Warriors Rumors: Key Vet Likely Benched for Playoffs in Favor of Rookie

Moses Moody

Getty Moses Moody and Steph Curry react to a play in a Golden State Warriors game.

In one of the biggest spots of the Golden State Warriors’ postseason – entering the fourth quarter of Game 2 of the Western Conference finals down two points to the Dallas Mavericks – Steve Kerr made a surprising decision.

The Warriors’ head coach put rookie Moses Moody on the floor, even though the teenager had been stuck near the end of Kerr’s rotation for the majority of the season. Moody came through, playing all but two minutes of the final frame and turning in a plus-8 in plus-minus. His performance helped the Warriors finish off a 19-point comeback and grab a 2-0 series lead that has since been extended to 3-1.

Now, one insider believes that Moody could be taking over the minutes of a longtime veteran for the remainder of the playoffs.

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Moody Comes Up Big

As Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area noted, Moody has slowly been earning the trust of both his coaches and teammates as he takes a bigger role in the playoffs. Before Moody went in for the fourth quarter of Game 2, Kerr left it up to veteran big man and team leader Draymond Green to inform the 19-year-old that he would be playing.

Moody said that having Green’s trust and support means a lot.

“It means a lot because I’m sure if they brought it up that they were going to put me in and Draymond said no, it wouldn’t have happened,” Moody said, according to a May 24 Andscape story. “He had faith in me to perform in that game, and not even just that, but the fourth quarter of a playoff game and that means a lot.”

But Moody’s minutes may be coming at the expense of a longtime Warriors reserve. Johnson noted that guard Damion Lee had a very rough outing in Game 2, missing a pair of quick 3-pointers, committing two fouls, turning the ball over and getting hit with a technical foul — all in just five minutes.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Connor Letourneau predicted that Moody would continue to take over Lee’s minutes.

“I understand why Kerr likes Damion Lee, who has been a decent minutes-eater in the regular season for a while now,” he wrote. “But Lee has yet to prove he’s a playoff-caliber player. In his 99 minutes on the floor this postseason, the Warriors were outscored by 34 points.”

In Game 3, a 109-100 Warriors win, Moody scored 1 point in 16 minutes while Lee never took the court. In Game 4, which the Mavericks won 119-109 on May 24, Moody again logged more minutes (23) than Lee (15) and outscored him as well 10-6.

Letourneau added that Moody’s “uncanny poise for a 19-year-old rookie” makes him a better fit than Lee in the playoff rotation.

“I would expect Moody’s playing time to decrease as the Warriors get some wings back from injury, but he should remain ahead of Lee on the depth chart for the rest of the postseason,” he wrote. “Simply put, Moody is a better all-around player right now than Lee is.”

Lee Likely Safe

While Lee may be in Kerr’s doghouse for now, Letourneau predicted that he would remain a part of the team and the rotation in the long term. He noted that Lee and Juan Toscano-Anderson are both set to hit unrestricted free agency in the summer, and both have proved to be strong additions to the Warriors roster and are likely to return.

“Not every member of a 15-man roster is deserving of a playoff rotation spot,” he wrote. “During the 82-game grind of the regular season, the Warriors need players who can fill in when necessary and take some pressure off the core. Toscano-Anderson and Lee have proven they can provide value in lower-stakes moments.”

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