Warriors debut new fully loaded rotation in 125-90 beatdown of Bucks

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SAN FRANCISCO — The last time Steve Kerr had everyone available the Golden State Warriors were in Sacramento. It was late November. Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis were out of the rotation. Moses Moody was on the edge of it. Cory Joseph was in it.

That night, Gary Payton II and Chris Paul were injured. Soon after, Draymond Green was suspended. Other minor absences piled up along the way. The season nearly spiraled out of control and then, in the last six weeks, their fortunes reversed and, in the process, the younger layer of the roster has forcibly changed the rotation as they’ve inched up the standings.

Andrew Wiggins returned to the team this week, delivering Kerr his full complement of options for the first time since that late November game. In the ensuing 125-90 Wednesday night beatdown of the Bucks, the Warriors debuted what appears to be their new fully loaded rotation.

The secure starting lineup: Steph Curry, Jonathan Kuminga, Podziemski, Wiggins and Green. That five-man group has now played in 17 games together, a total of 158 minutes. They’ve outscored opponents by 57 points. It’s been their best statistical lineup.

Klay Thompson and Paul have both accepted bench roles, along with the understanding that they’ll still get large minute totals and the opportunity to earn closing opportunities. Payton is the eighth man, a defensive ace deployed in high-energy spurts. He was a plus-19 in his 16 minutes against the Bucks.

Entering Wednesday, the largest question resides at the ninth and 10th spots of the rotation. Kevon Looney and Dario Saric have maintained a grip on minutes all season. That is no longer. Saric has been wiped from the current rotation. Looney received a first-quarter stint against Milwaukee, continuing his games-played streak, but he is behind Moody and Jackson-Davis.

Eleventh is the fringe.

“It’s hard to play 11,” Kerr said. “I know we’ve been playing 11, but if we’re going to ramp Trayce’s minutes up then it’s more likely going to be 10. We’ll just try to mix and match. But we feel like we’ve found some combinations.”

Moody did enough as the replacement starter for Wiggins on the road trip that Kerr felt it unfair to demote him back to the end of the bench. He has performed better than Saric and is now ahead of the veteran in the pecking order.

It’s a leap that is not only sensible in the micro but beneficial in the macro. Moody is on a guaranteed deal next season and is extension eligible, a young wing on the rise. Saric is an impending unrestricted free agent, a veteran turning into a journeyman.

Moody performed well against the Bucks. He had six points, four rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block in 21 minutes. Golden State outscored Milwaukee by 21 with him on the floor. His best sequence was against Damian Lillard. He ripped Lillard’s dribble in the open court and dunked it on the other end.

But Jackson-Davis was the night’s bigger story. In 19 minutes, he had 15 points, six rebounds and four blocks. Everyone will remember the blocks. Three of the four were against Giannis Antetokounmpo. One was a double-block possession in isolation that turned into a Curry-to-Jackson-Davis lob on the other end. Here is the sequence.

Green said he was particularly impressed with that Jackson-Davis block against Antetokounmpo because it came straight up in an isolation setting. He took the bump and stoned him. Jackson-Davis credited it to some of his pregame film study of Blake Griffin. A few years ago, Griffin played Antetokounmpo well in several postseason games.

“Sitting back and allowing him to come to you,” Jackson-Davis said.

But Jackson-Davis also got Antetokounmpo from the weak side a bit later in that same third-quarter stint. The ricochet fell to Moody, who passed it to Paul, the veteran leader of this new second unit. Paul manipulated the action, set up the Jackson-Davis pick-and-roll, and then found him for the dunk.

“Trayce with CP is dynamite,” Green said. “Throughout CP’s career, one thing you know that works is him with a lob threat, him with a dynamic roller to the rim that opens up the defense. Him and Trayce have found a connection and they’re playing really, really well. Moses working his way back into the lineups by playing extremely well. I think we’re finding something there with that lineup for sure.”

Here’s the sequence.

Kerr made it clear after the game that this is how the Warriors plan to move forward, barring injury. They’re 33-28 and just leaped the Lakers in the standings and are now only a half-game out of eighth behind a Mavericks team they still play three more times. He’s going with Moody and Jackson-Davis over Saric and Looney.

“We’re going to need Loon in the playoffs,” Kerr said. “There’s going to be matchups where we need him. I know I can trust him. But we got to get Trayce more minutes to get him ready for the playoffs because he needs reps, he needs more time. You can see what he did tonight. He has an ability to finish and to block shots that gives us a different look. We decided to ramp up his minutes and slide Moses kind of into a bigger role as well. Those guys were both fantastic tonight.”

(Photo of Trayce Jackson-Davis dunking the ball on Giannis Antetokounmpo: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

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