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The Warriors’ starting five is becoming a real issue

Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to find a better basketball IQ in the NBA than Draymond Green’s, whose return this season corresponded with the Warriors going on a run that has put them in the (very early) thick of the West. He excels by being a big body who knows where to be and where the ball should go, constantly making the extra pass and enforcing spacing that would make Dr. Fauci proud.

He knows what he’s seeing, and he generally can identify the problems that need fixing. Finding the fix, though, is more difficult.

“If I had an answer, I would give it to our squad,” Green said after the Warriors’ first unit was destroyed, again, in a 127-108 loss in Utah on Saturday night. “I don’t know. Gotta figure it out.”

Two minutes and six seconds into play, the Warriors had buried themselves in a 14-0 hole. By 7:47 of the first, the deficit had ballooned to 19-2. Golden State’s second unit fought just to make it a game in the second quarter, but the hot-shooting Jazz swelled the lead to 30 at the half. It was over before it nearly started, which is an especially large problem when the Warriors’ allegedly best players are the culprits.

Kelly Oubre Jr. was a game-worst minus-29 in 24 minutes, connecting for just five points on 2-of-8 shooting. The 25-year-old came over this offseason upon Klay Thompson going down, and the fact he’s attempting to fill the sneakers of one of the greatest shooters ever only exacerbates the problem.

His 0-for-2 night from deep makes him 17-of-84 (20 percent) from beyond the arc. To either his credit or blame, he keeps launching, as shooters do, and the luck is not changing.

As a whole, the Warriors starters — Stephen Curry, Oubre, Andrew Wiggins, Green and James Wiseman — are minus-59 together. They have been a better team when Kevon Looney replaces Wiseman. It’s possible they are a better team if Damion Lee would replace Oubre.

“Sometimes we move the ball, sometimes we don’t,” Green said over Zoom. “Sometimes we defend, sometimes we don’t.”

A large part of the problem is Curry, who now stands alone in second place in all-time 3-pointers made, is not seeing the ball enough. According to ESPN, Curry’s usage rate with the starting five is 22 percent; barely more than an average player. Of course, his excellence means opponents slack off guys like Oubre and Andrew Wiggins, but the Warriors want and need Curry to be more involved than that.

Is it a problem of Curry not attacking enough? Or a problem that Steve Kerr must address in tweaking that five? The coach said he would “leave that for” the media and fans to assess, but it will be interesting to see if he is forced to address it by Monday, when the Warriors host the Timberwolves.

“There’s no doubt that we have to assess everything as a staff and as an organization — how we’re looking at this season, what our goals are,” Kerr said after another game in which Mychal Mulder, who has shot well all year, curiously was replaced by Jordan Poole. “Everything is up for adjustments.”

Golden State entered play knowing the Jazz were the best shooting team in the league. And yet, the starting five watched helplessly as Utah knocked in 6 of its first 8 3s in building a lead that wouldn’t be touched.

Adjustments are going to have to be made with that unit on both ends, Curry saying they need to be “a little bit smarter.”

Maybe that means Curry shooting the ball more. Maybe that means his getting a different wing to play with.

“I don’t have the answers right now,” Curry said, speaking for more than just himself.


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