One thing Warriors must accomplish in order to make NBA Finals

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Ask Kerith: What must Warriors accomplish to make NBA Finals? originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

  • Editor’s note: Kerith Burke, NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors reporter, takes you inside the team as only she can throughout the season with the Ask Kerith Mailbag. Send her a question on Twitter and Instagram, @KerithBurke.

The Warriors played with better energy and competitiveness last night against the Mavericks, but they don’t have a win to show for it. They now have dropped seven of their last nine games.

Let’s check in with what fans are wondering about lately. All of the questions in this edition of the Ask Kerith mailbag come from Instagram.

@bassetlover asks, do you think the so-so play before and after the All Star Break is more indicative of how good we are as a team or brighter days ahead towards playoffs like the first month was?

I think the Warriors are a good team with deep playoff potential. Their championship aspirations are directly tied to having a healthy team.

While the recent losses are a concern, consider who is missing: Draymond Green, most importantly. And Andre Iguodala. These two calm things down, manage the game, pass well, box out, and defend. Much is missing when they’re not around.

Draymond’s absence and Klay’s arrival shifted things for Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole. Injuries have resulted in different lineups, impacting the chemistry of the five players on the floor and their rhythm. This a rough patch, no doubt, but the way out is visible.

@the_slim_reaperr asks, In your opinion, what’s the one thing the Warriors MUST accomplish/get better at to make it to the finals?

Get healthy. Which might not be a satisfying answer because it’s not a traditional fix that comes from watching film or making an adjustment.

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Health cannot be hurried. The clock is ticking with 19 games left in the regular season.

After the All-Star break, Draymond estimated he’d be back in 3-to-4 weeks. That’s around St. Patrick’s Day, but don’t lock that in as a firm date. His absence could total seven or eight weeks, which is tough, even for a top player. Draymond was part of the tip-off in Klay’s first game back on January 9, but these two have not played together in 2-plus years.

Draymond deserves several games to get his footing back. While I think his presence will help out greatly, returning him to the starting lineup does not equal instant win streak.

@spencerf13 wonders, Are the Warriors considering any signings with the recent interior defensive struggles? 

I doubt it. The Warriors are gambling that Draymond and James Wiseman are returning soon, and having their size on the floor to join Kevon Looney will be enough of a boost. I understand the Draymond part of this gamble. He’s proven. I’m not sure about Wiseman’s impact, simply because he’s played a total of 39 games in two seasons.

I expect the Dubs to ride with the roster they have because they haven’t seen a healthy team once this season. Before adding ingredients, Bob Myers wants to know what he has.

@atoy21 said, Wiseman update?

Here’s what Steve Kerr said before yesterday’s Mavs game. I tweeted the whole thing because it’s worth examining.

It’s encouraging to hear Wiseman’s conditioning is up as he practices and scrimmages with the team. What’s interesting is Kerr mentioning summer league and training camp. One’s an offseason thing. The other is a next season thing. Can the Warriors get Wiseman enough reps this season to feel comfortable playing him?

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The coaches want to put Wiseman in a position to succeed. As days go by, it becomes more challenging to drop him into games before the playoffs so he has enough runway to feel confident.

@arpitgupta wants to know, What’s going on with Andre? Is he expected back soon?

Andre remains on the injury report with low back tightness. Before that, it was right knee soreness and a left hip injury. He’s missed 37 out of the 63 games the Warriors have played.

It’s positive that Andre is on the road trip to be around the team. Kerr said Andre needs some more scrimmage time and it’s doubtful he plays during the trip.

Will he back soon? Well, “soon” has meant a lot of things this season and I don’t know.

@mediumguaps said, Poole’s performance has dipped and there’s speculation that he isn’t happy with his role coming off the bench. He will be essential in the playoff run. How can the Warriors right the ship and quell any internal murmurs? Chemistry is of the utmost importance to chase that ring.

I agree Jordan Poole will be essential in a playoff run.

Poole did not elaborate much on how he’s feeling when he spoke to reporters at practice before the Mavs game. He sat down for about 90 seconds and said, “You gotta find a way to play through it” regarding his role fluctuating and “as long as I’m out there playing” when it comes to whether he’d rather start or come off the bench.

RELATED: Moody’s study of Klay has helped him earn bigger Warriors role

Poole had a great game yesterday against the Mavs, with 23 points in 27 minutes on an efficient shooting night, including 8-of-12 from the field, 3-of-6 from deep and 4-of-4 from the stripe. He did not return in the usual substitution pattern late in the fourth quarter, however, because Kerr decided to ride Moses Moody’s hot hand. The rookie exploded for a perfect 5-of-5 shooting performance from the field, including 3-of-3 from 3-point land for 13 fourth-quarter points.

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Poole’s situation has to be a two-way street between him and the team. Uncertainty could be messing with Poole’s rhythm. When does he go into games? Will he start in Klay’s absence, like he did early in the season? Who is he playing alongside? Will he be on the floor to finish games? All fair questions for Poole to have.

From the team’s perspective, no matter what role a player is in, it’s his job to play with aggressiveness and intent each night. It was not a surprise that Poole’s role would change when Klay came back.

Communication will be key to smooth out any frustration. We should give Poole the benefit of the doubt that his work ethic and maturity will see him through any angst this season.

Follow Kerith on Twitter @KerithBurke and on Instagram @KerithBurke, and, of course, watch her on NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors coverage all season.

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