The Golden State Warriors have quickly run out of bodies through the early stretch of this season, forcing two two-way players to take part in this new-look rotation from the onset. Ky Bowman out of Boston College and Damion Lee, who was also a two-way player last season, have both withstood the trial by fire that is playing without the gravity of Stephen Curry.
Both players will soon have to show enough to warrant converting one of them to a full-fledged NBA contract amid the point guard crisis in The Bay.
How did the Warriors get there?
The sign-and-trade for D’Angelo Russell is the mother of all these roster construction pains, as it took a well-established veteran team into a hollowed-out vestige of four All-Stars and no supporting cast, which forced the front office to scramble to sign players to fill the roster.
Golden State intended to have second-year shooting guard Jacob Evans, who they’ve brought up as a point guard, to play behind Curry. That all fell apart once Curry went down for the next three months to a broken left hand, with Evans having injury issues of his own with a strained adductor.
Enter Damion Lee and Ky Bowman, now tasked with playing important minutes for a dilapidated roster that needs some real help to pull off wins.
The Warriors have already started planning when it comes to having one of these players on board, recently choosing not to practice so that a day of practice does not count against the 45 total days a two-way player is expected to be with an NBA team. Practice and game days count toward the 45-day limit for a two-way player, while travel days do not.
One of the reasons the Warriors didn’t practice yesterday was so they wouldn’t have to count a day against the 45-day limits for two-way guys Ky Bowman and Damion Lee.
— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) November 6, 2019
How does Lee/Bowman get a permanent spot in the rotation?
The Warriors have 14 NBA players and 13 guaranteed contracts in their roster, leaving Marquese Chriss as the odd man out. Chriss was the hot girlfriend the Warriors fell hard for during the preseason, enamored with his intangibles and his ability to fill in at more than one spot during the preseason. But in signing him, they also let go of a dependable wing in Alfonzo McKinnie.
If the Warriors decide to go on a yard sale during February’s trade deadline, they will do so with adding wings in mind.
Glenn Robinson III’s production as a starter has left a lot to desire. But unfortunately, there are not many options to choose from at the position after the Warriors gave McKinnie the boot and rewarded Chriss with his non-guaranteed contract.
A two-for-one trade or waiving a player right after a deal could open up the necessary budget to sign either Bowman or Lee to a roster spot, largely depending on who is the better fit with the team.
Damion Lee crossover, WHAT?! pic.twitter.com/xa906HWvoE
— Chris Montano (@gswchris) November 3, 2019
How does a trade change this situation?
Not much. The Warriors are expected to make deals at the trade deadline, as they will be sellers before they become buyers in free agency. The bigger/splashier name is D’Angelo Russell, whom the Warriors have been rumored to trade since they first acquired him in the Kevin Durant sign-and-trade. But even if they don’t deal the 23-year-old star, they could still make other moves.
Alec Burks has been another name running hot in the rumor wire after ESPN’s Brian Windhorst pointed to his friendly minimum contract and the appeal of microwave-like offense coming off the bench — a sweet spot for hopeful contending teams.
Even if no deal gets done before the deadline, the Warriors could bail on Chriss and give Lee or Bowman his spot on a non-guaranteed contract.
Ky Bowman ain't taking that chicken wing from Hassan Whiteside without words pic.twitter.com/9ETLPqri1G
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) November 5, 2019
Does Stephen Curry’s return change this situation?
Sadly no — and for two reasons. The Warriors are highly unlikely to rush Curry back into action, considering the mail-it-in season has already started, with the Warriors likely fishing for a top-10, if not top-five pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.
The timeline of three months is likely the earliest, which will come with his re-evaluation. Golden State can prolong that as long as it has the clearance from the medical staff to shelf Curry for a few more weeks, or perhaps even shut him down for the season.
Even if Curry returns, the Warriors will need depth at point guard, given Jacob Evans’ poor results in limited minutes and his struggles to adapt to the point guard position besides running basic dribble hand-off sets.
Jordan Poole has looked fairly inconsistent with his poor shot selection and high-turnover rate, despite how much the Warriors liked his playmaking abilities coming out of Michigan.
Whoever winds up with that NBA contract will have a similar role to Quinn Cook had after the 2017-18 season, expected to be the primary backup behind the two-time MVP.
— Mina Isaac (@physicalthrafiq) October 31, 2019
Who is more likely to get a spot — Ky Bowman or Damion Lee?
Both guards offer something unique to the offense.
Despite being a rookie, Bowman is by no means inexperienced — a former starter for Boston College for three years. The 6-foot-1 guard is fearless and has a good feel for making the right play, which are skills that Steve Kerr and the coaching staff can work to develop over time.
Lee is a bucket-getter, and he’s shown that by scoring in double digits in every game since Curry suffered his injury. The Louisville product put up a career-high 23 points and 11 rebounds in the third game of the season against the New Orleans Pelicans, getting praise from his brother-in-law Curry at the end of the game.
There’s no saying what could happen in the next few months, but by the looks of it early on, Steve Kerr is entrusting Bowman with heavy minutes at point guard, giving him 39, 37, and 36 minutes in his last three games. Unless he falls flat into a slump, he would be the choice to make it into the roster once his 45 days in the NBA as a two-way player are up.