SAN FRANCISCO – It has become evident that the Warriors are planning to rely largely on “small-ball” lineups, with or without James Wiseman, it’s also apparent they have optimal depth at only one position.
They can roll out six power forwards.
Standing behind starter Draymond Green are veterans Nemanja Bjelica, Otto Porter Jr., Juan Toscano-Anderson and Andrew Wiggins. Behind them is rookie Jonathan Kuminga. No matter their listed position, all project to get minutes at the “four.”
Only Bjelica, at 6-foot-10, stands taller than 6-foot-8. The lack of height doesn’t bother Kerr, who still has 7-foot center James Wiseman slotted for 25-plus minutes per game.
“Small ball, to me, means having more shooters out there,” Kerr said. “It means spacing. It means flow. Some of the best small-ball lineups in the league feature a big guy who can roll to the rim because the vertical spacing that it provides can be devastating.
“When we say small-ball, it doesn’t necessarily mean small. It means more space, more shooting, at least in my mind.”
After so many years in which movement – ball and player – was the primary component of Golden State’s offense, it seems spacing might now be more significant. It always was desirable, but expect more sets with four shooters surrounding a distributor, most often Green.
Why the adjustment? It has worked elsewhere, including with the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. Milwaukee’s small lineups feature 7-foot Brook Lopez spotting up in a corner – a role Wiseman, with his shooting, conceivably could fill – as one of four shooters around 6-foot-10 Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Warriors don’t have a Giannis, but they have in Green a power forward who can be effective in the paint.
And they definitely have 3-point shooting threats, perhaps more than at any time in franchise history.
Steph Curry’s 43.3 percent is third among all active players. Klay Thompson’s 41.9 percent is fifth. Porter is 13th, shooting 40.2 percent for his career, making him Golden State’s best 3-point shooting acquisition since the Warriors drafted Thompson a decade ago.
Then there is the other new “four” man, Bjelica, who is at 38.7 percent, with a career-high of 41.9 percent two seasons ago.
“It’s going to be really nice having him, having Otto, for that floor spacing from the big spots,” Kerr said. “It’s something we haven’t had a lot of since Mo Speights. Both of those guys looked great."
Wiggins is coming off a career-high 38.0 percent mark. Toscano-Anderson, in his first full season, shot 40.2 percent. With the Warriors seemingly believing Draymond will recapture his deep shooting stroke, making it respectable, only Kuminga isn’t considered much of a threat.
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Accuracy has a way of offsetting size disadvantages.
“Everybody is always saying how are we going to guard bigger guys?” Toscano-Anderson said. “How are bigger guys going to guard us? You just have to find your advantages. Our advantage is that we can play really fast, we’re trying to get shots up and we’re very dynamic. All those guys can who can move to the four can guard fours, can put the ball on the floor, can shoot the ball and can handle it.
“I’m excited because defensively it allows us to switch a lot of coverages, it allows us to throw a lot of different schemes at people. I think it really works to our advantage and I’m actually very excited about it.”
There still will be movement. There still will be on-and off-ball screening. There still will be cutting and passing and an emphasis on finding the best shot.
This roster, however, is built to put a twist on those familiar schemes. A twist for which fine shooting is essential.
The Warriors were a top-five 3-point shooting team in nine of the last 10 seasons, the only exception being 2019-20, when they finished 29th. They have the goods to get back to that level, and it’s their surest path to route to a deep playoff run.