Bench productivity plagued the Golden State Warriors last season, particularly early on as the team stumbled to a 3-7 record through the opening 10 games. While one preseason game may not mean everything, Saturday night’s 125-108 win over the Los Angeles Lakers was an indicator that the bench issues may be a thing of the past.
Steve Kerr practically split his bench and starters, giving a new-look second-unit the opportunity to compete without the safety blanket of the team’s stars. After entering with a one-point deficit in the first-quarter, a Brandin Podziemski, Gary Payton II, Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga and Dario Saric unit pushed the Warriors to a six-point lead by the end of the opening period.
Sparked by potential leaps from Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, the Golden State Warriors bench looks in far better shape than 12 months ago.
The starters returned and ballooned the lead to 18 at one stage, before the Lakers found some life to cut the margin to seven by half-time. Golden State’s youngsters continued their impressive display in the second-half though, extending the lead in the third and running away late to record the 17-point victory.
Growth in the Warrior bench is bound to be linked with an individual rise from third-year youngsters Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. Based on Saturday night’s performance, that proposition is well and truly on track.
Kuminga finished with a team-high 24 points, shooting 8-14 from the floor and 4-8 from deep in a dynamic 23-minute display. It was his eight rebounds that was most impressive though, skying high and using his athleticism on the glass in a way that’s often been hoped. His five turnovers are cause for some concern, but he was nonetheless impressive in a performance sure to excite every Golden State fan.
Sometimes criticized for his indecision and passiveness across his first two seasons, Moody was anything but in an authoritative display that signified his potential jump entering year three. The 21-year-old finished with 15 points, five rebounds, and two assists, showing no hesitancy in shooting 6-12 from the field.
After a shaky time in Summer League, Podziemski couldn’t have been more impressive as he impacted the game on both ends. The 19th overall pick looked composed as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, made a few nice defensive plays, and was a strong rebounder as advertised. The 20-year-old had 11 points, five rebounds and four assists in a team-high 26 minutes of action.
Saric provided the sort of stability the Warriors have been hoping for, showcasing his multifaceted offensive game with a pair of triples and some excellent passes to finish with six points, four rebounds and three assists in 14 minutes.
Earlier in the first-half, Chris Paul looked every bit a Golden State player in fitting effectively with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney. The 38-year-old knocked down his first mid-range jumpshot and provided the calming influence in a six-point, five-rebound, four-assist performance.
Thompson showed he hadn’t lost his quick trigger over the offseason, getting up eight shots including seven threes in 12 minutes of play. His four rebounds were impressive, with the 33-year-old looking in good physical shape after his struggles to begin last season.
As far as preseason openers go, Warrior fans couldn’t have asked for much more from nearly every player on the roster. The team will now get nearly a week to continue their training preparation before another meeting with the Lakers at Crypto.com Arena on Friday.