Ask Kerith: Are changes looming for Warriors' youngsters?

  • Editor’s note: Kerith Burke, NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors reporter, takes you inside the team as only she can throughout the season with the Ask Kerith Mailbag. Send her a question on Twitter and Instagram, @KerithBurke.

Heading into Monday night's game against the Sacramento Kings at Chase Center, the Warriors are 3-7 following a dreadful 0-5 road trip. Golden State has yet to beat a team with a winning record, and they have yet to win on the road.

This is a funky start for the defending champions. The most popular questions for the mailbag had to do with trades, who will get minutes moving forward, and how the Warriors might utilize the G League. Let’s jump in.

The word panic only would come into play if the team could not identify why they had a rough start. But they know why: defensive lapses, a struggling second unit, missed box outs, stagnant ball movement, turnovers and fouls. 

There is plenty to point to, and it’s all connected. The theme after the road trip was accountability, with everyone looking in the mirror to make sure they are doing their part to play harder and smarter. 

Teams always have more patience than those on the outside looking in. The Warriors are taking a “give it time” approach, provided it’s backed up by a serious commitment from all players to improve. 

James Wiseman is the backup. It’s his time, it’s what they drafted him to do. That’s not pressuring, it’s their expectation. Wiseman wants to be in the position to take the reins from Kevon Looney someday. 

With that in mind, I doubt the Warriors will add another big that ultimately would take minutes from Wiseman and potentially stunt his growth coming off a lost 2021-22 season. Instead, the Warriors are investing in Wiseman with tutelage from Looney, Draymond Green, and development coach Dejan Milojevic.

The Warriors also turn to small-ball lineups enough to where they can get by without another center and even survive the patches where Wiseman is struggling, provided everyone is healthy.

Regarding Andre Iguodala, the Warriors will not give his roster spot away. When he decided to hold off retiring for one more year, there was a mutual understanding that he might not play much this season (last season he played in 31 regular season games) but his value in the locker room is an asset. He teaches young players how to be professionals. 

Iguodala will retire with Golden State. He’s built up respect and admiration, and he deserves a celebratory send-off when his career concludes. The front office will not dump him in the pursuit of a short-term band-aid. 

Wiseman needs time and reps. Growing pains are called that for a reason. Some things hurt to watch. 

Specifically, his understanding of defensive rotations, forceful screen-setting, and aggression around the rim are things he needs to work on. 

Nobody is immune to criticism when they deserve it. It’s fair game to note that Wiseman has been struggling. He’s minus-69 in total plus/minus rating coming into Monday’s game. Plus/minus is not a perfect stat, but it indicates Wiseman has been on the floor when the Warriors are being outscored. He’s part of the problem with the second unit's scoring. 

Social media gets ridiculous when it comes to Wiseman, especially when the conversation shifts from valid criticism backed by stats to mean comments such as “he’s trash” or a “bust.” 

It’s extreme to call someone a bust when they haven’t played one full, healthy season. Ideally, 2-3 seasons give a sense of who a player is. Wiseman has played 49 NBA games. 

I think the Warriors want to hold off on sending either of these guys to the G League, for as long as possible.

Right now, people are high on Jonathan Kuminga after playing a solid 38-minute game against the Pelicans. Can he string together a collection of good games now that Kerr said Kuminga has earned a spot in the rotation?

Wiseman’s injuries forced him to watch the players he’s expected to join on the floor. Now it’s time to build those bonds. Perhaps Wiseman could benefit from a game speed that's just a tick slower in Santa Cruz to make sure his confidence is high, but the situation has to feel more desperate. The Warriors aren’t there yet, for either guy.

Kerr gave Wiseman a thumbs-up at practice yesterday, stating, “Modern life is unforgiving and people don’t take into account organic growth. Everyone wants results right now…He’s got plenty to learn but he’s a willing learner and we are going to take our time with him.”

For now, the rookies are the only guys getting run in the G League. 

I understand why fans are curious about trades, but I doubt it’s something the front office is considering after 10 games. The Warriors don’t know what they have yet. It’s too early to say what kind of gains Wiseman, Kuminga, and Moses Moody can make this season, and the rookies barely have played. 

Additionally, the money has to match. An impactful veteran costs money. Perhaps the most the Warriors could do in terms of a trade is to swap salary for salary.

And of course, you need a trade partner. If the Warriors don’t know what they have yet after ten games, neither do other teams. A trade happening this soon before the deadline would require a degree of desperation that has not bubbled up yet. 

You make an interesting point about the social gap on the team. What’s happening in Steph Curry’s world in his mid-30s with a family is much different than what single 20-year-olds are experiencing when they ordinarily would be in college. 

The young players are friendly with each other, but they don’t spend every moment outside of work hanging out. The team at large is not big on partying with coworkers. Guys like each other, but they have their own lives and commitments.

Where you might see age play a factor is with the foundation of basketball skills. Coming out of college early -- or Wiseman and Kuminga essentially bypassing college -- means the NBA becomes the development league. The rawness is more pronounced. 

Anthony Lamb looked promising when he started in New Orleans, putting up 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field and 4-of-6 from 3-point range. 

Donte DiVincenzo’s hamstring injury meant the Warriors had to rely on Ty Jerome as an extra ball-handler on the road trip. He did well, too! 

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I’m not sure how much the Warriors want to rely on two-way players when they’re trying to lock in their rotations, but perhaps I’m mistaken about predicting limited roles for these guys. Kerr said he’ll consider all players who prove they deserve an opportunity in the rotation. 

The Warriors' starters still are the best in the league, but playing them for more than 34 to 36 minutes per game is not ideal. It’s bad for their bodies long-term, especially as they age. 

Minutes, minutes, minutes. The great tug-of-war in a season. With the Warriors’ depth, the starters should be able to get a break once things stabilize. 

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