Eight observations as Warriors' tough season enters All-Star break

Eight observations as Warriors' tough season enters All-Star break

While rookie forward Eric Paschall will spend a few days in Chicago this weekend, where he will participate in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, the rest of the Warriors are free to do as they please until they reassemble next Tuesday at Chase Center.

The coaches are ready for a few days away from the game, and many of the players, having played more minutes than ever before, need time to refresh before the final eight weeks of the season.

It has been 16 weeks since Opening Night, with the Warriors losing 43 of 55 games. It often has been hard to watch.

Here are eight things we learned as the Dubs head into the All-Star break.

Summer Plan worked like a charm

After losing Kevin Durant to free agency, Klay Thompson to injury, trading Andre Iguodala and seeing Shaun Livingston retire, the Warriors only knew that their ruling days were over. They also knew they were light on future draft picks.

So, they formulated a plan with built-in escapes. 1). Add D'Angelo Russell, an All-Star who could rack up impressive numbers on an average roster, raising his trade value. 2). Sell the culture to high-character free agents, sign them to short-term deals and wait for the trade offers.

Once it was learned Steph Curry would miss most of the season with a broken hand suffered in the fourth game of the season, there was a three-month window for the new vets to inflate their stats before the activating the escape plan. The Warriors were able to flip Alec Burks, Glenn Robinson III, Willie Cauley-Stein and Russell for a first-round draft pick and five second-round picks – all in the next three drafts.

This season is an eyesore, but the future is much more promising than it was a month ago.

They found a keeper

There will be fits of immaturity. There will be alertness gaps, when he blows a defensive rotation or stands flat-footed, gazing at the flight of the ball rather than blocking out.

But Marquese Chriss is proving well worth the Warriors’ investment, and they are giving the 6-foot-9 big man the latitude and support he needs to find the best of himself.

He’s a legitimate presence in the paint, the lob threat Willie Cauley-Stein was alleged to have been and JaVale McGee once was – while also proving a more effective screener and passer than either.

After joining the Warriors on a non-guaranteed contract, Chriss is a factor right now. With continued coaching and growth -- he’s only 22 -- it’s reasonable to believe he’ll get better.

Environment matters

The Warriors hoped Russell would adapt to their culture, resulting in defensive effort and ball movement. They quickly discovered his best value was as a trade chip.

They sent him to the Minnesota Timberwolves, a franchise long mired in sub-mediocrity, for much-needed draft picks and a player who better fits their needs and, moreover, is likely to put forth the effort required to meet the standard.

Three games in, it’s evident that Andrew Wiggins offers something the Warriors were lacking – an athletic wing capable of getting his own shot – and also will bring energy on defense. If he’s an average defender, with spurts of excellence, it’s enough. If he’s better than that, he’s a steal.

The trade inspires debate, which may continue. But the Warriors made the right move.

Undercover load management

Draymond Green has spent the season as the only credible winner on the active roster. And he knows, as do the Warriors, that there will be no reward in April, much less June.

After five consecutive seasons extended to the max, Draymond is picking his spots, not spilling his usual load of energy. The Warriors have had five back-to-back sets since Curry went down, and only once has he played both games. He has missed 14 games with various minor ailments.

Which, under the circumstances, is as it should be.

He’s 20, and it shows

After the Warriors drafted Jordan Poole in the first round last June, I contacted scouts and coaches and found consensus in two areas. He will score in the NBA. And it might take a while.

That’s exactly how it looks. Poole has had many more cold spells than hot streaks but just enough of the latter to provide encouragement.

At 20 years old, learning the league while carrying 185 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame, he isn’t ready to be consistent. He sometimes looks overmatched, while at other times is as good as anybody on the floor.

A career threatened

The Warriors chose Kevon Looney in the first round in 2015 knowing he faced physical challenges. He played five games as a rookie. Has had surgery on each hip, less than a year apart.

He finally looked fully healthy last season, playing 80 games, performing well enough to earn a three-year contract.

He only has played 15 games this season. He missed the last game before the break with soreness in his left hip. Warriors fans should keep their fingers crossed. The team is.

Not ready for the NBA

There may come a day when Alen Smailagic, the first of two second-round picks last June, develops into an NBA player. That time is not in the foreseeable future.

There is no questioning Smiley’s desire. He hustles. His footwork shows potential. His judgment often leads him astray. He’s 19 and obviously still feeling his way through games. He’s at least a couple years away from contributing in the league.

