There is no mystery surrounding the fifth and sixth man of the Golden State Warriors as the season quickly approaches. Steve Kerr’s “Six Pillars” are set in stone, and he is arguably the best combination of talent, cohesion and tangible harmony among the best players in the league.
But Golden State won’t win back-to-back titles for the second time during its continuing dynasty unless players other than Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Kevin Looney and Jordan Bull establish themselves as influential players on the rotation. The reserves that primarily occupied that space last season, Gary Payton II and Otto Porter have all but disappeared, making way for respected young veterans and agency free reclamation projects as vital members at the heart of this team.
With Golden State continuing to conduct unofficial pre-season training before preparations for 2022-23 begin in real seriousness on Saturday, here’s the Warriors’ biggest battle to watch at training camp.
The Warriors’ biggest training camp battle ahead of the 2022-23 NBA season
Donte DiVincenzo vs. Moses Modi
Don’t make it crooked. DiVincenzo and Moody will both have regular playing time during the regular season, which is important to Kerr’s turn due to their two-way flexibility and natural comfort playing alongside Golden State stars. Curry, who turns 35 in March, may be averaging the fewest minutes per game of his career, and it’s not as if the Warriors will push Thompson over his limits as he finishes rehab from a torn ACL and ruptured Achilles tendon Which cost him two and – half seasons of his prime.
But Payton quickly parted from Golden State’s reserve guards last season after winning a spot on the training camp roster, then helped turn the NBA Finals with a devastating strike and assisted the defense upon returning from injury in Game Two against the Boston Celtics. DiVincenzo, especially Moody, Not Payton. Young Glove had a legitimate All-Defense issue in 2021-22, and ranked second in deflectors per 48 minutes among all rotation players, according to NBA.com/statsand fifth overall in FiveThirtyEight’s Defensive RAPTOR.
Wiggins would start matches on the rival star ballplayer, and Thompson proved in the back half of the Finals that he can still be a quality singles option with players like Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum. Most teams with aspirations like Golden State will have several high-profile playmakers, and Wiggins will always get the toughest job done in times of crisis. Ideally, the Thompson Warriors would provide a challenging defensive task and keep Green as an off-ball scooter in those high-leverage situations as well.
Enter DiVincenzo or Moody? Jonathan Cominga may be a better defender than either, but his shooting limitations and tendency to leak defense will likely keep him on the bench at the big moments. No one else on the list provides the potential role-playing benefit of DiVincenzo and Moody when Kerr is late for work.
To be clear, DiVincenzo will likely enter training camp with his feet on Moody to become the de facto seventh man in the Golden State. Super lateral speed makes him a better defender of young goalkeepers, as does DiVincenzo’s ability to stay attached to his leg while navigating screens off the ball.
Moody’s early basketball intelligence was announced this summer by Green and Andre Iguodala, a trait that was reflected in his quick understanding of the concepts of helping Warriors defensively. But if the defense decides who Kerr will trust the most, experience and a fit roster suggest Modi will fall behind Devincenzo in the rotation hierarchy.
One problem: DiVincenzo shot an ugly 40% in the paint and only 32% on triples over the back last season, per NBA.com/stats. By contrast, Moody was in 59.3% of paint and 30 of 72 On triples over the first half as a beginner, he’s good for a dazzling shot of 41.7%.
Sample sizes for both players were relatively small, and it should be noted that DiVincenzo was still recovering from a foot injury after being traded from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Sacramento Kings on deadline – not exactly the friendly attack that ties Moody at Golden State.
However, DiVincenzo is neither a devastating enough defender nor explosive enough to compensate for his lack of shooting as Payton did for the Warriors. Clever defenses will make him prove this before treating him as a viable long-range threat, spoiling the distances Green, Looney, and Kuminga will actually run every time they’re on Earth. It would be surprising if the same dynamic could be applied to Moody, especially after he showed off an improved three-tier cut in the Summer League.
There’s no denying that the Warriors would be better off if Moody – or less likely, Kuminga – worked his way ahead of DiVincenzo in a spin, isolating both Curry and Poole’s defensive shortcomings with a horde of similarly sized wingspans. This is still the Golden State’s preferred scheme. But Moody is only 20 years old, and he may always lack the degree of agile athleticism needed to thrive in a heavy defensive system.
Remember, DiVincenzo was a major start for eventual champion Bucks before he was sidelined by injury in the second round of the 2021 playoffs. Perhaps Golden State’s unique ecosystem and health bill nearing 100 percent will help him reclaim the form that once made DiVincenzo a staple. Fundamental to the Bucks’ present and future.
Either way, keep a close eye on this fight under the radar once camp ends on Saturday. It might not seem like it during the 82-game match, but whoever sits higher between DeVincenzo and Moody in the Warriors’ winning standings, match time could loom large for their chances of winning their fifth championship in nine years.