- Damion Lee will return to action on Friday for the Warriors, Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets. Lee, who last appeared in an NBA game on November 24, left the team for the birth of his first child. Andre Iguodala will miss his eighth consecutive game due to right knee soreness.
- Despite winning multiple championship, Warriors coach Steve Kerr hasn’t lost his competitive spirit, as he told Sam Amick of The Athletic. “Part of what allowed me to stay in the NBA for 15 years as a player is that losing humiliates me, you know? My competitive desire drives me,” he said. “But like a lot of players at this level, the fear of losing is an even bigger motivator. So even though I don’t stop and think about legacy or anything like that, I just want to (bleeping) win, you know? It burns in me.”
Two of the NBA’s early frontrunners for the 2021/22 MVP award have been named the Players of the Month for October/November. Warriors guard Stephen Curry has won the Western Conference award, while Nets forward Kevin Durant is the Eastern Conference winner, the league announced today (via Twitter).
Curry led Golden State to an 18-3 record in October and November, averaging 27.8 PPG, 6.6 APG, and 5.7 RPG with an impressive .452/.412/.943 shooting line in 20 games (34.3 MPG). According to the NBA (Twitter link), Curry beat out fellow Western nominees Devin Booker, Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, Paul George, Nikola Jokic, Ja Morant, and Karl-Anthony Towns for the award.
Durant, meanwhile, led the NBA in scoring in October and November, with 28.6 PPG. He also put up 7.5 RPG and 5.6 APG and shot .539/.389/.863 in 20 games (35.8 MPG). His Nets sit atop the Eastern standings with a 15-6 record. The other Eastern nominees for the award were Jarrett Allen, Darius Garland, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LaMelo Ball, DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, Tyrese Maxey, and Trae Young.
The NBA also announced its Rookies of the Month for October and November today, awarding that honor to Thunder guard Josh Giddey in the West and Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley in the East (Twitter link).
Giddey has immediately slid into the starting lineup for the lottery-bound Thunder and filled up the box score with 10.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and 5.8 APG in his first 20 games (29.4 MPG), though he struggled with his shooting efficiency (.391/.257/.654). Mobley, meanwhile, has been the most impressive of the rookie of the 2021 class so far, posting 14.4 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 1.8 BPG in his 17 games (33.8 MPG) in October and November.
The other nominees for the Rookie of the Month awards were Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Davion Mitchell, and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl in the West, and Scottie Barnes, Cade Cunningham, Chris Duarte, and Franz Wagner in the East (Twitter link).
- Speaking to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, veteran guard Gary Payton II expressed appreciation to the Warriors for recognizing the value in his skill set and giving him a chance to play a regular role this season. “Golden State understands what I bring to the table, my defensive skills, my off-ball cutting, screening, being able to play the dunker and just take open shots when they present themselves,” Payton said. “There are a lot of guys, like Draymond (Green), that can do a lot of different things and help win games. Not every player is going to score 30, and, I obviously don’t shoot like f–king Steph Curry, but I do damn near everything else elite. It just took one organization to understand that and realize that.”
Through one-quarter of the 2021/22 NBA season, no teams have been more impressive than the Warriors and Suns.
Golden State, currently riding a seven-game winning streak, has a league-best 18-2 record. Neither of the team’s losses have been by more than four points, and one came in overtime. It’s perhaps no surprise that the Warriors have the NBA’s second-best offense, but their 99.4 defensive rating – which leads the league by more than four points – wasn’t something we saw coming.
Phoenix, meanwhile, got off to a 1-3 start, but hasn’t lost since, reeling off 16 wins in a row to improve to 17-3, just a single game behind Golden State. Like the Warriors, the Suns have been buoyed to the top of the NBA standings by an unexpectedly dominant defense, which currently ranks third in the league. Mikal Bridges is already generating Defensive Player of the Year buzz, though Draymond Green may be the current favorite.
While we didn’t necessarily expect Golden State or Phoenix to look this good entering the season, there’s no compelling reason to expect major regression from either team.
The Warriors aren’t even at full strength yet, and could become even more dangerous when Klay Thompson and James Wiseman return to action. The Suns didn’t lose any key players from the roster that made it to the NBA Finals in the spring, and youngsters like Deandre Ayton and especially Bridges are still improving.
The two Pacific teams are set to face one another twice this week — in Phoenix on Tuesday and in Golden State on Friday. The matchups, featuring the NBA’s two hottest teams, should be great ones, but we’re not focused in today’s poll on the winners of those games. We’re taking a longer-term view and considering how the season’s results have affected our perception of the favorites to come out of the Western Conference in 2021/22.
As John Hollinger of The Athletic writes, the Suns and Warriors are head and shoulders above the rest of the NBA at the moment, but there’s still plenty of time for other teams to fight their way into that top tier. The Jazz are one candidate — their +9.8 net rating actually ranks second in the NBA, behind only Golden State. The Lakers have gotten off to a slow start, but they were considered the preseason favorites to win the West, and any team with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook on its roster can’t be written off.
We want to know what you think. Would you take the Warriors or Suns over the field at this point? If so, do you view Golden State or Phoenix as the best bet to come out of the West? If you’re taking the field, which team do you like best from that group?
Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section to share your two cents!
Kevon Looney will be an unrestricted free agent after this season and thus far, he’s enhanced his résumé. Head coach Steve Kerr said the Warriors’ big man is underappreciated and that his contributions go far beyond stats, Mark Medina of NBA.com tweets. “Looney is playing fantastic basketball,” Kerr said. “He’s totally underrated. He’ll never get the credit he deserves.” Looney, an afterthought in the offensive scheme, is averaging 5.5 PPG and 6.6 RPG.
Thompson, who has missed the past two seasons due to a torn ACL and torn Achilles, will practice with Santa Cruz on Sunday. Joining the club’s G League affiliate is the latest step in his lengthy recovery.
Wiseman underwent surgery to repair a torn right meniscus in April. Golden State cleared him to participate in full team practices earlier in the month, but he has yet to play in a game this season. He averaged 11.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 21.4 minutes in 39 games during the 2021/22 campaign.
Despite Thompson and Wiseman being sidelined, the Warriors have opened the season with an impressive 17-2 record. Guards Jordan Poole and Damion Lee have helped make up for Thompson’s absence, while big men Kevon Looney and Nemanja Bjelica have impressed during their respective minutes.
- Klay Thompson had a vulnerable moment after the Warriors‘ victory over Portland on Friday, Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic writes. Thompson was seen sitting on the bench once the game ended for 35 minutes, clearly wanting to be part of the team’s success. He last played in an NBA game during the 2019 Finals, but he appears to be moving closer toward a return. He suffered torn ACL in 2019 and tore his Achilles in 2020 during a pick-up game.
- Andre Iguodala is traveling with the Warriors on their road trip, but he’s not expected to play against the Clippers (Sunday) or Suns (Tuesday), according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link). Iguodala is still dealing with swelling around his right knee, although it’s not considered serious.
Before he became the controlling owner of the Kings, Vivek Ranadive was a minority stakeholder in the Warriors, and he still has a “stubborn fascination” with his old team, writes Marc Stein at Substack. According to Stein, there’s buzz in league circles that a pair of Warriors assistants – Mike Brown and Kenny Atkinson – will be among the candidates who receive consideration for the Kings’ head coaching job if the team doesn’t retain Alvin Gentry beyond this season.