Chris Mannix unveils the origin of the Golden State Warriors’ vulnerability

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Joining Nick Wright, Cris Carter and Jenna Wolfe on First Things First, Chris Mannix reacts to Golden State's victory over Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder, revealing why he believes the Warriors are more vulnerable this year than they ever have been before.

- I think they're more vulnerable than they have been before for all the reasons everybody knows. I mean, their bench is not as good as it's been in years past. Steph Curry is injured. We don't know what he's going to look like when he comes back.

But one thing I'd remind people about the Warriors is that in recent years, singular year, last year, they breezed through the Western Conference playoffs. But this is not a team that has not faced adversity before. Remember, 2015, they're down 2-1 to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Didn't look all that good. 2016, trailing Oklahoma City 3-1 in the conference finals. They battled through that problem. They have fought through some tough situations. And I still think that if they can just get Steph back--

CRIS CARTER: I think most people would call those high-class problems.

- High-class problems. You're right. Look, they're--

- I mean, Memphis, like, the series was just getting started.

- Mhm.

CRIS CARTER: All right? I mean--

- But Memphis in 2015 was--

- Now, now that OKC--

- --a better grind.

- --the OKC thing, like, that was real. Like, they wouldn't be the team they are now, that OKC thing. So I do understand that, yes, they have been-- people don't give them credit for not going through anything.

CHRIS MANNIX: Mm.

- No, go ahead.

- No, look--

- Let you finish.

- --the other part of it is that as poorly as they've played in the totality of the season compared to others, their bench is starting to play a little bit better. You're getting production out of Jordan Bell. Andre Iguodala hasn't played a lot in the second half of the season, but in the first half before the All-Star break, he was shooting something like 25% from three-point range. Since then, he's in the high 40s. So maybe he's starting to get some of his mojo back. Look, it's all predicated on Steph. We know that.

NICK WRIGHT: Mhm.

- But if he's healthy by the second round, this is still the team to beat in the Western Conference.

CHRIS MANNIX: Well, here's the question I have for you, because this is something where there's been a bit of a point of contention. Let's say, who do you think is their worst possible matchup in the first round? The team--

- Oklahoma City.

NICK WRIGHT: OK.

- Oklahoma City.

- Do you think they could be beaten in the first round? If they get Oklahoma City, we know-- let's assume Steve Kerr wasn't lying to us, Steph is not playing in that series-- do you think Oklahoma City could beat them?

- If it's Oklahoma City, yes. I think Oklahoma City could beat--

NICK WRIGHT: How come?

- --could! Just-- well, look, the game last night, I thought it was an impressive win for Golden State. Look, they got contributions--

CRIS CARTER: Mhm.

- --from guys you wouldn't ordinarily expect. But in that game, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony were basically in the crapper. Like, that was not--

NICK WRIGHT: Yeah.

- --a good performance by the other--

- Yes.

- --two stars.

- Mhm.

- You can't expect that. You can't count on that from Oklahoma City in the postseason. You can count--

JENNA WOLFE: Why? When was the last time the two of them actually gave you something?

- Well--

- But they have for a lot of-- lot of seasons.

- At least one of the two.

CHRIS MANNIX: Yeah, yeah.

- I think he's saying, you can't count on both of them being that bad.

JENNA WOLFE: But it's been a pretty lengthy stretch that they haven't.

- It has.

- Yeah, that's fair, Jenna.

- It has. And, look, Carmelo Anthony, his game has ebbed and flowed all season long.

CRIS CARTER: Mhm.

- But I do believe in Paul George in the postseason, just like I believe in Russ. I think Russ's biggest question is going to be, can he, when his teammates aren't playing good basketball, can he continue to share the ball with them? Because we've seen the numbers, right?

CRIS CARTER: Yes.

- Under 14 shots, their record's through the roof. Over 14 shots, it's not so good. So can you trust them?

NICK WRIGHT: Mhm.

- But that's the worst possible matchup. No Steph Curry. You're using maybe Quinn Cook on Russell Westbrook in the playoffs. That's a tough match.

