Warriors' youngsters thrown into fire, thrive on second unit

Jordan Poole against the Jazz

Heading into the All-Star break, Steve Kerr said he would switch up the Warriors' second unit.

The bench has been a weak spot for the Warriors this season, and something needed to change. The results of those changes have the Warriors playing a very young and inexperienced group, yet it's working. 

In their 131-119 win over the Jazz on Sunday afternoon, the Warriors went with James Wiseman, Jordan Poole, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Nico Mannion and Andrew Wiggins as the second unit. Then to start the second quarter, Eric Paschall came in. 

"We're kind of throwing them into the deep end a little but we love their talent and potential and we also really like the way they play together," Kerr said after the game. "They fit well together because of James' threat as a diver -- diving into the rim -- and both Jordan and Nico are good pick-and-roll players ... I realize putting all three of them out there with that second group is putting a lot on their shoulders, but there's a reason we're doing it. We believe in those guys."

"I think we have a lot of potential," Poole said. "We're extremely gifted and talented and as soon as we're able to really gain chemistry, all five guys, catch a little rhythm like we did in the second quarter and then in the fourth quarter, we're dangerous."

Poole had a particularly good outing for the Warriors, finishing with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-5 from three. And he did it his way. He did most of his work off the ball, which is how he prefers to play. But, he wasn't afraid to hunt his shot or facilitate when he got the opportunity. 


"When he's playing aggressive like he did tonight, he's another scorer, another play-maker, another shooter," Green said. "He can score at every level and he has a great feel for the game. He was good for us."

The second unit was just minus-three in the second quarter, allowing the Warriors to enter halftime with a 10-point lead. But their most important stretch came in the fourth quarter. The final 12 minutes have been another struggle spot for the Warriors. If the score is close, that's been the stretch in which, more often than not, the Warriors lose the game. 

On Sunday, it looked like the Kerr might have had to put Steph Curry and Draymond Green in two minutes earlier than usual, but the bench held their own. Every time the Jazz made a push, the Warriors pushed back. By the time the starters returned, all they had to do was put a period on the game. 

"That was a big challenge for that second group, particularly, because this was really the first real test," Kerr said. "There was a lot of pressure here, and in fact, they weathered the storm, particularly in the second quarter. I think they got blitzed a little bit right away. They could have folded, but guys hit big shots, made big plays and weathered the storm."

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It's impossible to say that this group will solve all of the problems the Warriors second unit had. As Kerr said, it's been just one game. Kerr was planning on playing this unit a few days prior against the LA Clippers but a last-minute decision to hold Wiseman out for three quarters changed that. And boy, did the second unit struggle that night. 

The encouraging sign is that if this is the starting point for a group full of first- and second-year and two-way players, the ceiling is decently high.

"They're ready for the stage," Wiggins said. "They go out there they compete on both sides of the floor. Nico, he's learning how to run the team and he's doing a great job at it. That group is only going to get better."

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