Warriors' last 27 games will be critically important for next season

Warriors' last 27 games will be critically important for next season

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.

The Warriors have only 27 games left this season, and for the first time in many years, their offseason will start in mid-April. There will not be much of a vacation for the front office, however, as they will be tasked with reconstructing a championship roster and selecting a high draft pick.

For Warriors fans, speculation over the draft, trade market and free agency will consume most of the spring and early summer. However, in the meantime, there are certain things to watch for during the final stretch of the regular season.

Curry-Draymond-Wiggins chemistry

All the talk around the Warriors during the last couple weeks has been about the impressive start to Andrew Wiggins' Warriors career.

While it is just a few games, Wiggins has shown a quick ability to fit right into Steve Kerr's system and buy-in on defense. He probably will only have a couple more weeks to try to learn the nuances before Steph Curry returns. Wiggins never has played with a guard even remotely as talented as Curry, and many assume the fit will be seamless.

However, for a guy who was used to having the ball in his hands for a majority of his Minnesota Timberwolves tenure, Wiggins now will need to fully accept that he will be playing off-the-ball. With Curry at point guard, Kerr has used Draymond Green as the secondary (or many times primary) ball-handler over the last half-decade, and had a lot of success doing so.

Making the transition from being the focal point of an offense to being the third option who often will be standing in the corner is not an easy change. But Wiggins should have over a month to grow accustomed to his new role, before taking another step back when Klay Thompson returns (probably next season).

The Growth of the 2019 Rookie Class

Over the final 27 games of the season, the Warriors' rookies will have plenty of opportunities to show how far they have come since entering the NBA. Eric Paschall burst onto the scene as a skilled scorer, but his adjustment to a new role with the addition of Wiggins and the return of Curry will be something to watch with an eye toward next season.

Jordan Poole has come on of late, even earning himself the starting point guard role. However, his 3-point shooting has still been inconsistent, even after marked improvement from the beginning of the season. As it will for most players on the team, the return of Curry will impact Poole in a positive way, allowing him to find more open space to catch and shoot or to drive and make a play for a teammate. The team is hoping Poole can be a useful rotational piece next season, so they will be watching him closely down the stretch.

Alen Smailagic still is only 19 years old and has had impressive moments as well as glaring gaffes so far in his very limited NBA experience. The roster is very thin in the frontcourt, so Smailagic will definitely see some playing time over the final couple of months. While his unique confidence on offense is quite entertaining, the coaching staff will be more focused on teaching him proper defensive technique so he can find playing time when games finally matter again.

It has been an interesting season for Ky Bowman. After opening eyes throughout the league with his great start, Bowman was sent to Santa Cruz and tasked with adjusting his style of play to better fit his future backup point guard role. In a perfect world, the Warriors see Bowman as a Patrick Beverley-type player who can harass the opposing team on defense, create open shots for his teammates on offense, bring endless hustle and energy and hit an open 3-point shot from time to time. When Curry plays again, Bowman will have the opportunity to show how far he has come in his development.

[RELATED: Warriors' belief in Chriss has resuscitated his NBA career]

Race to the bottom

The Warriors sit on the very bottom of the NBA standings but should start winning more once Curry returns. But do Warriors fans even really want that? The confusion of whether to celebrate a win or wish for a better draft position is putting fans in a predicament.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are not going to win many games going forward and currently sit two wins above the Warriors in the standings. It is realistic to believe the Warriors will surpass them before the season's end. Other bottom-dwellers have some reason for optimism that they could potentially string together a few wins down the stretch.

If finishing with the worst record in the NBA seems unlikely, then fans can root for Warriors wins while still hoping they remain in the bottom three in the league, which would keep them tied for the best chances of landing the top pick in the draft.

Mychal Thompson says Klay has no limp, soreness as ACL rehab continues

Mychal Thompson says Klay has no limp, soreness as ACL rehab continues

As you've been practicing social distancing the last several weeks, have you wondered how Klay Thompson is doing?

Whether you're answer is yes or no, you're about to get an update on the Warriors' All-Star shooting guard.

"He's feeling good. He's working out on his own. He's doing all of his drills. He says he feels good," Klay's father, Mychal, said Monday during a radio appearance on 95.7 The Game. "He walks around without any kind of limp -- no kind of soreness.

"He says he's feeling great and he'll be ready to go at full speed next year."

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That should bring a smile to your face.

At this point in time, unfortunately, nobody knows when "next year" will begin.

[RELATED: Klay said two things right after ACL surgery, mom reveals]

Klay tore his left ACL on June 13 and underwent surgery July 2.

"He’s going to be so ready to play next year and so excited and the rehab is coming along really well," coach Steve Kerr told Tim Kawakami of The Athletic a couple weeks ago. "So I have no doubt that -- assuming everything starts in September and October like it usually does -- that Klay and Steph will be in great shape and ready to roll.

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Warriors season review: Jordan Poole's improvement should be encouraging

Warriors season review: Jordan Poole's improvement should be encouraging

Editor's note: Amid the current climate, it's looking increasingly likely we'll be away from basketball for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, NBC Sports Bay Area will take a look at each player on the Warriors' roster and examine how their performance will fit with the roster long term. First up is rookie guard Jordan Poole.
In need of scoring, the Warriors used the No. 28 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft to select Jordan Poole, who was expected to make an impact right away. Those hopes didn't come to fruition early on, as Poole struggled from the field.
Here's everything you need to know about the Michigan product's rookie season with Golden State.


2 years / $4,028,040 (with options for the 2021-22, 2022-23 seasons). 

Last season

Poole's rookie campaign started slow. Through his first 19 games, he shot just 27 percent from the field. Poole's struggles came as he was put into the starting lineup following Steph Curry's hand injury. During his initial stint as a starter, Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted that the rookie was losing confidence. 
As a result, Poole was banished to the G League, averaging 26 points on 46 percent from the field. Nonetheless, any question about his struggles would elicit the same response.
Poole's defiance paid off following the All-Star break as the rookie routinely put together double-digit scoring outputs. Over his last nine games, he averaged 14.1 points, including a 17-point performance against the Los Angeles Clippers in what might be the season finale.

In all, he showed signs of progress following a disappointing start to his rookie season, which should bode well whenever the Warriors return to the floor. 


In order to build on his late-season performance, Poole will have to improve his defense and strength. Moreover, he has to continue to change his mindset. 

[RELATED: How new rules affect Dubs' ability to evaluate prospects]
Just before his G League stint, Kerr encouraged his rookie to watch film of Clippers guard Landry Shamat and Pelicans shooting guard J.J. Redick. The sentiment behind the message was to encourage Poole to snap out of his habit of standing around in Golden State's motion offense. During the onset of the season, Poole's stagnant off-ball mindset frustrated the coaching staff. 
Upon return, Poole took heed to Kerr's message, often leading the offensive attack as injuries mounted again. If he can continue his current trajectory, he has a chance to be a contributor next season.