When the offense ran aground for a few games early this season, Warriors coach Steve Kerr backed away from the continuous movement required of his variation of the triangle. Noting a mostly new roster and rotations in flux, he simplified things.
He unveiled more pick-and-roll action, which yielded mixed results before fading within two weeks. Movement was back, and the ball was hopping.
And then-19-year-old rookie center James Wiseman, whose development is a franchise priority, was forced to again grapple with advanced NBA calculus.
But Kerr returned to simplicity on Monday, and the Warriors rode high screens to a pick-and-roll frenzy, shooting 50 percent and recording 28 assists in a 116-102 victory over the Bulls.
“That’s a good weapon for us,” Draymond Green, the team’s leading playmaker said Wednesday. “Will we lean more on that? It’s not really my decision.
“But it’s definitely a good weapon for us to continue to build on our offense. And it’s also a way of continuing to use Wise more, because he’s a tough cover rolling to the rim.”
Kerr hears you, Draymond. So, here comes more simplicity.
"Yeah, definitely,” Kerr said. “We want to continue to run plenty of pick-and-roll.”
This, honestly, appears to be the best chance of this roster reaching its peak this season. Of the primary rotation players currently healthy, only Green, Stephen Curry, Kevon Looney and Damion Lee have played more than 100 games with the Warriors.
Everybody else, including starters Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr., might be assuaged by this simplified offense.
Wiseman, however, is the key. At 7-foot-1, good athleticism and a feathery touch on his jump shot, he poses multiple threats, from the obvious lob possibilities to pick-and-pop potential to simply creating space for shooters, with Curry reaping the most benefit.
“A big part of it is James is really starting to get comfortable with the timing on his drags and step-ups and he’s recognizing it,” Kerr said. “Sometimes, it’s not even called, whereas early in the season he might not recognize that he needs to go set (a screen). Now, he’s recognizing that any time there’s a broken play, to go set a high screen.”
Put another way, 33 games into his NBA career, Wiseman is picking up Calculus 101.
“That’s the growth that we’ve been looking for from James,” Kerr said. “Now that he’s back from that (wrist) injury and settled into the starting lineup, I’m really excited about his play in the pick-and-roll and his awareness of when to hold the screen, when to dive, when to slip out. Those are all things that take time to figure out, and he’s doing a really good job with it.”
Wiseman’s passing is nowhere near the level it needs to be to make him a highly functional big man in an offense predicated on movement. He might get there, but that aspect of his game is in its infancy.
Even if pick-and-roll action does not become usual trigger for Golden State’s offense, why not emphasize it if he is able to thrive within it?
“It’s definitely a good weapon for us to continue to build on our offense,” Green said. “And it’s also a way of continuing to use Wise more, because he’s a tough cover rolling to the rim.”
Some critics, including a vocal contingent within Dub Nation, have implored Kerr to utilize more high screens. It has succeeded in the past, particularly with Curry and Green. Though it has potential with Wiggins and maybe Oubre.
Though there was some success with the simplified offense earlier this season, it was apparent Wiseman was not adept at reading his role. More than two months later, it’s time.
“We can’t force his development,” Kerr said. “It has to come organically. The great thing is we’re seeing it. He’s starting to get more comfortable in the detail that we see on film.
“We have a chance to really have a good run over the last 25 games, being relatively healthy and James starting to grow and see some things. It’s an exciting time for us.”
There is no rational argument against Simplicity, The Sequel. Not at this time, not in the locker room, not in the front office and not among any pocket of the fan base. It’s rational to ride it until it breaks down.
Feels like a nice birthday present for Wiseman, who turned 20 on Wednesday.