Five Warriors who can make big impression in preseason game vs. T-Wolves

Five Warriors who can make big impression in preseason game vs. T-Wolves

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

The Warriors roster is in flux this preseason with many positions up for grabs in open competition.

In Saturday's first preseason game against the Lakers, there weren't any players that made a big enough impact to bring any clarity to these position battles.

With the Minnesota Timberwolves in town to face the Warriors for the second preseason game Thursday at Chase Center, some players have an opportunity to take a step forward in securing an important role for the team.

Here are some players to watch that right in the middle of these battles:

Alfonzo McKinnie

In a matter of a week, the talk about Zo has gonna from being the favorite to land the starting small forward spot, to possibly being cut from the team in order to sign a big man.

Is it all talk? Possibly. But McKinnie needs to step up and make his impact felt if he plans on becoming a cemented piece in the rotation. In order to help his own cause, McKinnie will have to exhibit solid defense, attack the offensive (and defensive) glass with his elite rebounding skill and most importantly, hit some 3-pointers.

The Warriors are not expecting McKinnie to become an All-Star at the wing position, but they do need a serviceable small forward they can rely on. At this point, perhaps he does not even need to be a net positive on the court, he just can't be a negative.

That is where the bar currently is set.

Marquese Chriss

Chriss quickly has gone from an afterthought training camp signing to the reason why McKinnie might lose his roster spot.

With Willie Cauley-Stein hurt and Kevon Looney hobbled, the opportunity is there for Chriss to seize. He did a little bit of everything against the Lakers on Saturday, which reportedly led some players to secretly pitch giving him a roster spot.

Immaturity and off-court issues have plagued Chriss early in his career, but he has shown up to the Warriors as a humbled young man looking for a second chance. The talent absolutely is there. Chriss is a 6'10" athletic big that can shoot from anywhere on the court.

Keep a close eye on him against the T-Wolves. Everyone in the Warriors organization will be too.

Jordan Poole

He was the story of the first preseason game, and some times the hardest thing for a rookie to do is stay consistently effective. The Warriors are looking for a player to be willing and able to fire away from deep, and Poole provided that against the Lakers.

It is unfair to ask any current Warrior to replace Klay Thompson, but the role of shooter and spacer from the two-guard position is up for grabs.

There will be even more focus on Poole on Thursday, so he will have to show that he can replicate his productivity while garnering more attention.

Glenn Robinson III

If Chriss is the spotlighted reason that McKinnie could be looking over his shoulder, then GR3's impact on the decision definitely is flying under the radar.

Cutting Robinson would not help the Warriors' cap situation as he has a guaranteed contract this season. But if he were able to step up and show the front office and coaches that he can make a real impact from the wing position, then they would feel a lot more comfortable with idea of splitting with McKinnie.

So far, Robinson has not done anything to impress yet. It will be up to him to assert himself and make plays on the court that can justify a spot in the wing rotation.

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Jacob Evans III

The surprise dark horse in the competition for the opening night small forward, Evans is trying to prove that unlike his quiet demeanor, his impact on the court can be loud.

He took the first step in the right direction against the Lakers, shooting with confidence while playing assertive basketball. While Evans was being groomed to be a point guard type during the offseason, there is a much more glaring need at the wing position. He originally was drafted to be a player that can guard multiple positions while being able to hit an open triple. If he can do exactly that now he will find time in the rotation.

Like McKinnie and Robinson, the opportunity is there for Evans to make his mark in the preseason games, and show Steve Kerr that he not only belongs, but also that he is important to the team's success.

Warriors believe they're headed in right direction despite 5-22 record

Warriors believe they're headed in right direction despite 5-22 record

SALT LAKE CITY - The Warriors have lost a lot in the last six months. 

The most obvious wound is the gutting of its Hall of Fame roster, and the injuries that crippled it. But perhaps the most essential damage to the team's evolution is its most recent struggle: Failing to close out games talent used to be able to overcome. 

In its latest effort -- a 114-106 loss to the Jazz -- the Warriors led for much of the first half before Utah took control in the third quarter. The loss came at a strange time for Golden State as their three All-Stars -- Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry -- were nursing injured back in California and their prized rookie Eric Paschall was in the locker room due to a hip injury. 

Nonetheless, the league's worst team left Vivint Smart Home Arena seeing enough progress to believe they're heading in the right direction, even if the scoreboard says otherwise. 

"There is a lot of good stuff," Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted. "But you want that to lead to a win and that's coming."

Remnants of Kerr's positivity showed through the first 24 minutes Friday evening. In the first quarter, they held the Jazz to 39 percent from the field, outscoring Utah 14-8 in the paint. By the end of the first half, they built a 56-49 lead, marked by promising plays from its young core. 

