Welcome back to 'Matchups,' a Nuggets.com series previewing the opponents the Denver Nuggets will face as defending champions.
Departures: Donte DiVincenzo, Jordan Poole, Andre Iguodala, JaMychal Green, Ty Jerome, Anthony Lamb, Ryan Rollins, and Patrick Baldwin Jr.
Re-signs: Draymond Green
Additions: Chris Paul, Dario Šarić, Cory Joseph, Brandin Podziemski, and Trayce Jackson-Davis.
After bowing out of the second round of the 2023 postseason, the Golden State Warriors are hoping to secure a fifth championship ring in what could be the final days of the Bay Area dynasty.
The 2022-23 season was an odd one for Warrior-faithful.
Things got off to a rocky start after a preseason altercation between Draymond Green and Jordan Poole. The regular season was strange, as well, for Golden State, as the team accumulated the fourth-worst road record in the entire NBA by going 11-30 away from the Chase Center.
Despite this, the Warriors secured the sixth spot in the Western Conference and snuck by the 3rd-seeded Sacramento Kings in seven hard-fought first-round games. Their season then came to a close at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers in the Conference Semifinals.
The Warriors' front office got right to work in the offseason, sending Poole, Ryan Rollins, and Patrick Baldwin Jr. to Washington for Chris Paul. It was by far one of the most fascinating moves of the offseason given Paul's curious fit with the Warriors system.
Golden State famously runs one of the more fast-paced, three-point-heavy offensive schemes in the NBA. It's predicated on constant off-ball movement and perpetual cutting and screening. As such, head coach Steve Kerr's motion offense has perennially ranked at the bottom of the league in pick-and-roll frequency.
That brings us to Paul, an experienced and meticulous lead guard who relies tremendously on the screen-and-dive setting. 'CP3' is one of the best midrange specialists in NBA history and an all-time playmaker, and he gets to both of these looks by using on-ball screens. Therein, his fit on a team that doesn't run a ton of pick-and-roll is curious... to put it bluntly.
How fast Paul is able to acclimate to Kerr's motion offense will likely dictate Golden State's floor. CP3 is a career 36.9 percent three-point marksman, and he's historically been an above-average shooter in a spot-up role; but again, he tends to do most of his damage with the ball in his hands. That's certainly something to watch as he shares the floor with two-time MVP Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, both of whom ranked among the top 30 in touches per game last season.
Outside of Paul, the Warriors also agreed to terms on a deal with Dario Šarić, a floor-spacing backup big man who shot 39.1 percent from behind the arc last season. Šarić also boasts nice playmaking chops, making him an excellent fit with Golden State's unselfish offense. Cory Joseph is a steady veteran point guard, and you know what you're getting from him night to night.
Nikola Jokić → Kevin Looney
Aaron Gordon → Draymond Green
Michael Porter Jr. → Andrew Wiggins
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope → Stephen Curry
Jamal Murray → Klay Thompson
Since losing to Golden State two postseasons ago, Calvin Booth has worked hard to retool his roster accordingly. He improved Denver's perimeter defense tremendously, so much so that the Nuggets went 3-0 against the Warriors in the 2022-23 regular season.
One of Booth's first moves as head honcho was trading for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and 'KCP' was one of Denver's most-used defenders against Stephen Curry. Bruce Brown's absence will most certainly be felt in this matchup, as he was another one of Denver's most frequent options for Curry in the regular season.
But perhaps someone like Christian Braun can step in and fill Brown's shoes on the defensive end. Given how quickly the Warriors like to get up and down the floor, and how much Kerr's group tends to relocate in the halfcourt, it would make sense for Nuggets head coach Michael Malone to trend a little smaller and quicker and play some of their young athletes.
Peyton Watson's breakout game of the 2022-23 season came against the Warriors in March. The 20-year-old tracked down numerous highlight blocks against Curry as a secondary shot-blocker, and his athleticism alone caused Golden State to think twice about driving into the painted area. He could certainly be worth a look.
Malone's toughest decision will be deciding Nikola Jokić and Aaron Gordon's defensive matchups. We landed on the idea of Gordon guarding Draymond Green and Jokić handling Kevon Looney.
Well, given how much Golden State likes to go to two-man actions between Curry and Green, it would make sense for Gordon to take Green and then switch onto Curry anytime Green sets a screen for him. Gordon is more accustomed to guarding players on the perimeter than Jokić, particularly on switches.
On the flip side, there's exceptional value in having Jokić tangle with Looney. The 6'9 Golden State big man ranked third in the 2023 postseason in rebounds per game. Ahead of him was Anthony Davis and, yes, Jokić, who has as good of a case as anyone as the best rebounder in the entire NBA. He's one of the few players in the league that can wipe out Looney's voracious rebounding appetite.
Draymond Green → Nikola Jokić
Kevon Looney → Aaron Gordon
Andrew Wiggins → Michael Porter Jr.
Klay Thompson → Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Stephen Curry → Jamal Murray
One thing you'll notice when looking at these projected matchups is just how much bigger the Nuggets are than the Warriors across the board.
Golden State will likely throw some combination of Looney and Green at Jokić, but Denver's two-time MVP towers over both players by at least 2 inches and outweighs them both by 50+ pounds. For as good of a fight as Green put up in the 2022 postseason, Jokić still finished the first-round series with averages of 31 points on 57.5 percent shooting, 13.2 rebounds, and 5.8 assists. Šarić off the bench doesn't really fix this problem despite being 6'10; he's just too undersized.
Jokić should have no issues whatsoever overpowering Golden State's backline. That's a big problem for the small-ball Warriors. A comfortable and unbothered Joker will dice up defenses willingly.
Things get especially tricky for the Warriors when their reserves filter in. 6'0 Chris Paul and 6'3 Cory Joseph do not help Golden State's size problem. It'll be basically untenable for Kerr to play any combination of Joseph, Curry, and Paul together; Denver will stomp those units out with sheer force.
Someone like 6'7 third-year forward, Jonathan Kuminga, will need to pop in this upcoming season for Golden State. That's a big ask from a 20-year-old, but the Warriors could desperately use his athleticism and stature against a team like Denver.
Regular Season Games
- November 8, 8:00 p.m. MT: Nuggets vs. Warriors; Ball Arena, Denver; ESPN
- December 25, 12:30 p.m. MT: Nuggets vs. Warriors; Ball Arena, Denver; ABC and ESPN
- January 4, 8:00 p.m. MT: Nuggets @ Warriors; Chase Center, San Francisco; TNT
- February 25, 5:00 p.m. MT: Nuggets @ Warriors; Chase Center, San Francisco; ESPN