The Golden State Warriors have one of the most stacked teams in the league, and this is true of their second and third units. A couple of weeks ago, the entire squad seemed to be clicking and perfectly in sync. But some glaring issues with some bench players, issues that have more or less been forgone from discussion during the team’s periods of success, have now given rise to new concerns about the Warriors’ bench play going forward after a stretch of bad games.

Second unit spacing

One of the prevalent issues is the ability for the second unit to space the floor and score effectively. A typical 2nd quarter unit for the Warriors will consist of Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Klay Thompson, David West, and Draymond Green. Even with Thompson on the floor, who’s one of the two best shooters in the league (the other starts alongside him), and Green, who can handle and distribute the ball, this unit cannot score well enough to threaten opponents.

Iguodala is having one of the poorest offensive season in his career. He’s averaging 5.6 points per game while only attempting 5 shots per game, and he’s shooting an abhorrent 23% from three, a career low and an anomaly in the Warriors’ fluid offensive system. Even if he hit an occasional three every other game, it would be more productive than him going several games without hitting one, which is what he’s been doing recently. Iguodala milked the most out of his contract this past offseason, but his effort levels have seemed to drop significantly. Yes, he’s still crucial to the Warriors core and he does so much good on the court–great passing, leading fast breaks, and veteran defense– that isn’t accounted for on the stat sheet. But if other teams are going to basically disregard him on offense, then it’s kind of like playing 4 on 5 for certain stretches of time.

The second-year Patrick McCaw, the guy Iguodala himself once said would take his job as a starter, is having a similarly rough season. Confidence has always been the plague of McCaw’s game; when he’s feeling it, he’s feeling it, but when he’s hesitant, then it bodes poorly for the Warriors overall. His PER ratings over the past 5 games are all terribly negative, and he’s done almost nothing to relieve the Warriors’ bench ails. His defense, which was where he excelled in big moments last year, has looked confused; he had a poor defensive showing against one of the worst teams in the league, the Sacramento Kings; in the same game, he played 27 minutes and only shot twice.

Wing scoring is a huge issue for the Warriors’ rotations, especially if either Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry are not in–the ball movement becomes static and the lack of scoring threats lets opposing defenses sit deeper, almost begging the second unit to shoot threes by giving them so much space. Cutting and off-ball screens work less when the defenders are rooted deeper and expecting nothing but cuts and slashes.

The most threatening offensive tools that the Warriors bench currently boast are Shaun Livingston’s post fadeaway jump shots and David West’s reliable elbow midrange jump shots. But relying on only two predictable, easily stopped shots is what gets into bad situations–they’ve given up leads and fallen behind more often than a championship team can be comfortable with.

As we speak of reliability, Nick Young must also be mentioned in the same sentence, for he is entirely on-and-off. The Warriors wish to reduce uncertainty, as most humans tend to do psychologically, and Young really hasn’t helped them in this regard with his unpredictability. He has spurts when he shoots the lights out and scores in bunches, but his lackadaisical defense is not worth his offensive input, especially on nights when his erraticplay style reflects in his shooting percentages. There was an interesting (but puzzling) lineup choice Steve Kerr made in the Warriors’ loss to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday; Young was in during crunch time minutes instead of the usual Iguodala. He air balled a three and picked up a technical foul, basically ensuring the Nuggets’ victory and erasing the Warriors’ late game hope. This type of play and behavior is definitely not something the Warriors can be comfortable with.

Omri Casspi‘s play has taken a dip in quality, too. Once a trigger-happy three point shooter, Casspi now basically refuses to shoot threes in a Warriors uniform. The hesitance is the last thing that a Warriors bench devoid of scoring ability needs.

Will this trend continue into the postseason?

Maybe the bench’s issues are a case of midseason fatigue–Kerr himself said that the team is itching to get to the All-Star Break. But the concerns that have been prevalent since the beginning of the season–wing scoring, three point shooting off the bench, player confidence, and injury management–are all more evident now. With Jordan Bell still out for an undeclared amount of time, the bench unit has been less and less efficient and less dynamic on defense. The Warriors will likely not make any moves for the upcoming trade deadline; GM Bob Myers said, “The cohesiveness of our team matters to us and the continuity matters to us.” But the organization can’t hide the glaring issues with the roster right now.

As part of a championship team who’s done it all before, the Warriors bench may show up when the pressure of the playoffs arrive. If they don’t, however, it may prompt a string of future moves.

This article first appeared on and was syndicated with permission.


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