By John Krolik
Special to The Examiner
The Warriors had an up-and-down month. After starting January with a 5-6 record, they managed to end the first month of 2022 on a six-game win streak. They’re currently within striking distance of the Suns for the best record in the West.
The fact the Warriors have been able to handle an injury to Draymond Green, who has been out of action since Jan. 5, perhaps the worst shooting slump of Steph Curry’s career and the re-integration of Klay Thompson into the lineup has been impressive. Let’s take a look at how the Warriors’ key players did in the first month of the new year. (Note: All grades will be given on a curve relative to what is usually expected of the player.)
Steph Curry: As mentioned above, Curry was mired in an almost unthinkable shooting slump through January. He finished the month shooting 38.5% from the field and just 32.9% from beyond the arc, which is almost unthinkable for the career 47.3%/42.9% shooter.
Still, the news wasn’t all bad. In the absence of Green, Curry stepped up his passing. He averaged 7.3 assists per game, which is his high for the year, and managed to do so while keeping his turnovers as low as they’ve been all season.
He also hit a walk-off game-winner against the Rockets on the Jan. 21, was voted to be a captain of an All-Star team and finished the month in style with a 40-point, 9-assist dismantling of the Rockets. Even a “bad” month by Curry’s standards is a pretty good month.
Klay Thompson: To the surprise of nobody, Klay has had some growing pains since returning to the lineup. He shot just 40.6% from the floor and 32.9% from three in January, which are lower than you’d expect from a career 45.9%/41.8% shooter, but is about in line with someone trying to get his timing back after missing over two full seasons.
Thompson’s playmaking has been a pleasant surprise. He’s averaging 2.7 assists per game, which is just off his career high of 2.9 assists per game, and he’s doing it while only playing 23.4 minutes per game. He’s seeing the floor well, creating angles for his teammates, and even delivering some flashy passes we haven’t previously seen from him.
His attempt to add more of a mid-range game to his arsenal has had mixed results. But he’s moving well, has been solid on defense and his shot still looks as pretty as ever. He hasn’t missed a free throw yet this season, which is a bonus.
Andrew Wiggins: Another solid month for the Warriors’ other All-Star starter. Wiggins has turned himself from the volume scorer he was in Minnesota into a versatile wing that stretches the floor. The trade the Warriors made to get him is looking like a bigger and bigger steal with each passing day.
The 26-year-old put in another rock-solid month of work in January, averaging 17.5 points per game on 48.7% shooting from the field and 40.2% shooting from beyond the arc. He’s remained a disruptive presence on the defensive end, and averaged .8 blocks and 1.3 steals in January. Wiggins is continuing to streamline his game to fit what the Warriors need out of him. Simply put, he’s been a godsend.
Jordan Poole: One question upon Thompson’s return was what would happen to the wings who would have to spend more time on the bench, chief among them Poole. So far, Poole’s “demotion” from the starting lineup to the bench has been more mental than anything. With Thompson still on a minutes limit, Poole only played an average of three fewer minutes per game in January than he did over the course of the season, and his averages remained almost exactly in line with where they’ve been all season. A good show of professionalism from Poole.
Jonathan Kuminga: It’s still a bit boom-and-bust for Kuminga, who will follow up games where he looks like a star with multiple nights in the single-digits. For example, after his 22-point performance on 8-9 shooting against the Mavericks, Kuminga scored a combined 9 points on 4-15 shooting over the next three games.
But his flashes of brilliance are spectacular. Kuminga’s athleticism is always going to be a constant. He’s getting comfortable from beyond the 3-point line (and at the free-throw line.) He knows when to cut for a thunderous dunk or catch a guard on a switch and overpower him in the post. He’s even showing improved playmaking, although that was admittedly a bit of a low bar to jump for him. He averaged a grand total of seven assists in 2021. He could still stand to make his presence as a rebounder and shot-blocker a bit better known, but it’s impossible to not see superstar potential.
Grade: Incomplete, but exciting
Those were the major notables for January: Gary Payton II is still giving the Warriors phenomenal defense, energy and efficiency from within the 2-point arc, but his 3-point shot seems to be regressing. He shot just 26.9% from deep in January, which is more in line with the rest of his career than the 46.9% he shot in December. Otto Porter Jr. is giving the Warriors 24 minutes of efficient basketball a night, just like he has all season. Kevon Looney has done fairly well as a center on a team that doesn’t really believe in centers. Andre Iguodala has been out with a hip injury since the Jan. 20, and it’s hard not to worry when a 38-year-old player starts sitting out games with a hip issue.
Overall, even though the Warriors had to face some adversity in January, they were able to get through it, thanks to their depth and understanding of Steve Kerr’s system. The team is still a threat to finish the season with the league’s best record.
John Krolik is a freelance contributor to The Examiner