© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
For a preseason game that was missing two out of the four active stars for the Warriors, there was plenty to see at Oracle Arena tonight. The Warriors lost to the Phoenix Suns 117-109, but got a good look at young talent that may prove crucial later in the season.
Kerr didn’t want to be here
OK, maybe that’s a stretch. But that’s what head coach Steve Kerr said on his way off the court after he was ejected tonight. Stephen Curry was called for an illegal screen, to which Kerr, with his typical conviction, questioned the call. He was promptly ejected and Kevin Durant also received a technical foul on the play.
On his way out, Kerr looked to say to the referee, “I don’t want to be here anyway.”
Rest for Draymond, Klay, Iggy and Livingston
Before Kerr exited the game, he made the decision to rest Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. Those four are sure to accrue plenty of mileage this season. It makes plenty of sense for Kerr to get those guys rest, especially Green, who takes a beating every day and has been dealing with knee soreness, as well as Iguodala and Livingston, who are seasoned vets.
Kerr may look to get those guys as much rest as he can during the regular season, as the Warriors march toward the postseason again. He’ll hope for plenty of third-quarter blowouts, as has been a tradition over the past four years.
Cousins actively mentoring young big men on the sidelines
DeMarcus Cousins may be out for a long time. There is no telling when he’ll be back from his torn left Achilles injury, a notoriously devastating injury for big men. Despite the injury and being the most high-profile newcomer to the Warriors, Boogie looks to be making himself right at home.
He has been seen talking to the young trio of big men in Damian Jones, Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell on a near consistent basis. When there’s a missed screen or a failed chance for a rebound, Cousins is ever-present, imbuing his knowledge as a post star.
Damian Jones flashes mammoth potential
When Jones is on his game, it’s a terrifying proposition for opposing teams. He’s got a 7-foot frame with a 7’4″ wingspan. He has the athleticism to go with it that flashes Clint Capela-like potential. To be clear, Jones is nowhere near where Capela is. But neither was Capela three years ago.
Tonight, Jones finished with 11 points, eight rebounds, five assists and a block. He showed relentless energy by recovering a missed shot and drawing a foul. But he also showed inexperience, drawing a foul call on a moving screen and occasionally looking out-of-sync offensively.
Still, if he can continue on his path of steady improvement, he will provide a potent inside presence that could be absolutely devastating for opposing teams to try and manage in addition to the already absurd starting lineup for the Warriors.
Jerebko, Cook will play crucial roles off the bench
Tonight was a prime example of what happens when the Warriors miss two of their stars. Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston all sat tonight and while it’s unlikely they are all out at same time in the regular season, it’s not out of the question.
Last year, every one of the Warriors’ starters dealt with an injury that sidelined them at one point or another. In their now fifth year of trying to make the NBA Finals, attrition is a likelihood. And attrition often means injuries. The Warriors need to be prepared to be handicapped by injuries to their star players at some point during the year.
If those injuries do happen, the bench obviously becomes even more important. Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Quinn Cook, Jonas Jerebko and/or one or two of Damian Jones, Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell are expected to headline that second unit. Cook had 11 points, two assists and one three-pointer tonight, while Jerebko knocked down a pair of threes and added three assists and three rebounds.
Behind them are a questionable shooting Jacob Evans III and… not much else.
That might not seem like a huge problem, but here’s where it is: there’s very little spacing in that lineup unless Jerebko and Cook can hit from deep consistently. It leaves Marcus Derrickson, Alfonzo McKinnie, Kendrick Nunn and Danuel House fighting for a a wing spot that could be vacated by Patrick McCaw if he does not sign with the Warriors, which seems to appear a likely outcome at this point.
The point of this is not to say the Warriors need an outstanding bench. They don’t. But they need a bench that can consistently space the floor, score the ball and defend at least temporarily to give the stars some reprieve. Both Jerebko and Cook will be incredibly important in leading that charge.