Young Warriors go to free throw line much more than in past seasons

Young Warriors go to free throw line much more than in past seasons

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 severely undermanned with the crippling effect of multiple injuries to the team's top players. Despite losing six of eight games, this team currently is playing some inspired and competitive basketball, feeding off the lack of expectations.

While they might be catching their opponents off guard so far, the active healthy Warriors, led by rookies, role players and two-way players, are playing feisty basketball. The team has been pushing the pace, bursting into transition at every opportunity, and competing in a scrappy, aggressive and highly enthusiastic fashion.

How are the young Dubs staying competitive in games thus far? One main reason: They're drawing fouls. 

Entering Thursday, the Warriors are attempting over 27 free throws per game, good for sixth in the NBA. To no surprise, the Rockets lead the league with 30 free throw attempts per game.

This is a massive change from prior seasons under coach Steve Kerr and his past superstar rosters. Traditionally, many would expect that "superstar treatment" of elite players would lead to drawing the most fouls, but for a Warriors team that was so dominant for many years, it was quite the opposite.

Last season, the Warriors ranked 28th in the league with just over 20 attempts per game, which is the same amount Golden State attempted in the 2017-18 season, good for 22nd in the NBA. Without the best long-range shooters in the history of the game, the Warriors now are relying on attacking the rim and forcing the action. 

Trips to the free throw line are great and all, but teams also needs to make them, and the Warriors have been excellent thus far. The Warriors are second in the NBA in free throw percentage, converting over 86 percent. Being at the top of the NBA in this category is no revelation to the team. They were fifth in the league at 80 percent last season, and first in the league in the 2017-18 at nearly 82 percent.

But unlike the last few seasons when historically great free throw shooters like Steph Curry and Kevin Durant led the team in free throws, this season the Warriors are relying on rookies and relatively inexperienced players to convert from the stripe. Eric Paschall has made over 88 percent of his free throws, Damion Lee has converted 85 percent and Jordan Poole is yet to miss one.

[RELATED: Warriors learn lesson in poor third quarter vs. Rockets]

Even the combination of big men -- Willie Cauley-Stein, Omari Spellman and Marquese Chriss -- have combined to hit 86 percent of their free throws.

It's a small sample size, but if the young Warriors can continue to get to the line and make their free throws, then they might be in more close games than many previously thought.

Warriors’ still-mounting injuries a big blow to young players’ development

Warriors’ still-mounting injuries a big blow to young players’ development

SAN FRANCISCO -- In the waning moments of the Warriors' latest loss Friday night, their bench resembled the front row of a fashion show more than a functioning NBA roster.

Toward the end of the bench, All-Star guard Stephen Curry sat in a black suit jacket, covering a massive cast protecting his broken left hand. To Curry's left, center Kevon Looney sat in a gray suit, his immediate future in peril as he continues to seek answers about an injured hamstring.

That type of visual has become commonplace over the last month.

Over that stretch, 11 Warriors players have been sidelined with injuries, crippling a roster that seemed armed with an outside shot of making the playoffs on opening night just three weeks ago.

The latest blow came Saturday morning, when an MRI confirmed that D'Angelo Russell had suffered a sprained thumb, sidelining him for at least two weeks. Over his previous six games, the guard had averaged 29.7 points on 48 percent shooting from the field, including a 52-point, nine-rebound performance against Minnesota, so his absence will be felt.

That's because the Warriors are in roster transition, marked by their youthful core.

When Jordan Poole and Eric Paschall were drafted in June, the expectation was that the rookies would be brought along slowly, learning behind Golden State's battered All-Star cast. The myriad injuries changed that, though, forcing both into more minutes than initially anticipated.

While Paschall has flourished in that spot (15.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in 30.8 minutes per game), Poole has struggled. Since Curry's injury in the fourth game of the season, Poole has shot 29 percent from the field, and he has hit just five of his last 28 shots over his last two contests.

The trickle-down effect started on the eve of training camp, when Warriors general manager Bob Myers announced that center Willie Cauley-Stein would miss most of October with a foot strain. Two days later, rookie Alen Smailagic rolled his ankle and Looney strained his hamstring in the same controlled scrimmage.

Last month, Curry broke his hand, sidelining the guard until at least February. Two nights later, forward Draymond Green tore a ligament in his left index finger. On Monday, two-way guard Damion Lee fractured his hand.

Amid all those injuries, Warriors coach Steve Kerr trotted out his ninth starting lineup of the season Friday, with two-way guard Ky Bowman at the point. For a moment, it worked.

Midway through the third quarter, Bowman intercepted a pass, ran cross court and dunked over Grant Williams, cutting the Celtics' lead to three. Two minutes later, Alec Burk stripped Boston guard Brandon Wanamaker, setting up a fast-break layup that gave Golden State a brief 82-80 lead before the Celtics rallied and held on in the fourth quarter.

The Warriors' current reality is much different than their immediate past. After winning 78 percent of their games over five years, they now find themselves with a roster that lost Kevin Durant to free agency, while Curry and Klay Thompson's rehabs are expected to last until at least February. Their 2-11 record is the NBA's worst.

[RELATED: How die-hard Warriors fans can stay optimistic]

Minutes after the final buzzer Friday, there were reminders of potential hopes lost. Curry's hand swelled out of his cast as he walked near a team official. In the locker room, Paschall sported an ice pack on his right hand, and Poole reconciled an ankle injury that he said wouldn't affect him.

As the Warriors packed for another road trip, potentially with just eight healthy bodies for the foreseeable future, another reminder that the team's development is coming at a hefty price was evident.

Warriors' D'Angelo Russell out at least two weeks with right thumb sprain


Warriors' D'Angelo Russell out at least two weeks with right thumb sprain

Add another one to the list.

After leaving Friday night’s loss to the Celtics with a thumb injury, an MRI has confirmed a right thumb sprain for All-Star guard D'Angelo Russell.

Russell will not travel with the team on the upcoming four-game road trip and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Golden State’s already lengthy injury report adds another name, as the team now stands with just nine healthy players as the team embarks for New Orleans on Saturday to kick off the trip.