Nothing is ever the same in the NBA other than the dreams of 30 teams. The aspirations of 16, and a realistic goal of four teams at best.
For the Golden State Warriors, hoisting their third straight Larry O’Brien trophy is more than just dreams and aspirations. It’s their only option.
At 21-10 on the season, the Warriors are solid. Not running away with the West or the league, but certainly not performing at levels warranting concern.
But that’s okay. Considering the circumstances of injury, along with constant battles against complacency and malaise that is. Oh and a dramatic blowup between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green that already feels like a lifetime ago, the Warriors are somehow only a half-game out of first place in the West. It’s obvious by now that the Warriors are pacing themselves for their preseason. However, what’s paramount for them is finding that balance between pacing themselves for the run ahead and taking the season seriously enough to prevent bad habits from forming.
So, which players have stood out for the ‘Dubs in the early goings? Here is my awards for the first third of the season.
Most Valuable Player: Stephen Curry
Stephen Curry is unquestionably the Warriors’ MVP in the season’s first three months for what he brings to the team on the court as well as off of it. In the early months of the season, Curry’s averaged north of 30 points per game while flirting with 50/50/90 shooting splits, and garnering early consideration for league MVP honors.
Ironically, Curry proved his value in his three-week absence due to the groin injury he sustained against the Milwaukee Bucks. In the weeks that Curry was out, the Warriors struggled mightily offensively. The ball movement and the spacing that the Warriors usually enjoyed was absent. The offense struggled with finding space to operate. While Kevin Durant was sensational in Curry’s absence and went nuclear for a stretch, he wasn’t getting the help that he or the Warriors needed to win games.
With Curry now in the line up, he’s picked up where he left off. Within his first three games back from injury, Curry averaged 33 points on 53 percent shooting from the field and 54 percent from deep. Despite having a few game he has struggled in, Curry’s play and how he impacts the offense remains consistent. #StephBetter.
Most Disappointing Player: Klay Thompson
Of all the Warriors players, Klay Thompson eludes criticism for various reasons (mainly because he is such a perfect personality). But not here and not today. Aside from the 52 point game against Chicago where he set the record for most threes made in a game, Thompson is shooting 44 percent from the field which is the lowest field goal percentage for Thompson since Kerr became coach.
Thompson leads the league in field goal attempts but the problem is that his shots have been inefficient, resulting in some empty possessions. The good news is the season is still young. Furthermore, Thompson is still arguably the second best shooter in the game. Don’t bet on this slump lasting long.
Defensive Player Of The Year: Draymond Green
Just like Curry, Green proves his value by his presence and absence. Green sustained a toe injury that’s made him miss a considerable amount of action, and so did the defense.
Without Green, the Warriors dropped in defensive rating (108.8), struggled in points in the paint allowed (49.6), and second chance points allowed (14.1). In Green’s return against Minnesota, he snagged 10 boards, a block, and the Warriors forced and capitalized off of 16 Wolves’ turnovers. Since his return, the Warriors are gaining momentum on defense and their league ranking are steadily climbing.
6th Man: Jonas Jerbko
Technically, Andre Iguodala is the Warriors’ sixth man. However, Iguodala have been a starter in a few games to compensate for Green and Curry’s injuries. Not to mention, Iguodala’s production so far has been… inconsistent.
Jerbko struggled in the preseason but continued to work and grind to prove himself on the Warriors bench. And so far, he has. For a unit that struggles with scoring, Jerbko is not shy to help out. He will shoot the ball, and now he’s found a sense of confidence in his three. On the season, Jerbko is shooting a respectable 47 percent from the field and 37 percent from three. Not to mention scrapping for 5 boards per game.
Most Improved Player: Quinn Cook
Cook’s numbers may not explode off of the box score. However, he was solid as Curry’s fill in, averaging close to 13 points per game. What really stands out about Cook is his work ethic. Sometimes, Cook can be seen getting up extra shots after games. In practices, if he is not working on his shot, he is with coaches or Durant doing whatever it takes to stay prepared for the moments when and where he’s needed.
Most Exciting Prospects: Alfonzo McKinnie and Damion Lee
Alfonzo McKinnie hustled his way into the final two-way contract during the preseason and was prepared to split his time between Oakland and Santa Cruz. That was until the unexplained situation with Patrick McCaw continued. McKinnie has made the most of the playing time that was McCaw’s by hustling on the boards and providing some scoring off the bench. Related: McCaw needs a new agent.
Meanwhile, Lee was also preparing to split time. However injures to Curry and Green opened up an opportunity for the wing to make an impact. Lee is shooting 45 percent from the field and is aggressive on offense. With his work in Curry’s absence, there is a possibility that Lee’s two way will be come a permanent roster spot.