Golden State Warriors: Evaluating The Baby Warriors Production So Far

Jan 22, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Golden State Warriors center JaVale McGee (1) and guard Patrick McCaw (0) high five against the Orlando Magic during the second half at Amway Center. Golden State Warriors defeated the Orlando Magic 118-98. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 22, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Golden State Warriors center JaVale McGee (1) and guard Patrick McCaw (0) high five against the Orlando Magic during the second half at Amway Center. Golden State Warriors defeated the Orlando Magic 118-98. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors are a top-heavy team, and they might need their young guys to step up and contribute earlier than expected.

The Golden State Warriors have a better group of four players than anybody in the NBA. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are phenomenal. That much is obvious.

Believe it or not though, the Dubs need more than four players to win a championship this season. Nobody can match up with their star power, but there are teams with better benches than Golden State.

The Warriors depth is being pushed to the limit with some injuries to older veterans the team added to replace cap casualties in the push to acquire KD. Zaza Pachulia is dealing with a strained rotator cuff and likely won’t return for a few weeks.

David West isn’t expected to play until after the All-Star Break either.

Those injuries–plus Klay Thompson sitting out with some heel soreness and Shaun Livingston missing a game due to the birth of his child–resulted in three Warriors younger than 22 playing significant minutes in a recent game against the Denver Nuggets.

Rookie Patrick McCaw started in place of Thompson and logged 35 minutes, the most he’s ever played in an NBA game.

Second-year forward Kevon Looney played 16 minutes and rookie Damian Jones logged 12. Surprisingly, out of the Baby Warriors only McCaw had a plus/minus in the negative for the game against the Nuggets. While either Looney or Jones were on the floor, the Dubs outscored Denver.

As much as Steve Kerr might prefer to run with veterans who are better equipped to handle the pressure of playing on a great team, he knows he’ll likely need these Baby Warriors to jump in and play major minutes at times over the course of the regular season, and even potentially in the playoffs.

Injuries plague every team, which is what makes depth so vital for contenders.

Even more importantly, these Baby Warriors could end up moving up in the rotation as soon as next season. Several key Warriors are on the last year of their deals, including Curry.

Curry likely isn’t going anywhere, but his next contract will be worth well more than double per season what he’s making now.

That severely limits Golden State’s ability to add players, meaning anybody already on the roster is part of the Warriors future, out of necessity if nothing else. To that end, looking through what the young Warriors are capable of doing right now is important.

Patrick McCaw, Kevon Looney and Damian Jones are seeing more minutes already, and that trend should continue next year. Let’s look at how the Baby Warriors are producing for Golden State this season.

Jan 22, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Golden State Warriors center JaVale McGee (1) and guard Patrick McCaw (0) high five against the Orlando Magic during the second half at Amway Center. Golden State Warriors defeated the Orlando Magic 118-98. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 22, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Golden State Warriors center JaVale McGee (1) and guard Patrick McCaw (0) high five against the Orlando Magic during the second half at Amway Center. Golden State Warriors defeated the Orlando Magic 118-98. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick McCaw

Patrick McCaw is probably the most intriguing of the young Dubs. McCaw is a wing player with a ton of length, thanks to his 6’7″ frame and 6’10” wingspan. Those are close to Draymond Green’s measurements, although Draymond is substantially heavier than the rail-thin rookie.

Still, the Draymond comparison there is purposeful, because much of the appeal about McCaw is his defensive potential. If he pans out correctly, McCaw could be a game-changing wing defender who could switch across multiple positions on defense.

Almost no rookies come into the NBA playing fantastic defense, although McCaw has certainly shown flashes that he can be a disruptive player on that end.

McCaw’s offense is a work in progress, although it’s coming along. Many rookies drafted in 2016 have struggled on that end, but McCaw is making 41.6 percent of his field goals and 35.0 percent of his threes thus far.

That field goal percentage may look low, but that’s only because more than half of the shots McCaw takes are threes–he hits more than half of his attempted twos.

Playing next to the Splash Brothers and Kevin Durant certainly helps with his efficiency, but it’s still up to McCaw to make shots, and he’s done that. McCaw is still a ways away from being a complete player though.

When he’s on the floor, the Warriors have an offensive rating of 104.2 and a defensive rating of 105.8. Both of those marks rank among the fifth-worst among Golden State’s players, and the Warriors have a negative net rating when he plays this season.

