Six games into the Warriors’ 2016-17 season has been a literal grab bag of results.
Two big wins against the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder. Two close wins against pretty bad teams in the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans.
And a pair of embarrassing losses to the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs.
And while much has been made about their rim protection or lack thereof, the dirty little secret about the Warriors is that their bench may be their biggest weakness.
During the preseason, Warriors reserves looked to be much improved from last season with the additions of David West and Patrick McCaw, and with Ian Clark looking ready for an expanded role.
But it’s been the complete opposite so far in the early going.
On a bench that boasts both Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, their leading scorer is Clark, at a feeble 6.7 points per game.
McCaw, who many expected to play a major role after his breakout preseason, only appeared in limited minutes before injuring his ankle. His return after a four-game absence appears imminent, which could lend a boost to a bench that sorely needs it.
The Warriors’ bench is averaging just 28 points per game, which according to hoopstats, ranks them in the bottom seven of the league. And that includes the 54-point outburst in the Portland game.
Obviously adding a star like Kevin Durant is going to cut into the bench’s stats, since there were more shots and points to go around last year playing with Harrison Barnes.
Durant is averaging a team-leading 30 points per game, and his shots haven’t come at the expense of Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson — but from the reserves.
When your top three scorers are averaging close to 70 points per game, combined with your bench’s output of 28, it may not seem like there’s much of a concern.
But the problem lies when one of those big three struggles, like Thompson has done these first six games.
The Warriors bench has the difficult job of maintaining their offensive output with less shots to go around in less time on the court.
It’s an adjustment for everyone, even veteran holdovers like Livingston and Iguodala. It’s going to take time to work this out, and that’s a luxury the Warriors have.
They have time to figure out their rotations and playing time.
McCaw returning to the court will help. As will the continued emergence of Kevon Looney who is slowly proving to be the Warriors’ best big off the bench, putting up impressive per 36-minute averages of 15.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists.
But until the Warriors figure out their set rotation, their game results are going to be as erratic as the lineups they use.