This potential Warriors lineup could help mitigate defensive problems

This potential Warriors lineup could help mitigate defensive problems

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

There is no sugarcoating the fact that the Warriors defense has been abysmal this season. Playing without their best defenders from last season in Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Kevon Looney and even Draymond Green for half the games, the team is giving up on average 121.1 points per game -- good for third-worst in the NBA.

The roster is young and inexperienced this season, filled with players not known for their defensive abilities who all are trying to adjust to playing with each other and form some sort of semblance of defensive chemistry. Yet while the team will have to cope without almost all their stalwarts on defense from last season, there might be a tiny glimpse of hope in sight for this season.

Coach Steve Kerr has begun to experiment with playing rookie Eric Paschall at the wing position alongside Green. Paschall has made headlines for his surprisingly polished offensive game so far, but his defensive capabilities have flown under-the-radar.

His generic numbers do not jump off the page, averaging only 0.5 steals per game and 0.4 blocks, but he has been a steady force on the defensive end, staying in front of smaller, quicker guards while also muscling up to defend big men in the paint. By playing Paschall alongside Green, Kerr is trying to find a lineup where his best players can be on the court simultaneously. 

Many had figured that the only reasonable way the two could play together right now would be small-ball lineups, with Green playing the "five" and Paschall playing the "four." But against the Lakers on Wednesday night, Kerr employed multiple lineups in which Paschall and Green played together, with a rotation of centers on the court with them.

In one particular lineup, Kerr put a unit on the floor that utilized Glenn Robinson III at the shooting guard position. GR3 also has been a quietly strong defender this season for the Warriors, and if he were able to effectively slide into a role in which he defends smaller guards, the team defense could benefit greatly.

The return of Looney in the next few weeks should fix a small portion of the defensive woes. He is a subtly impressive defender, using his length and strength to disrupt opponents in the paint. He also is the Warriors' best pick and roll defender, as he can do the best job of staying in front of quicker opponents when switched on to them.

When Looney returns, Kerr could hypothetically put a lineup on the court that has D'Angelo Russell, the team's best offensive weapon but weakest defender, at the point position, then Robinson at the "two," Paschall at the "three," Green playing the "four," and Looney holding down the fort at the "five."

[RELATED: Warriors depth forces Kerr to practice patience]

The length and switch-ability of the four defenders (not named Russell) could be greatly effective on the defensive end. All four have the ability to play pick and roll coverage, and as a needed bonus, are all capable defensive rebounders.

It is not a pretty sight watching the Warriors play defense right now, but perhaps the coaching staff's new lineup experiments, as well as the return of Looney, could spell some reason for optimism in the near future.

Warriors' Steve Kerr says trade rumors don't affect D'Angelo Russell

Warriors' Steve Kerr says trade rumors don't affect D'Angelo Russell

D'Angelo Russell is rapidly approaching a date some NBA observers have circled since the Warriors acquired him this summer.

Golden State can trade Russell as soon as Sunday, Dec. 15, and the 23-year-old has been the source of trade speculation during his time in the Bay Area. The Athletic's Jon Krawczynski reported Wednesday, citing sources that the Minnesota Timberwolves "remain interested in Russell" and that the guard "seems to be realistic in understanding that he may not be long for the Warriors once Steph Curry and Klay Thompson return to full health."

Russell is averaging a career-high 22.4 points per game this season to go with 6.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds, serving as the top offensive option in the absence of his All-Star teammates. He knew he wouldn't play much with Thompson this season as he recovers from a torn ACL, but Curry's broken hand threw a wrench into the Warriors' -- and thus Russell's -- prospects this season. Warriors coach Steve Kerr praised how Russell has handled the rumors surrounding him. 

"Money doesn't buy peace of mind," Kerr said Friday morning (H/T San Francisco Chronicle's Connor Letourneau). "It doesn't buy a sense of belonging, a sense of, 'Alright, this is my team.' If there's speculation that you're going to be traded all the time, I don't care how much money you make, I don't care who you are. That's tough. That's no fun to deal with, and this season has been nowhere close to what D'Angelo thought it would be when he first signed with us.

"There's no Steph. We're struggling to win games. He's had his own injuries, and we're throwing all kinds of different lineups out there based on the other injuries we've faced." 

Russell has played in just 15 of the Warriors' 27 games this season, playing on a team that looks far more like the Los Angeles Lakers of his first two seasons than the playoff-contending Brooklyn Nets a year ago -- let alone the reigning Western Conference champion Warriors. 

[RELATED: How Warriors' Chriss earning chance to start at center]

Kerr, who entered this season with the highest winning percentage in NBA history (.785), is as aware of Golden State's dramatically different reality as anyone. He said it has only brought out the best in Russell. 

"So given all that, he's played really well, and he's been a great teammate and he's doing everything he needs to do to solidify his position here," Kerr continued. "But this is the NBA here, and we never know what's coming, what's happening. So, it's a difficult position to be in in general, but for him in particular it's strange set of circumstances and he's handling it really well." 

Whether or not the Warriors trade Russell, it's clear Kerr holds him in high regard.

Watch Warriors' Ky Bowman dominate for Santa Cruz in G League debut

Watch Warriors' Ky Bowman dominate for Santa Cruz in G League debut

Warriors two-way guard Ky Bowman made his G League debut Friday night in Santa Cruz.

He dominated the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario. 

The Boston College product could have scored 40 points if he really wanted to, but he picked his spots and made sure his teammates were getting good looks.

After shootaround in Utah on Friday, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was asked what Bowman can work on while he's with the Sea Dubs.

"He's got a really aggressive mindset -- which I like -- but there are still circumstances and situations where he needs to think more pass," Kerr said. "And more strategic, rather than just score, score, score."

Bowman clearly listened to the eight-time NBA champion.

[RELATEDWhy Dubs might be very active before, after trade deadline]

Also, "Sky Bowman" was on full display.

The 22-year-old will be back in action Sunday afternoon as Santa Cruz faces the Northern Arizona Suns. Watch the game at 2:00 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.

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