The Golden State Warriors (6-2) are having a successful start, particularly when contrasted to the turbulent start to the previous year. The Warriors opened the season 4-0 away from home for just the fourth time in team history, which is encouraging given that they won just 11 games away from home in 2022–2023!.
Stephen Curry, 35, is playing some of his greatest basketball of his career thanks to the Chris Paul experiment, with the exception of a poor performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night.
But there’s one big problem that might keep Golden State from taking home another championship.
The Warriors aren’t big enough.
The Warriors’ diminutive size cannot be overstated. Head coach Steve Kerr has frequently used three- or four-guard lineups in close games, starting the 6-foot-6 Draymond Green at center. Even with his excellent defensive play, Green cannot make up for Golden State’s severe disadvantage in the paint and on the glass. These lineups are ineffective against teams like the Cavaliers, who have a significant size advantage over the Warriors.
Following the 115-104 defeat to Cleveland, Curry remarked, “That’s a good learning lesson for us in understanding the details of how you need to beat certain teams and making those adjustments.”
Does that imply that four-guard lineups will no longer be used by the Warriors? Most likely not.
The Warriors require a center of backup in addition to 6-foot-9 Kevon Looney. In that position, Kerr plays 6-foot-10 Dario Saric, but it doesn’t work out. Despite having a wide range of skills, he is an excellent offensive player but a poor defender. Saric can’t stop anyone at the rim, and it becomes even more problematic when he switches to smaller, quicker guards.
When it comes to the fourth quarter and crunch time, opponents are aware of this weakness and taking advantage of it. Golden State is currently ranked 28th in opponent points in the paint (14.3) and 24th in fourth-quarter rebounds (9.6). That is not good news.
Green is heavily burdened by small-ball lineups, therefore the Warriors need to shift to bigger, more defensive combinations.
Giving 6-foot-9 center Trayce Jackson-Davis, a rookie with outstanding hops, the chance to back up Looney is the easiest way to solve the problem, especially when the team is playing against a team with a significant height advantage.
But Kerr isn’t fond of assigning rookies a regular role. It has taken him three seasons to include the 6-foot-5 Moses Moody and the 6-foot-7 Jonathan Kuminga in the mix. It’s unlikely that this instance will be any different.
It’s obvious that the Warriors are faced with a challenge.