The Whiteboard: Warriors make lineup change but not the one you expect

Today on The Whiteboard, the Warriors make a change and an early look at the 2024 NBA Draft class and how they can help specific teams.

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers - Game Six
Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers - Game Six / Harry How/GettyImages
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Today on The Whiteboard, the Warriors make a change and an early look at the 2024 NBA Draft class and how they can help specific teams.

Other than Draymond Green's lack of self-control, the struggles of Andrew Wiggins and Klay Thompson have been the biggest story around the Golden State Warriors this season.

Both players had been hovering around 40 percent shooting from the field and well below their career 3-point averages — Wiggins has even dropped below 30 percent. That's not the only area they'd been struggling but a lack of shooting efficiency was by far the most obvious and visceral issue.

Klay's spot in the starting lineup had seemed to be in doubt but on Thursday night, Steve Kerr made the decision to insert rookie Brandin Podziemski in place of Wiggins (with Jonathan Kuminga taking the place of the indefinitely suspended Draymond Green).

The Warriors still lost 121-113 but they were plus-3 in the 14 minutes that group played together. Wiggins had another relatively difficult night off the bench but Thompson responded with 30 points and 5 assists on 9-of-15 from the field and 8-of-12 from beyond the arc. Podziemski was 2-of-11 from the field but contributed 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and a block.

Steve Kerr has said he's going to continue with this same starting lineup for now, and the Warriors have to be hoping this can help them begin to dig out of the 10-14 hole they've dug themselves in the standings.

Can the Warriors' new starting lineup help Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins?

For Klay Thompson, the most significant factor here may simply be the vote of confidence in keeping his starting spot. He was visibly frustrated when he was benched in the fourth quarter against the Suns earlier this week.

We looked a bit more in-depth at his struggles earlier in the season and concluded that age and declining athleticism explained some of his problems but a bigger factor was simply bad shooting luck and his 3-point percentage was likely to progress to the mean as the season went along. He's still had a few rough games but he's also shooting 39.0 percent from beyond the arc since that edition of The Whiteboard, on Nov. 20.

In short, he's still been inconsistent but overall much better than he was over the first month of the season.

Wiggins is also suffering from a somewhat inexplicablly bad shooting streak. He's hit just 28.9 percent of his open and wide-open 3-pointers this year after hitting 40.5 percent last season and 40.7 the previous season. Those are shots that aren't really impacted by the defense and it seems likely they'll eventually start falling for him at some point.

But tying Wiggins' minutes to Chris Paul a bit more may also help. The offense runs a bit more ssimply with Paul at the helm and allowing him to orchestrate easy buckets for Wiggins could help him shake his slump and get his confidence back.

Besides the potential for simply jump-starting Wiggins and Thompson, there may be an upside for the Warriors in just getting Kuminga and Podziemski more minutes together. Both players bring a level of physical intensity and athleticism that's missing in other places in the rotation. They've played 205 minutes together this season, in which the Warriors have outscored opponents by an average of 15.6 points per 100 possessions. Just 77 of those minutes also came with Klay Thompson but they're an absurd plus-29.3 per 100 possessions with that trio on the floor.

At this point the Warriors need something to bust them out of their slump. Anything Kuminga and Podziemski take off the table from that starting group can be covered by the other things they bring. It might not be enough to solve all of or even most of their problems but it's an experiment worth continuing.


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Nov 30, 2023; San Antonio, Texas, USA;  San Antonio Spurs center Victor Wembanyama (1) walks off the
Nov 30, 2023; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Victor Wembanyama (1) walks off the / Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Three: Spurs, Pistons and an early look at the 2024 NBA Draft

FanSided's NBA Draft expert, Chris Kline, just finished his latest NBA Mock Draft and he's joining us today to answer three questions about Victor Wembanyama and how this draft class might help the struggling Spurs and Pistons.

1. By the box score, Victor Wembanyama is having a monster rookie season for the Spurs. Why isn't that production helping the Spurs' bottom line more?

I think there are a variety of factors at play. We have reached the point where Wembanyama is being asked to do too much. His 30.1 usage rate is higher than Jayson Tatum, LeBron James, and Jalen Brunson. That's a lot to ask of your 19-year-old, 7-foot-4 big man who has never faced NBA defenses before. The Spurs aren't surrounding Wemby with the right personnel either. It seems we are finally moving away from Point Sochan, but that was a purely disastrous decision from Gregg Popovich — both for the Spurs' overall execution and for Sochan's development. Putting multiple ball-handlers around Wembanyama and spoon-feeding him easier looks at the rim is important. He's the best lob threat in the NBA. That 8-foot wingspan completely changes the geometry of the court. San Antonio should lean into that more often. More Tre Jones minutes would be nice.

In the end, however, Wemby's talent is obvious. He's already a world-class defender, but the Spurs don't have the personnel around him to sustain a world-class defense. His shot selection will improve with time, and better personnel will directly correlate to better efficiency as Wemby's surroundings improve. Most rookies thrust into massive roles are inefficient and incomplete. Wemby is held to a higher standard than your average rookie, but he's unsurprisingly vulnerable to the same pitfalls. Just give it time.

2. Is there a player in this NBA Draft class who could imagine single-handedly leading a dramatic reversal of fortune for the Spurs next season?

It has been rather challenging to work up optimism about the top of the 2024 class. There's no Wemby waiting in the No 1 spot — not even an Anthony Edwards or Ben Simmons. That said, the Spurs should look to nail the point guard position next time around.

The best prospect on the board for the Spurs' purposes is probably Nikola Topic, whose positional size at 6-foot-6, combined with elite driving ability and advanced feel, makes him a viable No. 1 pick candidate. He needs to up the 3-point volume, but he's going to pressure the rim and manipulate defenses out of pick-and-rolls, which should allow Wembanyama to come into easier looks off the ball.

3. Is there a player in this NBA Draft class who could imagine single-handedly leading a dramatic reversal of fortune for the Pistons next season?

Again, there's probably no franchise savior in 2024. Especially not for a franchise in such dire straits. The Pistons need to completely rework the roster, potentially starting with Cade Cunningham. The Pistons' foundational piece has been middling at best in 2024, which makes it difficult to chart a path forward. On one hand, you could argue that Detroit should pick the best prospect available — Nikola Topic — and figure out fit later. On the other hand, another ball-handler with an iffy jumper on a team that already employs Cunningham, Ausar Thompson, and Jaden Ivey feels like a flawed recipe.

My No. 2 prospect, Alex Sarr, would be absorbed into a crowded frontcourt presently consisting of Jalen Duren, Isaiah Stewart, Marvin Bagley, and James Wiseman. In the end, the Pistons should probably take Topic or Sarr and anticipate further foundational changes, or prioritize the best floor-spacing, two-way wing on the board — think Zacchaire Risacher, Ron Holland, Ja'Kobe Walter, and so forth. No team is shrouded in more uncertainty about the future than Detroit right now. The 2024 draft won't offer a Get Out of Jail Free card, but it can inform the direction the front office wants to take.


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