Steve Kerr will have to strategize when creating new Warriors lineups


Steve Kerr will have to strategize when creating new Warriors lineups

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.

[RELATED: Warriors' Lee sick of Curry family questions, wants respect]

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.

Mounting injuries big blow to Warriors' development of youthful core

Mounting injuries big blow to Warriors' development of youthful core

SAN FRANCISCO -- In the waning moments of Golden State's latest loss Friday evening, the team's bench looked more like the front row of a fashion show than a functioning NBA roster. 

Toward the end of the bench, All-Star guard Stephen Curry sat in a black suit jacket covering a massive cast protecting his broken left hand. To Curry's left, Kevon Looney sat in a gray suit, as his immediate future is in peril as he continues to find answers to an injured hamstring. 

The visual has become a trend over the last month.

Over the stretch, 11 players have been sidelined with injuries, crippling a roster armed with an outside shot of making the postseason on opening night.

Golden State's latest blow came Saturday morning when an MRI confirmed guard D'Angelo Russell had suffered a sprained thumb, sidelining him at least two weeks. The news comes as the Warriors are in roster transition, marked by its youthful core. With the latest injury news, the younger player's development continues to come at a price. 

When rookies Jordan Poole and Eric Paschall were drafted, the expectation was that the two players would be brought along slowly, learning behind Golden State's battered all-star cast. While Paschall has flourished, the guard has struggled. Since Curry's injury, he's shooting just 29 percent from the field, making just five his last 28 shots over his last two games. 

On the eve of training camp, Warriors general manager Bob Myers announced Willie Cauley-Stein would miss most of October with a foot strain. Two days later, rookie Alen Smailagic rolled his ankle and Looney strained his hamstring in the same controlled scrimmage. 

Last month, Curry broke his hand, sidelining the guard until at least February. Two nights later, forward Draymond Green tore a ligament in his left index finger. On Monday, two-way guard Damion Lee fractured his hand, Entering Friday, the Warriors had allowed an average of more than 120 points per game, ranking last in defensive rating. 

Amid the injuries, Kerr trouted out his ninth starting lineup of the season, starting two-way guard Ky Bowman at point guard. For the moment, it worked. Midway through the third quarter, two-way guard Ky Bowman intercepted a pass, ran crosscourt and dunked over forward Grant Williams, cutting Boston's lead to 3. Two minutes later, forward Alec Burk stripped Celtics guard Brandon Wanamaker, setting up a fastbreak layup to give Golden State a brief 82-80 lead. 

Golden State's current reality is much different than its immediate past. After winning 78 percent of their games, the team now finds itself with a roster missing Kevin Durant to free agency, while Curry and Klay Thompson's rehabs are expected to last until at least February. 

Russell's injury is the latest blow at a peculiar time for the team. Over his last six games, the guard is averaging 29.7 points on 48 percent from the field, including a 52 point, nine-rebound performance against Minnesota. 

[RELATED: How die-hard Warriors fans can stay optimistic]

Minutes after the final buzzer, the corridor leading to Golden State's locker room served as a reminder of the potential hopes lost. Curry's hand swelled out of his cast as he walked near a team official. In the locker room, Paschall sported an ice pack on his right-hand while Poole reconciled an ankle injury he said wouldn't affect him. 

As the Warriors packed for another road trip, potentially with just eight healthy bodies for the foreseeable future, another reminder that the team's development is coming at a grave price was evident. 

Warriors' D'Angelo Russell out at least two weeks with right thumb sprain


Warriors' D'Angelo Russell out at least two weeks with right thumb sprain

Add another one to the list.

After leaving Friday night’s loss to the Celtics with a thumb injury, an MRI has confirmed a right thumb sprain for All-Star guard D'Angelo Russell.

Russell will not travel with the team on the upcoming four-game road trip and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Golden State’s already lengthy injury report adds another name, as the team now stands with just nine healthy players as the team embarks for New Orleans on Saturday to kick off the trip.