Steve Kerr still doesn't know whether he'll make changes to the starting lineup for his team's road tilt with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday. Less than 24 hours after publicly mulling that possibility for the first time, though, the Golden State Warriors' longtime coach elaborated further on the numbers crunch his abnormally deep roster faces even before Gary Payton II returns from injury.

Speaking with reporters Thursday in Oklahoma City, Kerr explained why he's been so hesitant to break up the Warriors' traditional starting five despite its prolonged and significant struggles on both sides of the ball.

“I’ve been very committed to getting this first group going because I just watched that group win a championship two years ago, year and-a-half actually,” he said, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic. “That’s significant to me, and I still think all those guys have a lot to offer. They’re kind of an ensemble cast; each one is very much dependent on the other.”

No easy answers for Steve Kerr, Warriors

The lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney currently sports a -11.4 net rating, per Cleaning the Glass, unable to score at a league average rate while defending worse than basketball's bottom-ranked defense. That rank two-way ineffectiveness comes on heels of the traditional starting five being the best high-usage unit in the league, an especially impressive accomplishment given the Dubs' widespread dysfunction otherwise in 2022-23.

Curry and Green, obviously, are locked in as starters. Thompson nor Wiggins has emerged from deep individual holes they fell into when the season tipped off, though, and Looney has taken a step back defensively—most notably checking guards and wings after switches—while posting an untenably high turnover rate.

“I want to stay with them,” Kerr continued, “but they have not been the same group to this point for whatever reason—the shooting struggles, suspension, injury, you name it. We have to decide what that means.”

The bet here is that Golden State moves Looney to the bench for Friday's game against the Thunder, starting Dario Saric—or perhaps Jonathan Kuminga given Oklahoma City's relentless ability to pressure the paint—in his place to officially begin the process of mixing and matching the starting lineup on a game-by-game basis depending on opposing personnel.

Saric has already started for Looney twice this season, including during a previous matchup with the Thunder. The latter's demotion for small-ball in the playoffs is almost a rite of passage by now.

Moving Thompson, especially, or even Wiggins to the bench would mark a far more significant, headline-grabbing change. There's no denying that Moses Moody has outplayed each of the Dubs' stalwart starting wings, as has Brandin Podziemski. Kuminga plays power forward almost exclusively for Golden State and hasn't been nearly as reliable as Moody or Podziemski, but was certainly at least as dynamic on Thursday against the Portland Trail Blazers as Thompson or Wiggins have been in any game this season.

These decisions will only get tougher for the Warriors once Payton comes back from a calf injury, likely before the New Year. Elite on-ball defense, disruptive impact as a help defender, all-around transition prowess and innate comfort as a half-court connector make him a shoo-in for the fully healthy rotation.

Who might his return push to the far end of the bench? Kerr doesn't know right now, but as he confirmed to ClutchPoints earlier this week, has no intention of going 11-deep. Either way, more difficult choices and tough conversations will come for the Warriors, beginning with another matchup against Oklahoma City Friday night.

“It’s almost impossible to play 11. Ten is possible, we’ve played 10 most of the year. But as I said last night, part of playing nine is to help guys get a rhythm, but maybe we go back to 10. I don’t know,” Kerr said. “I think Brandin, JK and Moses all deserve to play, but it’s not quite that simple. I think everybody else deserves to play too, and that’s what we have to figure out as a staff.”

[h/t Anthony Slater, The Athletic]