The Warriors have a small problem they’ll need to deal with while on the road over the next few days, beginning with Thursday night’s game in Dallas.
They didn’t bring any centers — or anyone taller than 6-foot-6 who can play center — along with them for the four-game trip to Texas.
Even for a Warriors team that pioneered the “small-ball” approach in a game designed for giants, traveling without a bonafide center in a league full of 7-footers qualifies as a Texas-sized problem. Unfortunately for the injury ravaged Warriors, there’s not much they can do about their size disadvantage right now.
Golden State will roll out 6-foot-6 Draymond Green for most of their center minutes over the next week, including Thursday when he may have to deal with the likes of Willie Cauley-Stein (7-foot), Dwight Powell (6-10), Boban Marjanovic (7-4) and Maxi Kleber (6-10).
That’s a tall task for Green, made even more difficult without a true backup at center against the Mavericks. Second-year man and second-team center Eric Paschall (6-6) was listed as questionable with right knee soreness.
Did we mention the Mavericks have a 7-3 small forward in Kristaps Porzingis?
In the absence of size, the Warriors will have to turn to more of the grit, determination and tenacity that defines Green. That may mean small-ball center minutes from the likes of 6-foot-6 Juan Toscano-Anderson.
Green’s first game as the Warriors’ new starting center came in Tuesday’s 111-107 loss to the Celtics in San Francisco. He played 37 minutes and tied Stephen Curry with a team-leading 11 rebounds as Golden State was outrebounded 51-36.
How did the Warriors get in this jam? The same way they’ve fallen from the league’s elite without Klay Thompson: Injuries.
James Wiseman, the ultra-promising 7-foot-1 rookie, sprained his wrist and will be out at least the next few days. Right after Wiseman went down, Kevin Looney (6-9) suffered a sprained ankle against Boston on Tuesday that will sideline him for at least the next two weeks.
The Warriors had already lost 6-foot-9 center Marques Chriss to a season-ending injury when he broke his leg during a December workout. Little-used Alen Smailagic and his 6-10 frame haven’t been available yet this year — and won’t be any time soon — following a right knee injury.
Yet, even at full strength in the height department this season — meaning healthy versions of Wiseman, Looney and Paschall — the Warriors haven’t measured up as a very good rebounding team.
In fact, they’ve been the worst.
In a league where half of the 30 teams grab less than 50 percent of the rebounds per game, the Warriors rank dead last with a rebounding percentage of just 47.1 percent.
Now the good news: The Mavericks are actually tied for the second-worst rebounding percentage in the NBA at 47.4. Plus, San Antonio — the Warriors’ opponent for their final two games of the trip — is the seventh-worst rebounding team (48.7) in the league.
Those thinking the Warriors can bring in reinforcements should think again. Sure, there are some low-cost NBA center options still out there in free agency — Dewayne Dedmon, Tyson Chandler, to name two — but there’s no clear path to add anyone to their roster.
Faced with a cost-prohibitive salary cap with heavy luxury tax implications, it’s not likely Golden State can afford an upgrade at backup center without pulling off a larger trade. The only Warrior without a guaranteed contract is backup guard Mychal Mulder, who may be out of the rotation but remains one of the team’s best shooters.
Another way to clear a roster spot would be to find a way to deal Smailagic, a promising frontcourt man with some skill, but also with a long way to go to become a rotation possibility. To clear Smailagic’s contract without eating all the salary cap and luxury tax losses they might need to attach a second-round draft pick to sweeten a trade with a team with cap space — think Knicks or Hornets.
According to Spotrac, the Knicks, with $17 million cap space, and the Hornets, with $4 million of space, are the only two teams currently under the cap.
Contributed by local news sources