sheet to the other.
The eighth man, striker Otto Porter Jr., comes off the bench to grab rebounds in traffic, defend both front positions and break down triples (38.6 percent).
Fifth on the team in minutes played is 6-foot-5 guard Damion Lee, who has a clever defense and calls for attention with his deep shooting (37.5 percent from a distance). He played every 12 minutes of the fourth quarter on Thursday, scoring nine points and taking three rebounds.
Every team wants a subtle Hoops Savant, and Andre Iguodala fills that role just like anyone else in the league. He could miss 15-20 regular season games which is fine for the Warriors as long as he’s ready when the playoffs begin.
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This brings us to the starters.
For someone willing to do the dirty work without a hard hat, there is Kevon Looney who takes on tasks that are necessary but best recognized by his teammates. He is one of the most effective role players in the league.
Who is assigned to defend the most dangerous wing of the enemy? This is Wiggins, who also averages 18.1 points per game and has double-digit points in all 15 games.
There has to be someone other than Curry who can dribble their way into the points. Hmmm. Step inside Jordan Poole, who averages 17.1 points per game while keeping Klay’s seat warm for another few weeks, after which JP will switch to the role of Sixth Man.
From top to bottom, the front office has a roster around Curry and Green, with Thompson and Wiseman, that offers a decent answer to any challenge. It’s not perfect, but no team has fewer weaknesses.
“It’s exciting to be in this situation,” said Kerr. “We have a lot of different talents, guys who do different things. We just have to press the right buttons. “
That raises the bar for the coaching exam. But it’s not irrational for someone who is rightly feeling pretty safe a month after the season has started.