Warriors showing signs of development despite lowly win-loss record

Warriors showing signs of development despite lowly win-loss record

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 are not actively trying to "tank," like some are assuming. The players that are healthy and able to play are competing with maximum effort, as many of the role players and rookies are trying to prove themselves in the NBA.

Despite that, the team is now 2-9 on the season -- good for dead last in the league. On a macro level, their team and individual defense has been poor, and their offense is still trying to find chemistry and an identity.

But that does not mean there hasn't been gradual player and team development. Here are some takeaways from the Warriors' 122-108 loss to the Jazz on Monday night: 

D'Angelo Russell is sharing the ball

We all know that Russell is scoring. He is averaging over 36 points per game over the last four contests, and has set a career-high by scoring over 30 points in four consecutive games. But he also is distributing the ball to his teammates at a higher rate than the start of last season.

During his 2018-19 campaign with the Nets, Russell dished out eight assists only once in the first 16 games of the season. This season, he has accomplished that in four of eight games. As the season went along with Brooklyn, Russell's assists per game rose considerably. Fortunately for the Warriors, he has hit his groove earlier in the year.

With Steph Curry out, the ball will be in Russell's hands nearly every play and he will have the opportunity to help out his teammates. So far he has been doing just that, while also scoring in bunches.

The Warriors centers are improving

The improvements may be small, but as the season has gone along, Warriors centers Willie Cauley-Stein, Marquese Chriss and Omari Spellman have been gradually getting better as they become more familiar with their new team and as their conditioning has progressed. In the loss to the Jazz on Monday night, Cauley-Stein collected 11 rebounds -- the first double-digit rebounding game for a Warriors center this season.

Due to the center-by-committee rotation that coach Steve Kerr has been employing, playing time has limited the opportunity for the three big men to put up big numbers. From a qualitative approach, Cauley-Stein was more active on defense and bouncy on offense against Utah. Chriss has grown more confident with his offensive game around the hoop. Spellman, before his injury, had started to refine his mid-range jumper, and his shot-blocking recently had been a welcome development.

The rotation will change again once Kevon Looney returns, but until then, Kerr has to be pleased with the frontcourt's small improvements.

Jordan Poole's playmaking growing

It has been well chronicled that Poole is struggling with his shot. While he has not lost confidence, it is clear he has slowed down his gunslinger ways and has stopped unconsciously launching from deep.

One thing Poole can improve on is his willingness to simply catch-and-shoot, rather than put the ball on the floor or hesitate. He can model his game after Klay Thompson in that way, so that when the ball swings around the perimeter and ends up in his hands, he should shoot the ball in rhythm -- even if a defender is close by. Poole has the form to be a great long-distance shooter, so launching confidently in rhythm should benefit him.

[RELATED: Warriors' young players refuse to use injuries as an excuse]

In the meantime, while his shot is not falling, Poole is doing other things to be a positive on the court. Against the Thunder last Saturday, Poole dished out six assists, showcasing his playmaking skills. He is a willing passer and has started to drive and kick to open shooters.

Once he begins to drive and finish at the rim more often, the floor will open up even more and allow him to either find teammates or create separation from his defender by keeping them honest.

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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