- So there's an interesting thing because I, as people, I think, look at me as something of a Warriors critic, some would even say a Warriors hater, I don't really-- probably, the latter-- the former is accurate, the latter I don't think is fair. But I would be shocked if they face a single elimination game in the first round, no matter who they play.

Could Oklahoma City take them six? Maybe. Like, I just-- I think that they have better coaching than anyone they'd play in the first round. I think they've got a better-- I think they have a better cohesive unit, even without Steph playing in the first round. The home-court advantage is a real thing, Oracle in the postseason, even though this year, they haven't been as good at home.

- Mhm.

- But the one thing that I do think is interesting-- and you saw it a bit last night after Durant had the monster first half and then was quieted somewhat in the second half. Kevin Durant said something really interesting in this podcast with Bill Simmons, the two-part series from last week. He was-- they were comparing and contrasting his game to LeBron. And they were talking about LeBron's longevity.

And KD said it-- and he was complimenting, he wasn't taking a shot at all-- he's like, listen, LeBron works a lot on his body. He's like, I would rather work on shotmaking. He said, I'd rather work on my game. He's like, I spend my time, I want to be able to make a shot from anywhere on the court. LeBron's in there working on his body, and that, by the way, you can see the difference between them.

What that does cause is, at times, not as easy bucket getting as you can see with other guys. Like KD can-- he is one of the best shotmakers in NBA history. But if his shot is just a little off, what he can't do is what we've seen LeBron make a career of doing. My shot's off, guess what, I'm bigger, stronger, I'm going to get to the rim.

So if I were to try to create a scenario where the Warriors don't get out of the first round, it would have to be because KD goes cold. Like, if KD is playing the way I know he can play, I just think with Klay, and Draymond, and the rest of the cast, they're so much better than everybody else.

CRIS CARTER: One thing that I-- there's two things from last night's game that I really believe are important. We know there's a mismatch if they have to play OKC at the point guard with Russ. But we saw Klay have to guard Russ. Now, for me, I believe if they were to make it to the Western Conference finals, it would be really taxing on Klay because that first series, he's got the toughest matchup in guarding with Westbrook. So I believe that will have an effect on the team.

CHRIS MANNIX: And in the second series, by the way, he'd probably be guarding Lillard because they're not going to have Steph, especially coming off an injury, to guard Lillard.

- Right. So I believe that this will be their toughest run in trying to win a championship. But I saw Steve Kerr start to make an adjustment, which kind of takes me out of the vulnerable state, where KD and Draymond started bringing the ball up the court. They start running their offense through Draymond and through KD. And you could see the overall continuity. You could see the passing come back. You could see kind of-- when they benched, who was starting before Draymond started?

CHRIS MANNIX: Quinn--

- No, before--

CHRIS MANNIX: Quinn Cook?

- --before they-- before the team--

- Oh, David Lee, years ago.

CRIS CARTER: David Lee.

- When David Lee was starting.

- You can start to see them play in a style like when they switched to Draymond and put him--

- Mhm.

- --in more of a passing, more an aggressive role. So for me, I don't believe, because of the time they've been able to spend, and with Draymond running some of the offense and KD getting used to bringing the ball up the court and initiating the offense, I believe that will pay dividends for them as we go on to the playoffs.

- As much as-- look, the talent we understand with Oklahoma City. But one thing we talk about with the Houston Rockets and their matchup with Golden State is the hunger that Houston has right now, the belief that this is their opportunity. Oklahoma City's got hunger, and they've got hatred for Golden State, particularly Russell Westbrook, who still carries this personal grudge against them.

Don't underestimate how far that might be able to take you in a first-round series, where the talent level has been evened a little bit in the absence of Steph Curry.

- All that being said, though, how far do you think the Warriors go?

- I think they win the championship. Like, I think Steph is back by the second round. I still think they're better than Houston.

CHRIS MANNIX: Houston.

- And I don't think anybody in the East can touch them.