OAKLAND -- The Warriors thought they were all set last October. They’d added a combo guard through the draft, a floor-stretching veteran power forward through free agency and a hungry young wing who impressed in training camp.
This trio, along with a couple of respected old pros and three playoff-tested youngsters, would give the Warriors everything they’d need to support the star-laden starting lineup.
The front office was confident enough to leave one roster spot vacant.
Five months later, the Warriors are forced to accept that their plan hasn’t worked quite as well as they imagined.
“Our bench can be a whole lot better,” concedes forward Andre Iguodala, one of the “respected old pros” and the de facto leader of the team’s reserves
Coach Steve Kerr was consistent in stating the Warriors expected their first-round draft pick would be able to play immediately. Rookie Jacob Evans III, however, has spent only 116 minutes on an NBA floor.
Power forward Jonas Jerebko initially appeared ready to finally end the team’s drought of 3-point shooting from the bench, draining multiple triples in five of the first nine games. He has done it only once over the last 28 games.
After earning a job in camp, forward Alfonzo McKinnie scored in double figures three times in the first three weeks of the season. He has since, over a period of four months, scored in double figures only once.
Point guard Quinn Cook shot his way onto the roster last season but can’t seem to shake his slump this season. He was 7-of-41 from deep over a two-month stretch that ended last week when he drilled 3-of-4 in garbage time against the Celtics.
Forward/center Jordan Bell, after spending most of the first four months buried on the bench, is now starting to produce.
Point guard Shaun Livingston, the other respected old pro, has struggled to find a rhythm, perhaps because he has had a series of nagging injuries; he has missed 14 games but never more than seven in a row.
Iguodala has missed eight games with a variety of aches and pains but continues to be crucial to the team’s defense and ability to push the pace. His shot has been the least consistent part of his game.
The bench is in 29th in scoring (29 points per game) and 3-point makes (2.8), 20th in offensive rating and eighth in defensive rating. Offensive efficiency has been fine, as Warriors reserves lead the NBA in field-goal percentage and fourth in 3-point shooting percentage.
There still is no go-to scorer coming off the bench, which is why at least one of the top four scorers -- Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and DeMarcus Cousins -- usually is on the floor.
Minutes have been sporadic for most every reserve other than Iguodala and Livingston, and some of that falls on Kerr, who has acknowledged tinkering with rotations more often this season than in the past.
The biggest problem, however, may be the steep dropoff between starters and reserves. So often it happens that the offense bogs down and leads shrink when the Warriors send out a bench-heavy group to open the second and fourth quarters.
“Sometimes we can be too passive, trying to get those other guys the ball and then trying to get out of the way when we have to look to be on the attack,” Iguodala says. “We have to be threats every time we’re on the court.”
The bench can be better. It can be more productive. Jerebko and Cook are capable scorers. McKinnie can get a bucket when needed. But the ability to score rarely has translated into actual points.
Unless it does, the onus falls on the stars. Curry, Durant, Thompson, and Cousins have to goods to handle it, but this is not what the Warriors had in mind when they opened the season with this roster.