It’s a new look Warriors rotation in 2021. Golden State didn’t make a big trade or pull off anything drastic in free agency, yet Bob Myers has altered the core of this group.
Kelly Oubre is on the Hornets. Kent Bazemore is in Los Angeles. Otto Porter and Nemanja Bjelica arrived on bargain deals. Andre Iguodala is back, and instead of flipping their lottery picks, they drafted Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga.
Warriors rotation 2021
Most importantly, of course, is Klay Thompson’s status. With no competitive basketball in two seasons, Thompson isn’t expected to return until a couple of months into the season, but his recovery is what will define the Warriors’ ceiling. Until then, though, Steve Kerr has plenty of issues to consider with the Warriors rotation in 2021.
Andrew Wiggins has thankfully had the vaccine, solving one potential issue. Three starters – Wiggins, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry – are locked in. A lot of question marks hover around the club beyond that trio.
The Wiseman Experience
James Wiseman began last season in the starting line-up. It did not go well. Golden State had a -9.3 net rating in minutes with Curry and Wiseman on the floor. They were +8.8 with Curry and no Wiseman, which was a big reason behind their late-campaign surge.
Drafted second overall in 2020, there has to be a role for Wiseman. The Warriors need to develop him, but where that was a priority last season, things are different in the latter stages of 2021. Winning is the focus. Giving Wiseman big minutes does not necessarily align with that.
While Kerr has a penchant for bench-heavy units, running Kuminga, Moody and Wiseman together for chunks of the game seems reckless. They need to mix in their youngsters, but how does that work? Wiseman and Green together has also proven to be a poor fit.
Kevon Looney is the obvious option to start the five. Kerr then has numerous alternatives late in games, but it’s difficult to see where Wiseman fits right now unless he can make a substantial leap as a rim protector and roller.
How much smallball?
The go-to for Golden State has always been Green at center. It was an effective ploy last season, too. The Warriors were +7.4 in 879 minutes with Green on the floor without Looney or Wiseman. Effectively a non-shooter at this stage, playing Green as a nominal five makes the most sense for Golden State in crunch time.
Very few teams can get away with having two non-shooters on the floor. This is where the Porter and Bjelica pick ups were huge. Bjelica and Green in the frontcourt should be a great fit. The same goes for Porter, who provides switchability and knockdown shooting.
Given the ugly returns of Green and Wiseman minutes (-9.4 net in 482 minutes), Kerr will likely lean into Green and Looney when he’s running two-big lineups. Green and Looney had a net rating of over +13.5 in 621 minutes together last season.
The utilization of Bjelica will be interesting, though. If the former King can defend at a passable level, he opens up so much from a literal and strategic standpoint.
Jordan Poole caught fire late last season. He’s become an integral member of the Warriors rotation in 2021, and could start alongside Curry in the backcourt. For a roster woefully short on shot creation, Poole’s production is crucial, particularly in non-Curry minutes.
He was lights out down the stretch, headlined by a 38-point gem in the Game 71 win over New Orleans. While little can be read into preseason accomplishments, Poole draining in-game threes from Curry-esque range can only be good news for an offense which needs firepower alongside its two-time MVP.
Poole will average considerably more than the 19.4 minutes per game of last season. Whether starting or taking on the Sixth Man role, the former first-round pick is one of the biggest x-factors in the NBA in 2021-22.
Kerr has a big role to play in Poole’s development this season. It’s not only a question of if he starts, but it’s about the lineups he surrounds him with. Keep an eye Poole’s minutes from day one.