In the wake of the Warriors’ second-round exit, Steve Kerr’s management of the roster throughout the season continues to be examined and criticized.
The distribution of minutes between young players like second-year wings Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody to two-way players Anthony Lamb and Ty Jerome has been one of the most notable conversations throughout the season among fans and media.
During his appearance on 95.7 The Game’s “Willard & Dibs” Tuesday, Kerr said he had no regrets about the minutes he gave to Lamb and Jerome.
“Not at all,” Kerr told hosts Mark Willard and Dan Dibley. “What we did during the course of the season was play the guys we thought gave us the best chance to win every single night. You look at our season, we’re 3-7 right out of the gate and swimming up stream from the beginning.”
Instead of trying to develop the lottery picks Kuminga and Moody at all costs, Kerr leaned on his two-way guys. There’s no guarantee that the 25-year-olds Lamb and Jerome will be back next season, so they were/are clearly just cheap stop-gaps to keep it moving.
Kuminga, 20, led all of the aforementioned players with 67 games played and 20.8 minutes per game. Lamb was eventually converted into a full-time player and appeared in 62 games, averaging 19.3 minutes. Jerome averaged 18.1 minutes in his 45 games. Moody, 20, averaged 13 minutes per game in 63 contests.
Kerr loved Lamb’s defensive versatility, rebounding, shooting and ability to keep the ball moving. Even though he played the same position as Kuminga and Moody with a lower ceiling -- and lower investment from the franchise -- Lamb still kept getting minutes in the middle of the season.
Kerr was a fan of Jerome’s facilitating and lack of turnovers at the point, which was a position of need. Jerome helped play big minutes as Steph Curry missed 26 games and the team waited two months for Gary Payton II to heal up after the trade deadline.
“All we were trying to do was just win and get in the playoffs,” Kerr said. “That meant for me playing Ty Jerome, playing Anthony Lamb. Those guys, they have way more experience than our young guys. All of the nuances, the subtle things that help win games, they were better at that stuff than our young guys and they should be, because those guys have way more experience. You develop young guys and they also earn their minutes and that’s all part of it.”
In the playoffs, Moody led the group with 13.4 minutes per game in 12 appearances. Lamb was just a mop-up player, while Jerome was ineligible.
Kuminga became a rotation player when Andrew Wiggins missed the final 25 games of the regular season, but fell out of favor midway through the Kings’ first-round series. Kerr was also asked about a recent report from The Athletic that said Kuminga could ask for a trade if he doesn’t have a full-time role next season.
“I think he’s frustrated that he didn’t play,” Kerr said. “But I would hope anybody in his situation would be frustrated with not playing. These guys are competitors and they’re dying to be out there and I didn’t put him out there much. He has every right to be frustrated. But anything beyond that is just speculation. We had a great conversation with Bob Myers. We’re excited about JK coming back next year. I think he’s excited to be coming back. It’s all just continued growth.”
By the end of the season, Moody was higher in the pecking order than Kuminga because of the dirty work.
“Midway through the season he was not in the rotation,” Kerr said of Moody. “Because he was struggling in practice every day. And when we would put him out there in games, he was a half-count behind.
“What he did in practice every day throughout the course of the season, he kinda had a breakthrough with a couple weeks left in the regular season. We could see it in our scrimmages. It was like a light switch went on. That’s why he was out there in the playoffs and diving on the floor for loose balls, being early in rotations, boxing people out. Because it clicked, something clicked. That’s progress. That’s how it has to happen.”