SAN FRANCISCO – It is safe to assume by now that the Warriors, barring a catastrophic injury to one of their All-Stars, can make a deep playoff run, in which case the fingers of coach Steve Kerr will run multiple marathons through his hair.
Kerr and his staff will face a massive decision. They’ll either have to break those rules or completely abandon the blueprint that drove them to such heights in the regular season.
The Warriors have created a roster that defies at least two nuggets of conventional wisdom regarding the NBA postseason.
Rule No. 1: Key starters get a bump in minutes, from the mid-30s to the high 30s and in some instances the low 40s.
Rule No. 2: Rotations get shorter, often limited to seven or eight.
The impact on most rosters is that those on the distant end of the bench become superfluous ornamentation.
Except in Golden State’s case, those reserves are so tightly woven into the team fabric that there is no distant end of the bench, aside from rookies and two-way players.
Three non-starters – 2015 NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, Otto Porter Jr. and Nemanja Bjelica – bring the kind of veteran savvy that will make them valuable assets in the playoffs.
Three more non-starters – Damion Lee, Gary Payton II and Juan Toscano-Anderson – don’t have years of NBA experience but have become fixtures because they supply much of the vitality that has powered the Warriors to a league-best 20-4 record going into Wednesday night when they face the Portland Trail Blazers.
“I really like the makeup of the roster,” Kerr said Tuesday. “We’ve got veteran leadership, our star guys who have won championships and done everything. And then we’ve got rookies, young players who are trying to figure it all out.
“But for the meat of this team, we’ve got a bunch of grinders.”
Lee, GP2 and JTA all fall into that category. Undrafted, traveling through minor leagues and playing overseas and staying true to their goal until it was achieved in their late 20s. Their relentless drive is, indeed, at the center of this team.
Add the five starters – Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney – to the aforementioned six players and that’s 11 that make valuable contributions. Add Klay Thompson, who upon his return will replace Poole in the starting lineup, that’s 12 players. Add James Wiseman, the only true big man on the roster, that makes 13.
The unwieldy part about this is that it’s more than simple numbers or quality depth. This team has blended so wonderfully that taking out any two or three players, much less four or five, could be like sawing off one leg of a chair.
The “grinders,” with their hyperactivity, are in some way rejuvenating the veterans.
“When you combine that with stars like Steph and Draymond and Klay, guys who work as hard as they do, it creates an identity for a team, a competitive identity and a toughness,” Kerr said. “I love having guys like that on our team.”
As it is, Kerr and his staff face a dilemma that might provide a guide for what’s to come.
Navigating the next six weeks or so will be tricky, a dry run for what’s to come in the playoffs. There will be agony. And there is no way to know in advance if the fabric will retain its strength.