The Warriors' depth has been one of the keys to their dominant 29-7 start to the NBA season. Everyone from Steph Curry to Jordan Poole, Otto Porter Jr., and Gary Payton II has played a role in making Golden State the NBA's best team through 36 games.
But the Warriors' rotation is about to be shaken up with the return of Klay Thompson. The roster crunch created by reinjecting one of the greatest shooters of all time back into the lineup is the definition of a first-world NBA problem. Still, coach Steve Kerr has to figure out how to juggle the rotation once Thompson is back on the court.
"The bench guys, those who are either in the rotation or on the fringes of the rotation, that's where the feel comes in," Kerr told reporters Tuesday. "I learned a great lesson from Phil Jackson when I played for him. You just randomly throw a guy onto the floor before he can languish, and I know I've probably created some angst among our fans over the years by putting random guys into crunch time, but I totally believe it's important not only for the player but for the team. What I learned from Phil is that when you do that, it keeps everybody engaged, but also guys are ready when their time does come, and inevitably their time comes.
"I think if a coach doesn't prepare guys for their opportunity, then he isn't doing his job."
With Thompson back, Poole will shift from the starting shooting guard to the sixth man, a role the third-year guard thrived in during Monday night's win over the Miami Heat.
The Warriors are aware that some players' minutes and roles will diminish, and that could lead to some angst in the locker room. It will be up to Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Thompson, and Curry to keep everyone on the same page.
"You feel it," Green said Monday about the impending rotation change. "There's no idiots on this team, as you can see in our play. Guys understand what's ahead. I think as a leader, there will be a time when you have to step in and, more importantly, keep guys' spirits up. You don't play this week with the guys we have if guys aren't competitors and if guys don't want to play and want to be out there.
"There's going to be some pissed-off guys because you want to be out there regardless if Klay Thompson is back," Green continued. "As a leader, you appreciate that. I don't want a guy on the team who is OK with sitting on the bench. If there is a guy on the team who is just OK with sitting on the bench, when his opportunity comes, he won't be ready. So there are going to be some guys that is upset.
"And there should be some guys that is upset. Not upset because you are a better player than Klay Thompson, but because you put the work in and you want to play. That's the nature of what we do. As a leader, you have to make sure that that upsetness is bottled up and it works for you as opposed to working against us. I think that's the biggest thing for us."
The upcoming roster crunch is a good problem for the Warriors to have. While there might be some choppy waters initially, Kerr's coaching philosophy coupled with the Warriors veteran leadership should make for a relatively smooth transition back to life with Klay.