Warriors

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' Kevon Looney details injury rehab, dieting in HEADSTRONG

Warriors' Kevon Looney details injury rehab, dieting in HEADSTRONG

Kevon Looney was a McDonald's All-American and named Wisconsin's Mr. Basketball as a high school senior. He spent just one season at UCLA before the Warriors took him with the No. 30 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft at only 19 years old.

And then, his life as a basketball star quickly was derailed. Looney had two hip surgeries early in his career and only played in five games as a rookie. 

"It was really frustrating," Looney said in a segment during NBC Sports' documentary "HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports." "Coming into the league, you have these dreams that I'm gonna take the league by storm, and my first year I was really just sidelined."

Looney struggled mightily with the mental side of his rehab. Basketball was his passion and a major part of his identity. He says he leaned heavily on his family during the dark times away from a basketball court. 

Years later, Looney sees the positive of dealing with adversity. It was through these tough times that he really learned about the importance of having a healthy diet. He always could eat what he wanted and be a great athlete. 

He needed to open his ears and make a change. 

"That's when I really learned how to be healthy," Looney said. "I really had to learn about my body and how to take care of my body. I had a couple veterans like Andre Iguodala telling me to eat right and do those type of things and I didn't really listen because I'm 19, 20. I gained a bunch of weight when I came back from the injury and really didn't feel right, so I changed up my diet." 

Looney lost nearly 30 pounds over six weeks when he made a change to his diet. His minutes continued to increase the past few seasons, and he now is a key player for the Warriors.

The 23-year-old signed a three-year, $15 million contract to remain with the Warriors this past offseason. He currently is on the mend with a neuropathic issue, but should be able to lean on lessons learned from the past to combat the mental gymnastics of being away from basketball. 

Looney wants to be a role model for those who are struggling, especially with their weight and diet. 

"I'm one of those people where I struggle with changing my diet, and I just want you to know that it's possible," Looney said. "The beginning of it is always hard, but if you stay discipline, you can change your life. You can live longer and be there for your loved ones and you can help people. You can be a walking testament.

"There's a lot of people that struggle with weight and I've been one of those guys, but if you can be discipline, you can take your life to another level."

Looney's struggles through rehab and how he learned how to be healthier will be discussed during Wednesday night's edition of Warriors Pregame Live as well as Warriors Postgame Live on NBC Sports Bay Area before and after Golden State plays the Portland Trail Blazers.

You can watch all of the "HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports" vignettes right here. The full documentary will be playing all month on NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Sports California.

Check our channel listings page for times and dates.

Warriors execs scout top 2020 NBA draft prospect James Wiseman up close

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USATSI

Warriors execs scout top 2020 NBA draft prospect James Wiseman up close

The Warriors likely will pick much higher than they've gotten used to in June's NBA draft. 

Golden State is a league-worst 2-9 this season, appearing like a lock to keep the top-20 protected 2020 first-round pick the Warriors sent to the Brooklyn Nets as part of the Kevin Durant sign-and-trade. The Warriors would have no shortage of options if they picked at -- or around -- the top of the draft, and their front office got an in-person glimpse at Memphis center James Wiseman on Tuesday night, according to The Athletic's John Hollinger. 

Wiseman, plagued by foul trouble early, finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds as Memphis lost to Oregon on Tuesday night.

Wiseman will be one of, if not the best player available in the draft. The 7-foot freshman center averaged 22.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game entering Tuesday's game, and the 18-year-old has the upside to develop into something the Warriors have not had in the Steve Kerr era: A truly dominant big man.

[RELATED: Warriors' injury report still growing through trying season]

How much more Wiseman will play this season remains to be seen. The NCAA ruled Wiseman ineligible for taking $11,500 from current Memphis coach Penny Hardaway in order to help Wiseman's family move when he transferred to play for Memphis East, the high school Hardaway was coaching at the time. A Shelby County, Tenn. judge placed an immediate temporary restraining order on the college athletics governing body shortly after the NCAA's ruling. Plus, as SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell noted, Memphis has not ruled Wiseman ineligible and the Tigers plan to continue playing him. 

Myers' presence at the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, as well as that of Harris and Dunleavy, suggests the Warriors are taking their new reality very seriously. Golden State will need the lottery balls to bounce its way, too, in order to select Wiseman, but the Warriors should have done their due diligence by then, at least.