Kerr falling in love with Warriors’ deep and talented roster originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
A mere 15 games into an 82-game schedule, it’s too early for the Warriors to presume their 71-win pace assures a ride back to the top of the NBA.
Too early for Stephen Curry and Draymond Green to start clearing space for individual trophies, too early for CEO Joe Lacob to start Googling ring designs, too early for the experts at Chase Center to map out a parade route.
It’s much too early for team president Bob Myers to start practicing his bows.
It’s not too early, however, 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 acknowledged Thursday night in Cleveland after the Warriors came back for a 104-89 win over the Cavaliers. “Sometimes my toughest job as a coach is to try and find the right combination and play the right guys, because they can all play.”
The Warriors are not stocked with the shiny objects Golden State fans debated throughout the offseason — remember Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, Ben Simmons, et al? What they have is a reasonably good answer for every problem Kerr will face.
Behind the predictable — Curry as a supreme offensive machine, Green as a supreme defensive machine — lurks 13 guys with skills that span the spectrum of requirements for team success.
The Warriors go into Detroit on Friday with a league-best 13-2 record even though two key players, Klay Thompson and James Wiseman, have yet to join the collective. The team rolls on because it has men who fill crucial needs.
Looking for someone with a kamikaze spirit? Forward Juan Toscano-Anderson, effectively the 12th man, gets the call.
After getting garbage-time minutes or none at all over the previous three games, the 6-foot-6 forward was plucked from the bench in the heat of the moment Thursday in Cleveland.
JTA’s response? Play every minute of a pivotal fourth quarter, defend wonderfully, make every shot he took and grab five rebounds — three more than the combined total for starting forwards Andrew Wiggins and Green. The Warriors overtook the Cavaliers with a 36-8 victory in the quarter.
“Juan stayed ready, as I knew he would after being out of the rotation, and was just fantastic, flying around the floor,” Kerr said.
Need a 6-foot-10 3-point threat also capable of putting the ball on the floor and treading into the paint for a nifty pass or a foray to the cup? There’s forward/center Nemanja Bjelica, who is ninth on the team in minutes played. His Thursday numbers: 14 points, three assists, three rebounds and three steals in 23 minutes.
Need someone who can defend all four positions, specializes in harassing point guards and also offers the dimension as a lob threat? It’s a lot, to be sure, but that’s when Kerr summons the team’s 15th and final man, signed hours before the season opener, Gary Payton II, a 6-foot-2 guard. GP2 scored six points and grabbed a team-high-tying six rebounds. In 15 minutes.
The 14th and 13th men are teenage rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. Kuminga is an athletic, energetic wing with physicality. Moody offers skills that flash from one side of the stat sheet to the other.
The eighth man, forward Otto Porter Jr., comes off the bench to grab rebounds in traffic, defend both forward positions and drain triples (38.6 percent).
Fifth on the team in minutes played is 6-foot-5 guard Damion Lee, who brings smart defense and demands attention with his deep shooting (37.5 percent from distance). He played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter Thursday, scoring nine points and grabbing three rebounds.
Every team wants an understated hoops savant, and Andre Iguodala fills that role as well as anyone in the league. He might miss 15-20 regular-season games, which is fine by 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’s Kevon Looney, who tackles tasks that are necessary but are best recognized by his teammates. He is one of the most effective role players in the league.
Who gets the job of defending the opponent’s most dangerous wing? That’s Wiggins, who also averages 18.1 points per game and has scored in double figures in all 15 games.
There has to be someone other than Curry who can dribble his way into points. Hmmm. Enter Jordan Poole, averaging 17.1 points per game while keeping Klay’s spot warm for another few weeks, after which JP will move into a Sixth Man role.
Top to bottom, the front office has constructed a roster around Curry and Green, with Thompson and Wiseman still to come, that offers a decent response to every challenge. It’s not perfect, but no team has fewer weaknesses.
“It’s exciting to be in this situation,” Kerr said. “We’ve got a lot of different talents, guys who do different things. We just have to push the right buttons.”
That’s setting the bar high for coaching scrutiny. But it’s not irrational for one who justifiably feels pretty confident one month into the season.