Six minutes into the first quarter, 6-foot-8 big man Omari Spellman pulled down a rebound, went the length of the court, bullying his way for a layup to give Golden State a 20-18 lead. A quarter later, center Marquese Chriss blocked Jazz guard Royce O'Neal at the rim, ran the length of the floor and received a pass for an easy dunk on the other end, pushing Golden State's lead to 13. 

Following halftime, the Jazz responded by outscoring the Warriors 37-28 in the third quarter. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 10 of his game-high 32 points over the stretch, as Utah made a run that was all-too-familiar to Golden State. 

"They picked up their pace in the third quarter," Kerr said. "I'm sure they were not happy with their pace in the first half and so they played a great third quarter and put a lot of pressure on us."

Worse, even after the Warriors briefly took a 104-103 lead with just over two minutes left, the Jazz went on an 11-2 run to close the game, underscoring one of the team's biggest problems this season. Through 27 games, the Warriors are among the worst teams in the last five minutes of games. During the timeframe, they're posting a putrid 92.9 offensive rating, with a net rating of -33.6. 

For context, the 2017-18 Warriors -- featuring a healthy Curry, Green, Thompson and Kevin Durant -- posted a 112.2 offensive rating in clutch situations, finishing third in the league, leaving a mark the current battered Warriors are trying to fulfill.  

"I think we can win a lot more games than we have," said Chriss. "We've been in games that we could win and honestly that we should win. People try to say that our team is down and things like that but we're competing with teams that have their full roster. This team is full of fighters and teams that want to win." 

While the team is frustrated, their latest performance comes with a caveat. Clutch performances are built through experience, an attribute the league's third-youngest team has yet to gain. 

"I remember being in this position earlier in my career where you get the taste of winning, but you don't really know how to do it, you may just get lucky that night," said 23-year old guard D'Angelo Russell. "Other teams in the league that are solidified, they find a way to win and those other teams that aren't supposed to win find a way to lose so I think it comes with growth and experience."

[RELATED: Burks wants to stay with Warriors]

Late Friday evening, just before he left Salt Lake City for a late-night flight back to the Bay Area, recovering from yet another close loss, Kerr made a declaration for his young team, despite optics of the contrary. 

"I like where we're heading," he said. "I really do. I know it might sound crazy because of our record, but I think we're going to start winning some games. I think we're getting better."

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in deflating 114-106 loss to Jazz


Warriors takeaways: What we learned in deflating 114-106 loss to Jazz


SALT LAKE CITY -- Warriors big man Marquese Chriss said his team was "tired of losing" during his halftime interview with NBC Sports Bay Area's Kerith Burke on Friday at Vivent Smart Home Arena.

Unfortunately for Chriss, the Warriors will have to wait at least two more days to erase their current skid, as Golden State lost 114-106 to the Jazz. 

Unlike most nights, the Warriors -- without Draymond Green and rookie Eric Paschall -- showed fight, taking a seven-point lead after the first quarter. However, a second-half Utah run doomed their chances as the Warriors' inability to finish crippled them once again. 

There are no moral victories in sports and the Warriors will take another loss back to the Bay Area. 

Here are the takeaways as the Warriors fell to 5-22 on the season: 

Fast start erased in one quarter

The Warriors have been immune to quick starts over the last week. On Friday, the trend changed. Through the first 24 minutes, Golden State outscored Utah 26-18 in the paint, while holding the Jazz to just 43 percent from the field. 

Utah's defense was out of sorts in the second quarter, as the Warriors built a 13-point lead. On one possession, Chriss blocked a shot on one end, ran the floor unguarded and received a pass wide open under the basket for an easy dunk. 

Then the third quarter happened.

Over the next 12 minutes the Warriors were outscored 37-28. Even when the Warriors fought back, a key missed dunk from Willie Cauley-Stein ended any hopes of a win. 

The Warriors have shown fight amid injuries, but the only mark of success is winning, a goal the team again couldn't accomplish in Utah. 

Alec Burks shines

Against his former team, Burks was effective, finishing with 24 points including two 3-pointers. Despite shooting just 41 percent from the field this season, Burks has shown the ability to carry Golden State's offense when needed. His downhill attack consistently puts the opponent on edge. 

The location of Burks' output is noteworthy. He spent eight years playing in Utah before injuries derailed his career. His affinity for the town was apparent from the time he walked into the building. Following his pregame workout, he spent most of his time exchanging pleasantries with former teammates and arena staff, causing a Warriors team official to jokingly ask, "When is Alec's statue going up?"

[RELATED: Burks wants to stay with Warriors]

Chriss shined despite scare

The first-year Warrior continued his reclamation bid, finishing with 12 points, adding 13 rebounds and two blocks in 23 minutes off the bench. 

Chriss had a slight scare in the third quarter when he knocked knees with a Jazz player contesting a layup. He was later diagnosed as a left knee contusion. 

Following a rough start to his career, Chriss has become a valuable piece to the transitional Warriors, providing rebounding and scoring off the bench. Friday was yet another example of his contributions.