Warriors

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Warriors

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.