December 20, 2023
Kurtenbach: The Warriors’ two-timeline plan is back in action, and it’s a sight to behold
The Warriors decided to go all-in on their veteran players this past offseason. The team’s “two-timeline plan” for success was considered over. But no one officially signed the death certificate. Yes, the two timelines are back by anything other than popular demand. With Draymond Green suspended until who knows when and several veteran players playing inconsistent basketball, the Warriors have been forced to turn to the kids over the last few games. And get this: It’s working. The Warriors are on a three-game winning streak, including , Tuesday night at Chase Center. Now, the bulk of the credit for this streak must go to a resurgent Klay Thompson and the perpetually incredible Steph Curry. But the youngsters are playing serious minutes and providing a serious positive impact. While they might not be the kind of players that can take over for Curry, Thompson, and Green when the triumvirate calls it quits — the true two-timeline plan — they are proving they can help the veterans win games while the greats are still playing. And that’s a significant development for this team. Brandin Podziemski — a rookie Warriors coach Steve Kerr holds in such high regard that it sounded as if he annoyed the TNT announcing crew with his praise of the guard during their pregame meeting — is now a starter providing hustle, basketball smarts, and constant movement to a lineup that was doing a lot of standing around before his insertion. Moses Moody remains a trusted option off the bench, providing floor spacing and hustle. Jonathan Kuminga is figuring out how to be most effective on the floor, providing elite perimeter defense (he locked up Jayson Tatum Wednesday) and a rim-attacking mentality on offense. The real revelation has been Trayce Jackson-Davis, who has been so excellent in the last two games that it’s hard to imagine how he wasn’t already part of the rotation. The Warriors are a smallball team. They couldn’t play “big” ball if they tried — the team’s tallest players are Dario Šarić, a 3-point shooting floor-spacer, and Kevon Looney, whose vertical leap might not clear a basketball. Jackson-Davis is built for this kind of basketball. That’s been evident since the Warriors selected him in the second round of the 2023 NBA Draft. He’s proving it in the last two games. Against Portland on Sunday, showed a deft understanding of the simple but challenging assignment of being the Warriors’ center. He set simple screens, rolled to the hoop with outstanding timing, and won in the post when the switching defense put a smaller player on him. Jackson-Davis filled the stat sheet against the Blazers, scoring 14 points, grabbing eight rebounds, dishing out three assists, and posting two steals and a block, all while preventing Blazers 7-footer DeAndre Ayton from scoring while he was his primary defender. It was a quality game against an admittedly lousy team. But Jackson-Davis played an even better game against the Celtics on Tuesday, scoring 10 points in 29 minutes, with 13 rebounds, and, most importantly, three blocks, the last of which — against Jaylen Brown — . The Warriors have looked like the team we once knew them to be when Jackson-Davis has been on the floor the last two games. Perhaps it’s a mirage. Perhaps it’s prescient. He’s a player who operates at his own pace, but it aligns with the Warriors’. He’s a player whose skillset isn’t obvious, but it’s undeniable. It’s all terribly reminiscent of when Looney first broke into the rotation in 2017. It’s early days, no doubt, but Jackson Davis will continue to play. How can’t he? I don’t know if Andrew Wiggins will, like Thompson, find his form. The Warriors’ wing is on a different planet right now. Good on Kerr for limiting his minutes — he doesn’t deserve to play 30 these days. Chris Paul will continue to be up-and-down. That’s just the nature of being 38 years old in this league and not being a cyborg like LeBron James. Now, his smarts can mask some of his bad days, but the Warriors cannot count on him to be a scorer every night — sometimes (most of the time?). He will be a solid, reliable, turnover-limiting backup point guard most of the time, though. You could do a whole lot worse. But can the Warriors win with a closing lineup of those two with Thompson, Curry, and Looney? Not a chance. There’s a reason Kerr hasn’t used that lineup once in December. Šarić and the return of Gary Payton II can augment — they’re solid, reliable role players. But the kids would always be needed to up their games if the Warriors wanted to be better than a play-in tournament team. Jackson-Davis (23) has shown he belongs. Podziemski (20), too. Moody (21) is rock-solid, if unspectacular. Kuminga is so talented he seemed inevitable, but at 21, with the increased responsibilities amid Wiggins’ struggles, he’s consistently looking like a pro for the first time in his career. (There is a difference, folks.) That’s an average age of 21. And while there might not be a future superstar in the bunch, each player can now argue that they deserve 20-plus minutes a night and that they can positively affect winning. The Warriors didn’t want to count on the kids this season. But these kids might be what this team needed all along.
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