Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.
There is no sugarcoating the fact that the Warriors defense has been abysmal this season. Playing without their best defenders from last season in Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Kevon Looney and even Draymond Green for half the games, the team is giving up on average 121.1 points per game -- good for third-worst in the NBA.
The roster is young and inexperienced this season, filled with players not known for their defensive abilities who all are trying to adjust to playing with each other and form some sort of semblance of defensive chemistry. Yet while the team will have to cope without almost all their stalwarts on defense from last season, there might be a tiny glimpse of hope in sight for this season.
Coach Steve Kerr has begun to experiment with playing rookie Eric Paschall at the wing position alongside Green. Paschall has made headlines for his surprisingly polished offensive game so far, but his defensive capabilities have flown under-the-radar.
His generic numbers do not jump off the page, averaging only 0.5 steals per game and 0.4 blocks, but he has been a steady force on the defensive end, staying in front of smaller, quicker guards while also muscling up to defend big men in the paint. By playing Paschall alongside Green, Kerr is trying to find a lineup where his best players can be on the court simultaneously.
Many had figured that the only reasonable way the two could play together right now would be small-ball lineups, with Green playing the "five" and Paschall playing the "four." But against the Lakers on Wednesday night, Kerr employed multiple lineups in which Paschall and Green played together, with a rotation of centers on the court with them.
In one particular lineup, Kerr put a unit on the floor that utilized Glenn Robinson III at the shooting guard position. GR3 also has been a quietly strong defender this season for the Warriors, and if he were able to effectively slide into a role in which he defends smaller guards, the team defense could benefit greatly.
The return of Looney in the next few weeks should fix a small portion of the defensive woes. He is a subtly impressive defender, using his length and strength to disrupt opponents in the paint. He also is the Warriors' best pick and roll defender, as he can do the best job of staying in front of quicker opponents when switched on to them.
When Looney returns, Kerr could hypothetically put a lineup on the court that has D'Angelo Russell, the team's best offensive weapon but weakest defender, at the point position, then Robinson at the "two," Paschall at the "three," Green playing the "four," and Looney holding down the fort at the "five."
The length and switch-ability of the four defenders (not named Russell) could be greatly effective on the defensive end. All four have the ability to play pick and roll coverage, and as a needed bonus, are all capable defensive rebounders.
It is not a pretty sight watching the Warriors play defense right now, but perhaps the coaching staff's new lineup experiments, as well as the return of Looney, could spell some reason for optimism in the near future.