Steve Kerr considering Warriors lineup changes as youngsters struggle

Eleven minutes into the Warriors’ 119-104 loss to the Celtics, 22-year-old Omari Spellman stood at the top of the key, surrounded by teammates of a similar era.

To the right of Spellman, 20-year-old rookie Jordan Poole stood in the corner, waiting for a pass that never came. To his left, another rookie, 23-year-old Eric Paschall stood in the other corner. Of the five players on the floor, only Alec Burks was born before 1995, bringing a familiar sight for Golden State. 

The Warriors have the third-youngest roster in the league as of Thursday, a far cry from its veteran-led team from a year ago. Now, as the season advances, the coach overseeing the NBA’s worst team expects changes going forward. 

“We might try to change the lineups a little bit,” Steve Kerr told reporters in Boston after the loss. “Just so we’re not bringing in three of four young guys at the same time.” 

Kerr’s words have merit. These days, Spellman is beginning to regress, making just 2-of-6 from the field Thursday night, finishing minus-8 from the floor in 21 minutes. Entering Thursday, he shot just 30 percent from the field, including a 2-of-7 performance against the Sixers on Tuesday.

Spellman’s struggles have coincided with Poole’s poor shooting from the field. Since returning from the G League, Poole is shooting just 33 percent from the field, forcing Kerr to find a new lineup. 

“Right now we’re trying to bring along these young guys,” Kerr said. “And it’s tough because we’re trying to bring them on at the same time.”

Of the top 20 Warriors five-man combinations, the unit of Draymond Green, Marquese Chriss, D’Angelo Russell, Damion Lee and Glenn Robinson III has been the most successful. While the lineup has played just 35 minutes together this season, it’s outscored opponents by 43 points while on the floor. Of the players, only Lee has played less than two years in the league. 

While Kerr’s wishes are pure, his execution could be tricky. Two of his All-Stars — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson — have been absent much, if not all, of the season. Meanwhile, Green is shooting just 38 percent from the field, leaving Russell has the only multi-faceted initiator on the roster. Against the Celtics, Russell missed five of his first seven shots, finishing 7-of-17 on the evening. Along the way, the Warriors turned the ball over 24 times as Boston outscored them 42-30 in the paint, building a 19-point lead.

“I didn’t think we played particularly well tonight,” Kerr said. “We hung in there, we fought, which was good. But we weren’t very sharp.” 

Kerr’s conundrum comes as the Warriors have prioritized development over wins. In June, the team’s biggest headline will be their draft position rather than the organization’s performance in the NBA Finals. 

A peek into Golden State’s near future came prior to Thursday’s game, when Stephen Curry went through his pregame workout. Curry, who broke his left hand in October, has been pushing for an early March return. In recent weeks, he’s even played on Golden State’s scout team in practice, as mentioned by NBC Sports Bay Area’s Kelenna Azubuike during Thursday’s broadcast.

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With Curry’s return closing in, Kerr’s wish for fewer young players on the floor will materialize. Until then, the coach has an objective for his youthful roster. 

“We just have to keep fighting,” Kerr said. “The goal is to keep getting better individually and collectively. If we do that, it becomes a productive season.”

Steve Kerr considering Warriors lineup changes as youngsters struggle originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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