Warriors

'Phenomenal' Warriors' second unit continues to impress Kerr

Warriors
Bjelica

One thing stands out after a quick glance at the box score from the Warriors' 41-point win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night at Chase Center.

The Warriors' second unit was dominant even though no bench player saw more than Damion Lee's 20:54 of game action.

Nemanja Bjelica was plus-33 in 17:42 of playing time, Gary Payton II was plus 23 in 17:33, Andre Iguodala was plus-26 in 17:24, Otto Porter Jr. was plus-13 in 16:55, Lee was plus-11 and Juan Toscano-Anderson was plus-13 in 14:43 as the Warriors improve to 7-1 this season.

While Steph Curry had another off shooting night, finishing with 19 points on 5-of-15 shooting, it was Jordan Poole's team-high 26 points and the bench mob that propelled the Warriors past the Pelicans.

"Phenomenal," Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters after the game when asked about the second unit's performance. "Just looking at the box score, Beli, Gary and Andre, the first three guys off the bench [were] plus-33, plus-23, plus-26. They all played 17 minutes. That's pretty impressive. I thought New Orleans really came out in that first quarter, they were playing hard and knocking down shots and the bench came in and kind of settled us down and got some stops and got the game back in our favor."

Bjelica, Porter and Iguodala were the Warriors' main offseason acquisitions, and they are paying immediate dividends. The second unit was a liability the last two seasons, but those three veterans have stabilized things.

 

While Iguodala is showing exactly why he is -- and always will be -- a perfect fit for the Warriors, It's Bjelica who is making a massive impact.

The 33-year-old Serbian split time between the Sacramento Kings and Miami Heat last season, and now through eight games with the Warriors, he's leading the league in Net Rating at 26.2. Per NBA.com, his Offensive Rating is 115.6, while his Defensive Rating is 89.4. Iguodala (85.6) and Porter also are in the NBA's top 10 in individual Defensive Rating.

"It's very easy," Bjelica told reporters after Friday's win. "Our second unit, it's very easy to play with guys like Andre, Otto, Lee and especially when I have some minutes to play with Draymond [Green] and Steph, it's much easier. We're reading each other. It's really fun to play like this."

Kerr and the Warriors also are getting unlikely contributions from Payton, who was signed to a non-guaranteed contract right before the season started and was tapped for the 15th roster spot. Playing time should have come sparingly for him, but the 28-year-old has forced his way into the rotation and has made huge impacts in the last two wins with his lockdown defense and explosive dunks on the offensive end.

"He's really a weapon," Kerr told reporters Friday night. "He is really a dynamic player and I think the fit with this year's team is so good because he's got shooting around him. So we can almost invert the offense. Gary can become the dive man and pick-and-roll [guy]. And then we've got our big guys, Beli and Otto, out at the 3-point line, so it's an interesting, different kind of look.

"Gary is so effective as a dive guy, lob-catcher, good passer out of the short roll, so he's a real weapon and you saw it again tonight."

Kerr played all 11 guys currently in the rotation Friday night while finding a few minutes at the end of the blowout to get rookies Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga into the game. Only two-way players Chris Chiozza and Jeff Dowtin didn't play.

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When Klay Thompson and James Wiseman return from their respective injuries, the Warriors realistically could have a 13-man rotation minus the 2021 lottery draft picks. And if Moody or Kuminga force their way into minutes, Golden State would be as deep as any team in the league.

It's still early and injuries can change things, but it looks like Strength In Numbers might be back for a second tour of duty in the Bay Area.

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