The tools are there, but McCaw probably isn’t quite ready to play huge minutes on a contender just yet. That’s not all that surprising, considering he’s just 21 years old, but don’t be surprised to see McCaw step up in the not-too-distant future.

February 1, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Kevon Looney (5) shoots the basketball against Charlotte Hornets forward Spencer Hawes (00) during the first half at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Hornets 126-111. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

February 1, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Kevon Looney (5) shoots the basketball against Charlotte Hornets forward Spencer Hawes (00) during the first half at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Hornets 126-111. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kevon Looney

Damian Jones is one of the four Warriors besides Patrick McCaw who causes the team to have a negative net rating this season. Kevon Looney, interestingly enough, is not.

The second-year forward out of UCLA barely played in his rookie season because of an injury, but he’s already appeared in 43 games this year. Looney averages less than 10 minutes per game, but that number is steadily rising as he fills in for Pachulia and West.

Looney’s per game statistics are quiet due to his low minutes average, but his per 36 numbers are impressive. Looney is posting 11.2 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.4 blocks per 36 this season.

The 6’9″ center hasn’t done all too much besides put himself in good positions to catch passes from the stars on this team on offense, but realistically that’s all Golden State really needs him to do.

As long as he stays active while other Dubs are cutting, Looney can continue to cash in on buckets like this one.

After slinking away from his man, Looney swings back around and cuts to the basket just in time to catch an easy pass from Curry and slam it on home. That’s not a flashy play, but the set-up there was nice.

Looney’s shot-blocking has helped the Warriors as well. He’s undersized for a big man, but a lack of size hasn’t stopped Draymond Green from being one of the better defenders in the last ten years.

Looney is no Draymond, but the Warriors defense is damn good with him on the floor. The Dubs are allowing just 101.2 points per 100 possessions in Looney’s 401 minutes played this season, a mark that would rank second among NBA teams.

It helps that Draymond has been on the floor for 104 of those minutes, but Looney has been strong on that end even without Green out there. Looney is still fairly raw, but he’s finding ways to contribute now, which is a good sign for his NBA future.

February 1, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors center Damian Jones (15) during the fourth quarter against the Charlotte Hornets at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Hornets 126-111. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

February 1, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors center Damian Jones (15) during the fourth quarter against the Charlotte Hornets at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Hornets 126-111. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Damian Jones

Damian Jones is the biggest question mark among the Baby Warriors going forward. He tore his right pectoral muscle just days before the 2016 NBA Draft, although Golden State still elected to pick him 30th overall.

He made his NBA debut in December, and has appeared in just eight games with the Warriors thus far. Golden State’s game against the Nuggets was the first time Jones had seen more than 10 minutes of action in his career.

His lack of playing time makes it difficult to judge Jones based on what he’s done in the NBA, although his collegiate accomplishments can help shed some light on what he has to offer.

DraftExpress had him as high as 13th overall on some mock drafts thanks to his towering 7’0″ frame combined with springy athleticism.

Jones’ game needs to be refined on both ends, but he could end up being a standout center down the line. He’s not there yet, and it will take a while, but getting a productive player out of the 30th overall pick would be worth the wait for Golden State.

Golden State Warriors

Jul 12, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Patrick McCaw (0) dribbles the ball during an NBA Summer League game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Overview

The Golden State Warriors youth movement is interesting. None of the Baby Warriors look like sure-fire future stars, but McCaw, Looney and Jones all appear like they could become effective role players.

That’s all the Warriors really need from them, honestly. With Curry, Durant, Thompson and Green all around, the focus clearly isn’t on these youngsters becoming 20 point per game scorers or anything like that.

With Pachulia currently injured and he and JaVale McGee both becoming unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, though, Looney and Jones could find themselves as crucial role players on a championship-caliber team next year.

McCaw could end up as the primary bench guard, considering Shaun Livingston and Ian Clark will both also be free agents after this season.

This group isn’t going to see tons of minutes this year except for situations like that Nuggets game, where other players are sitting out.

In Golden State’s next game against the Sacramento Kings, McCaw and Jones both saw their minutes reduced massively thanks to the return of Thompson and Livingston.

Looney, interestingly, got around 16 minutes in each game. He and McCaw are already rotational players, and it’s a safe bet that Steve Kerr will find ways to try them out more going forward.

That could be in preparation for the future or simply out of necessity, but either way these Baby Warriors will be factors in Golden State’s coming title run this season.

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