Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.
With the preseason set to begin Saturday, Steve Kerr will start tinkering with restructured lineups to fit a new roster. Unlike the past few seasons, Kerr will construct offensive strategies that might involve more pick-and-roll and more isolation. But in order to develop the right strategy, Kerr will have to find the right personnel combinations on the floor.
On a few occasions this offseason, including at Warriors Media Day, Kerr stressed that it is important to keep one of Steph Curry or D'Angelo Russell on the court at all times. By staggering their minutes, there will always be a primary play maker and scorer on the floor. The probable playing time strategy that the Warriors will employ will be Curry playing all of the first quarter, like he normally does, and Russell checking out with approximately five minutes or so left to get some rest.
Russell likely will start the second quarter with Curry on the bench. Russell will run the show until Curry checks back in sometime around the six or seven-minute mark. This pattern would then repeat in the second half.
The exact times that Curry and Russell check-in and out of each quarter will completely depend on the score, flow of the game, foul trouble etc. The primary question then becomes which players will share the court with Curry or Russell.
To start the game, the most likely lineup (as of now) will be Curry, Russell, Alfonzo McKinnie, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney, with McKinnie and the wing position being the spot in question. Glenn Robinson III has the strongest shot to supplant McKinnie in the starting lineup, primarily for his solid defense and ability to hit a spot-up 3-pointer. McKinnie is an exceptional offensive rebounder and slasher that plays with a high motor, something that could be beneficial for a second unit as well.
Assuming that Green remains with Curry for the entire first quarter, then mixing and matching pieces around them for when Russell and Looney check out will be one of the Kerr's challenges. Willie Cauley-Stein's injury has thrown a wrench into the initial rotation plans. The Warriors are hoping he will not miss much time, but Cauley-Stein's absence leaves a massive vacancy in the center spot where he was expected to play major minutes, especially with Russell and the second unit and perhaps even in the starting lineup. Omari Spellman possibly could step in and fill the void to end the first quarter. Pairing Spellman with Green's leadership could help the young big man stay focused and effective, especially on the defensive end.
One of the key decisions that Kerr will have to make revolves around Alec Burks. Out of all the bench pieces, Burks has the best chance to be a scoring option. But pairing him with Curry or Russell will take some feeling out early in the season. Burks is most effective when the ball is in his hands, allowing him to break down his defender and attack the hoop, or create for others.
Burks, however, is much more effective shooting from deep when he becomes a spot-up shooter rather than pulling up off the dribble. So in order to find out how to best utilize Burks, it would be fair to assume that Kerr will tinker with lineups that includes Burks, Curry and Russell together.
With Cauley-Stein out, Kerr will have to get creative finding the right pick-and-roll partner with Russell. One scenario could be that Looney starts the second quarter to be that man. Looney is not your prototypical pick-and-roll partner, but developing chemistry with Russell could be a real benefit to the team. If Russell is to run pick-and-rolls like he is comfortable doing, then it is imperative that the coaching staff puts shooters around him.
This is where Jordan Poole and Damion Lee could be factors. While Lee is more proven, both will need to be excellent spot-up shooters if they want to see playing time.
You can expect rookie Eric Paschall to carve out some time in a do-it-all role.
Playing Jacob Evans III with Russell could help on the defensive end, but it is not the most seamless match offensively. Due to his inconsistent outside shooting, Evans might clog the lane for Russell (or even Curry). More likely than not, Evans III will begin the season as a much needed back up plan if Curry and Russell are not on the floor, or if the Warriors are in need of defense. This will help Evans III take his time transitioning into his new role as a point guard, and prepare him for when his duties will be needed greatly over the long road of an NBA season.