Warriors

Warriors still will go small even after Wiseman, Looney return

Warriors
Draymond driving vs. Spurs

Playing small-ball is not something new for the Warriors. They have found immense success with a small lineup over the last several years. 

Last three games of the 2014-15 NBA Finals ring a bell?

But boasting a group of talented big men, it didn't seem like this year would feature much small-ball for the Warriors, at least on paper. Whether you believe it or not, the Warriors did have great depth at the center position, before injuries ravaged all three rotational players.

That's why they have been forced to play small for the last week. With James Wiseman, Kevon Looney, Marquese Chriss and Eric Paschall (although he has returned) missing parts of or the entirety of their Texas road trip, the tallest player on the Warriors' active roster was 6-foot-7.

But now, as some of those centers return or prepare to return, Tuesday's 114-91 win over the Spurs won't be the last time the Warriors go small. And the next time they do it, it will be voluntary. 

"We have to find some pockets where we go small, and we'll just have to figure that out," head coach Steve Kerr said. 

Not every game requires a small-ball lineup. Most of the time, it's not effective for all 48 minutes of the game. But where it becomes tricky for Kerr and the Warriors is when it comes to deciding when to pull their true centers, and one center in particular.

 

One of the major tasks for the Warriors this year is developing Wiseman. It's been established that the best way to do this is through giving him in-game reps. But, there was a question of how Kerr was going to balance Wiseman's development with winning now. Previously, the answer had to do with plugging in Looney. But now, it will also be about carving out small-ball minutes with Draymond Green at the five.

"I think every game is different but we definitely need to find pockets to play Draymond at the five," Kerr said. "He's now in a really good groove. His conditioning is where he needs it to be and he had an amazing road trip handling the ball and directing our offense, directing our defense."

Kerr said he came into this season knowing he wanted to find time to play small. Despite the Warriors having a No. 2 draft pick who played center, Kerr knew small-ball had been successful for his team in the past. And this year would be no different. 

Having Green at center usually works in favor of the Warriors. Whether the opponents' center is on Green or gets switched onto Steph Curry, it puts him in unfamiliar spacing, which the Warriors can take advantage of. 

But it just wasn't time for it yet. 

"We felt like once Draymond was in condition and really ready to play heavy minutes, we were going to get to (small-ball)," Kerr said. "We weren't ready for that early in the season. But the injuries sort of forced our hand, and Draymond has shown why he's so brilliant at playing at center."

A week and a half ago, Green said he felt he was still one to two weeks from his peak condition. On Tuesday night, he said again he was one or two weeks out. However, he also added that playing a quicker-paced game with the small-ball lineup has helped him progress.

"I got to continue to get in better shape," Green said. "I think you can see that in a couple of my pushes tonight. My bursts are coming back. It feels good. But I just want to keep getting better. Cut back on my turnovers, and my body is catching up to my speed. It's been a while since I played at this speed. I didn't play at this speed last year."

RELATED: How Draymond started piling up assists on road trip

There is no official update for Wiseman, though Kerr said he would be re-evaluated on Thursday. Looney isn't expected back for a few weeks, and Chriss for a few more months at least. 

So, in the meantime, the Warriors will continue with their small-ball. But even after the Dubs' roster resembles something a bit more balanced, expect to see some Green at the five moving forward.

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