Kurtenbach: The Warriors’ lack of height isn’t a problem — it’s an asset

In the last two weeks, the Warriors have lost to the Suns and 76ers, two teams that have All-Star caliber, true 7-foot centers, and a classic, big-man backup at the position.

Those losses have caused some consternation amongst the fanbase, who correctly notes that the Warriors’ tallest player (until James Wiseman returns) is 6-foot-9.

But at 21-5 on the season, the Warriors are doing just fine.

In fact, this team’s lack of size isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.

To complain about size — I’ve even seen some Warriors fans go as far as to say that it’s this team’s Achilles heel — is to make me wonder if anything has been learned from this Warriors’ team’s success since Steve Kerr took over as coach in 2014-15.

Great teams build from the back. Instead of worrying about the starting lineup, they start game plans with their closing lineup — their best five — and go from there.

For the Warriors, that best five-man lineup has Draymond Green at the five.

Kevon Looney, Nemanja Bjelica, Wiseman — they can all play the position, but all roads lead to Green at the end of the game, where he can anchor the team’s defense, match up against even the largest, strongest players in the league, and push the pace of the contest.

No one is alleging that Green playing center is a problem, right?

If you are, I can show you three banners that prove you wrong.

The Warriors want to play fast. They thrive in chaos. A true center can fit on this team — they’ve had them before — but the Dubs’ best version is a lean, mean, fast-break machine with Green as the pivot.

That’s why they close with Green playing center, no matter how big the opposing team is.

Remember: “Death Lineup” didn’t include Javale McGee or Andrew Bogut.

And Green — who has been the NBA’s best defender this season — was sterling on Saturday. Sixers center Joel Embiid — who has six inches and 50 pounds (minimum) on Green — didn’t know what to do with him. If not for foul trouble, Green would have played more than 28 minutes and affected the game more. And a couple of those fouls were flimsy at best — don’t chalk them up to Philadelphia being a bigger team.

No, if you’re looking for a reason the Warriors lost Saturday night’s game in Philadelphia, there are plenty. They fouled too often, their offense was gross, and, most importantly, they went 12-for-48 from beyond the arc.

When more than half of your shots are 3-pointers and you’re making 25 percent, you’re going to lose.

The Warriors had 56 shots on Saturday that the NBA’s Second Spectrum data deemed “uncontested”. They made 18.

Shooting 32 percent on uncontested shots is not going to get the job done on any night.

Yes, if size was a defining factor on Saturday, it had a funny way of showing up in the whole of the contest. Embiid went 7-of-16 from the floor. Not exactly a game-winning performance, though he was good in the clutch. The Warriors outscored the Sixers by nine points in Embiid’s minutes.

And while the Sixers’ backup center Andre Drummond was strong in 15 minutes, posting a plus-18 during that stretch, was that him or the Warriors’ bench players concurrently shooting 23 percent on the night?

The game has changed.

Actually, it changed a while ago, but let’s refresh:

Rebounds don’t matter anymore. For all of Philadelphia’s size, they had two more rebounds than the Dubs Saturday — Golden State had five more offensive rebounds than the Sixers.

And a back-to-the-basket, post-up offense? Unless a team is running a split action, like the Dubs, where the intent is to pass out of that look, that’s just an inefficient offense. The Warriors will take that every day because three is still greater than two.

The Warriors could stand to improve their late-game offense — there’s no doubt about that. Defensive length gives this team, in particular Steph Curry, problems, because it gives everyone who isn’t an elite, scoring wing problems. Regardless, it often leads to the Warriors’ offense becoming stagnant and clunky late.

I’m not sure how adding a plodding 7-footer to the mix will fix that issue.

In fact, the Warriors’ current roster construction is set up exceptionally well to manage the modern style of the game Curry and Green helped create.

They’ll add a 7-footer — Wiseman — back into the fold, but he, like Looney, won’t close games, because the Warriors, like so many other teams, want to space the floor in those critical moments.

And those teams that do stick with their big men in the critical moments? Well, they’ll be at a disadvantage, unless those big fellas are comfortable spending the final minutes of the game on the perimeter.

The era of the big man is over in the NBA. The Warriors are as responsible as anyone for killing it.

They’re not going to be the ones to bring it back.

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