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Wanamaker's struggles painful for Warriors' second unit

NBC Sports

It took about a month for Kelly Oubre Jr. to resemble the very good player the Warriors and the rest of the NBA saw last season. The wait is over.

It’s going to take two or three years for James Wiseman to be the player the Warriors visualize, and maybe a couple more to reach his full potential. The wait is expected.

Two months and 34 games into the season, Brad Wanamaker has yet to look like the player he was with the Boston Celtics over the last two seasons.

How long are the Warriors willing to wait for him to become the reliable backup point guard they’d like to have behind Steph Curry?

As of Feb. 27, indefinitely.

“Brad has been very good defensively for us,” coach Steve Kerr said Friday night, after a 130-121 victory over the Charlotte Hornets at Chase Center. “I know people are locked in on his shooting, but the fact is Brad has been an excellent defender for us this year. He’s a big reason why our defense has gotten a lot better over the course of the season. He’s strong, can guard multiple spots.

“He just has to get more comfortable offensively. He’s a much better shooter than he has shown.”

Wanamaker’s numbers as a Warrior look nothing like his numbers with the Celtics. In 107 games with Boston, he shot 45.4 percent overall, 37.6 from distance and 91.5 from the line. In 34 games with the Warriors, he’s shooting 35.7 percent overall, 23.1 from deep and 88.2 from the line.

 

It’s fair to say Wanamaker’s struggles are related to playing in a different offensive system, with new teammates and shifting lineups. All of these factors can lead to hesitancy, which is death on a shooting stroke.

“It’s not an easy situation for him,” Kerr said. “I barely play him with Steph and Draymond (Green), so he’s got a burden on his shoulders to carry that second unit and lead them. It’s been an inconsistent unit and lineup that I’ve thrown out there. We’ve just got to find some comfort level with that group.”

Meanwhile, Brad’s offense is having a detrimental effect on the second unit. It inherited an eight-point lead to open the second quarter on Friday, and that lead disappeared in less than four minutes. Draymond and Curry returned midway through the quarter and quickly put the Warriors back on top, pushing the lead to 15 at the half.

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It’s not a nightly problem, but Wanamaker and the oft-tweaked second unit relinquish leads far more often than is comfortable for a team with postseason aspirations.

“We’ve just got to be better,” Kerr conceded.

To that end, Kerr continues to tinker. The second unit on Friday opened with Damion Lee and Wanamaker in the backcourt, Andrew Wiggins and Eric Paschall at forward, with James Wiseman at center. It was their second consecutive game opening a second quarter.

While they were going 1-of-5 from the field, with four turnovers – two of which were by Wanamaker – the Hornets were going 5-of-8 with one turnover. It was the worst kind of failure, bad on defense, worse on offense.

“If we’re going to stick with this group playing together, they’ve got to find their offensive rhythm,” Kerr said. “But more than anything, they’ve got to get stops. That’s what keeps momentum in the game, stringing together stops.”

That’s the hope. And, according to Draymond, there is confidence it will come together.

“They’ll get more accustomed to each other, and they’ll be better,” he said of the second unit. “We’ve got faith in that group, that they’ll be fine.”

There is no indication that Warriors are ready to make a substantive change, such as calling up Jordan Poole, who is playing well with the G League Santa Cruz Warriors.

Not yet, at least.

The wait continues. 

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