Steve Kerr

Warriors' roster puzzle eerily similar to Spurs' historic dynasty

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SAN FRANCISCO – If a picture speaks a thousand words, then Moses Moody and Warriors coach Steve Kerr sitting down, one chair in between them, for a talk during practice the day before playing the Kings can serve as the perfect example for the reality that Kerr again is about to face. 

Kerr took complete responsibility the next day for a late-game decision that had fans, writers, pundits, analysts and social media up in arms for a puzzling decision on a night where the Warriors carried a 17-point halftime lead, were up by as many as 24 points and lost 124-123 to their budding Northern California rivals in Sacramento.

Despite Moody scoring all 11 of his points on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting in the fourth quarter, making both of his 3-pointers and seeing two made shots called off, the 21-year-old watched the final four-and-a-half minutes from the sidelines. His 3-pointer 30 seconds prior gave the Warriors a 116-114 lead. 

With Andrew Wiggins (right finger contusion) and Chris Paul (left lower leg nerve contusion) expected to return Wednesday night after missing the Warriors' last two games, Kerr again finds himself in a difficult roster and rotation situation, one that might require some tough conversations. 

"Different times, different situations. He does a good job of communicating with guys throughout the year rather than just sitting there on the side like, all right I'm chopping it up with you," Moody said Tuesday when asked about Kerr's communication of who's in and out of the rotation. "So it might come up in a conversation like that, you know, might accidentally get pushed back a while or whatever, but I mean, they do a good job of communication." 

The Warriors' loss to the Kings was supposed to finally be a glimpse of who they are when they have their full squad. Draymond Green had just returned from a five-game suspension. Gary Payton II returned the game before after missing three from a left ankle issue. Moody wasn't even supposed to play in Sacramento at all. He was out of the rotation going into the night. 

So was rookie first-round draft pick Brandin Podziemski, who did not play in the loss. Injuries during the game to Paul and Payton forced Kerr's hand with Moody, and Podziemski also has taken advantage of open doors the last two games, two of which might be fully shut as soon as Wednesday night while the Warriors wait for Payton's return from a strained right calf following his Thursday re-evaluation. 

Depth is what Kerr and the Warriors turned to as one of their biggest positives entering the season. Now, it's up to him and his coaching staff to ensure the advantage doesn't sway to being a negative. Kerr wants more consistency; he wants a more set rotation of eight, nine, or maybe 10 players. But not 11, 12, or 13 – even if he feels he has that many capable NBA players.

It might truly be time for the Warriors to really take a page from the book of Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs, the franchise Golden State outwardly has expressed as the blueprint of sustained success. The Spurs' last championship in 2013-14 can be a shining example of allocating minutes on an aging roster. 

There wasn't one player on that team who averaged more than 29.4 minutes per game, Tony Parker's average for his age-31 season, yet eight players averaged 21.5 minutes or more. The Warriors are right on track. Through the Warriors' first 20 games, Steph Curry is their only player averaging 30 minutes, at 33.4 a night. He likely is the only one who should be above that mark, too. Klay Thompson is right behind at 29.8 minutes. 

Thompson, in reality, is the Warriors' second player topping the 30-minute mark. Kerr was playing him 31.3 minutes per game going into Thompson's ejection within the first two minutes of the Warriors' heated contest with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Nov. 14, and he has averaged 31.5 minutes in eight games since then. Should he be, though? 

The Warriors currently have seven players averaging 21.7 minutes per game. Moody, 21, is at 18.8 minutes. Podziemski, 20, is at 18.7, and Jonathan Kuminga, 21, is at 19.8. 

"I would have taken Klay out," Kerr said Nov. 30 when asked who would have come off the floor to keep Moody on it in the Warriors' loss to the Kings. "And then maybe brought Klay in a couple minutes later, but Klay had been out there for a good chunk of the fourth quarter and we could have given him a couple minutes." 

Kerr has taken Wiggins off the floor late in games, and even Paul, his 38-year-old future Hall of Famer in his 19th season. 

Of course, everything would be much simpler if the Warriors had a Kawhi Leonard, who averaged 29.1 minutes in Year 3 during that 2013-14 championship as a 22-year-old. The Warriors would love for that to be Kuminga, but he's shown the same mistakes this season as he has in the past. Maybe it's Moody, maybe it's Podziemski – who has been the Warriors' best rookie on defense since Draymond. 

Podziemski works closest with assistant coach Bruce Fraser, picking the brain of someone who knows Curry well and is already Paul's go-to guy. Moody watches film every day alongside assistant coach Kris Weems. Every voice will be instrumental in keeping everybody on the same page, something Moody believes has been much better than his first two years as a pro. 

"This year, I feel like the coaching staff has done a good job of not … because it can get kind of like you know you got your coach, that's who's got you, that's who you talk to kind of," Moody said. "But this year, I feel like the coaching staff has done a better job of being a team as a unit to where it's not always like, 'This is my guy that talks to me about everything.' 

"I've talked to a lot of different guys, I like the flow of that." 

This team is built more for April, May, and June than for October, November, and December. Connectivity was the buzzword entering camp, and fluidity throughout the roster and rotations might have to be the new highlighted, bolded, and underlined word, taking a page from Pop, to reach those final few months.

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