[RELATED: Why Kerr believes Wiggins puts Warriors' puzzle together]

Ready for the NBA

If the Rookie of the Year award were issued in mid-November, Eric Paschall would have received some first-place votes. He entered the league with a bang.

Paschall has since plateaued, as holes in his game have been exposed. His rebounding is spotty, as is his court vision, resulting in forced shots or tardy passes leading to turnovers. He also has highly effective moments when it is apparent he likely will have a solid 10-year career.

He has something to offer. Right now.

How new NBA draft rules affect Warriors' ability to evaluate prospects

How new NBA draft rules affect Warriors' ability to evaluate prospects

The global coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the world, affecting how businesses function. For the NBA, the COVID-19 virus has the league's season in peril.

In the latest twist, the league is adjusting how team personnel can evaluate NBA draft prospects, and it could have a direct impact on what the Warriors do with one of the top overall picks.

The latest rule changes, reported by The Athletic and ESPN on Monday, will affect teams' preparation for the 2020 NBA Draft, which is scheduled to be held June 25 in Brooklyn, New York. Under the new structure, which adheres to social distancing guidelines, teams will be permitted to spend up to four hours in virtual meetings with a prospect during the pre-draft process. Of that time, teams can only spend two hours per week talking to each prospect.

In-person workouts or requesting that a player workout via live video have been prohibited by the league, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported.

While the rule change hurts most prospects, players like center James Wiseman and guard LaMelo Ball are greatly hindered by the development.

And the Warriors' ability to properly evaluate Wiseman and Ball is equally affected.

In just 12 games in his lone season in Australia's NBL, Ball averaged 17.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 6.8 assists before a foot injury cut his season short. Despite averaging double digits, he shot just 37 percent from the field against inferior competition. Ball hasn't played in a game since late November.

Meanwhile, Wiseman averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds in just three college appearances before withdrawing from Memphis amid recruiting violations. His last game was on Nov. 12.

There just isn't a lot of recent video of either player for teams to evaluate.

Each player will be subjected to digital video chats featuring general managers, coaches and front office staff. The setup isn't ideal for either side.

Players -- especially those with something to prove like Wiseman -- where hoping to make an impression on teams who have limited film. In Ball's case, he wanted a chance to show he has improved his weaknesses

For teams, it strips away the ability to evaluate a player in person, which helps get a better grasp of the human element, similar to the final step of a job interview.

[RELATED: Warriors not high on Wiseman, Ball]

The first test case of this practice is the NFL, who will hold the first virtual draft in its history later this month. Only the NFL has been able to hold its combine last month, giving teams a chance to interview players in person, providing an advantage NBA team personnel do not have. 

The Warriors personnel, along with the rest of the league, will have their work cut out for them as the coronavirus timeline continues to define a new normal for sports.

Chris Paul hilariously explains why he fake laughed at Steve Kerr joke

Chris Paul hilariously explains why he fake laughed at Steve Kerr joke

Chris Paul can laugh at some, but not all, of his history with the Warriors.

The hyper-competitive Oklahoma City Thunder point guard joked in an Instagram Live session Monday with Steph Curry about the two-time MVP's ankle-breaking crossover on Paul when he was a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. But Paul said Monday that his often-GIF'd fake laugh from an on-court conversation with Steve Kerr is, well, no laughing matter.

Kerr cracked wise with Paul, by then a member of the Houston Rockets, during the Warriors' 116-108 loss in Houston on Jan. 20, 2018. Paul hadn't forgotten the bad blood of the Clippers-Warriors rivalry from his LA days, carrying that tension to a team that the Warriors had eliminated in two of the preceding three postseasons.

The Warriors would bounce the Rockets in the 2018 Western Conference finals and again in the second round the following year. Golden State overcame a three-games-to-two series deficit in 2018 and then eliminated the Rockets in 2019 despite injuries to Kevin Durant and Andrew Bogut.

Both of Paul's playoff runs in Houston ended on the Rockets' home court at the Warriors' hands, and the Game 6 loss in last year's second round marked the final time he suited up for Houston. Paul was traded to the Thunder in exchange for Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook the following season.

[RELATED: Warriors' Paschall explains why he became two-foot jumper]

He wouldn't have had to worry about facing the Warriors this postseason, and Golden State was eliminated from playoff contention prior to the NBA suspending its season last month after Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Despite that, something tells me Paul won't laugh about his fake laugh any time soon.