Technically, the Warriors technically beat the Nuggets 118-116 Wednesday night in Chase Center’s first taste of the 2021-22 NBA season.
What is important though, is how everyone surrounding those guys looked. And that’s where the excitement starts to build.
Anyone following this team for any part of the last decade knows the glaring weakness has always been scoring in non-Curry minutes. It’s no secret.
Even when Golden State was racking up championships, whenever Curry went to the bench, scoring became a struggle. And every year that followed, the party line would be how much the bench had improved, and this was finally the year they could sustain leads when their star took a rest.
And every year, the Warriors were forced to sweat out games when Curry would leave the court.
So this should be taken with an extremely large grain of salt, considering it is just game two of the preseason. But, it looks like Golden State may finally have a bench that not only doesn’t get taken advantage of, but actually can be counted on as a strength. Again, it’s earlier than early and full of unknowns, but the signs are there.
Jordan Poole has led the team in scoring both preseason games, averaging 23.5 points and has looked like a completely different player than his wayward rookie season.
Poole has always shown flashes of shooting and playmaking, but he’s been consistent with both so far. Steve Kerr has mirrored Poole’s confidence in himself as he’s deployed him not only as the starting shooting guard, but also as the team’s backup point guard, something Kerr has been reluctant to do in the past.
Poole also leads the team in shot attempts, and even when his 3-point stroke is off like it was Wednesday, he attacks the rim and converts at a much higher clip than he has before. He’s currently shooting 8-of-12 on non-3’s.
And yes, the plan as of now is to start him at the two while Klay Thompson continues to recover from his Achilles tear, but when Thompson returns and Poole shifts to the bench, that’ll be a heavy infusion of offensive fire power to that unit.
Even with Poole in the starting lineup though, the Warriors bench is full of depth.
Golden State may not have used their taxpayer midlevel exception, but it looks like they still managed a big free agent signing with Otto Porter Jr.
The 6-foot-8 forward looks the best physically he has in years, which is the most important thing since he’s been battling a multitude of injuries the last three years. Foot and back injuries derailed his promising career as one of the best role players in the league.
His $100 million contract with the Wizards looked like the going rate for someone with his skills. But his inability to stay on the court landed him in the Bay on a veteran’s minimum contract.
And just two games into his Warriors tenure, it looks like he’s severely underpaid.
All he’s done is give Golden State one of the best secondary shooters they’ve had. He’s shot 8-of-13 from deep in 37 preseason minutes and has already provided the spacing the Warriors have been craving ever since Kevin Durant left town.
It’s also apparent Porter is super comfortable in Steve Kerr’s offense, something that has been a difficult ask the last few years for Warriors free agent signings.
There was a play toward the end of the first half where Curry came around the arc and Porter immediately set a downscreen to free him for a 3. Now, that sounds like a small thing to the uninformed, but if you watched the Warriors wings last season, it is a gigantic leap in the right direction.
That’s a Warriors staple and you could probably count on one hand the amount of times it was properly executed last year, so seeing Porter instinctively do it in his second game with the team is very encouraging.
And while those two will get top billing, behind them is a ton of supporting rotation players. Nemanja Bjelica has shot 5-of-8 from 3 in two games and gives the Warriors spacing out of their center spot, something they’ve never had before.
There’s also holdovers Damion Lee and Juan Toscano-Anderson, who have earned their spots the last few seasons. They are proven players who can help you win games and they are the current tenth and eleventh players on the depth chart.
Don’t forget the old grey mare Andre Iguodala, who isn’t what he used to be, but knows the system as good as the coaching staff and can still make life miserable for opposing wings with his quick hands.
The Warriors almost have too many good players to find minutes for, and that’s before mentioning rookies Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga, veteran Avery Bradley who looks like he might have claimed the final spot on the roster, or James Wiseman, who is still recovering from his MCL tear.
It’s going to be tough finding minutes for everyone, but that’s a problem the Warriors will gladly take.
The Warriors take on the Lakers Friday at Chase Center and Tuesday at Staples, before returning to San Francisco for a final tuneup against Portland October 15 before the regular season begins Tuesday, October 19 against the Lakers in Los Angeles.