Updated 8:29 pm, Saturday, September 30, 2017
Photo: Santiago Mejia, The Chronicle
Nick Young is a self-professed gunner. His laundry list of antics, among other things, includes once telling Kobe Bryant, “Nobody in the world can guard me,” and changing shoes after a couple of errant shots.
Now surrounded by some of the best shooters in NBA history, Young, who signed with Golden State in July, recognizes the importance of shot selection. But in the Warriors’ 108-102 loss to Denver in their preseason opener Saturday, he might have been too conservative offensively.
On a night the Warriors finished just 4-for-33 from beyond the arc, Young was 2-for-5 from deep. It was an understandably rusty showing from a club that won its second NBA title in three years three-plus months ago.
None of Golden State’s players logged more than 24 minutes. With the Warriors nursing a 71-70 lead midway through the third quarter, head coach Steve Kerr began to pull his starters. There was no need to risk injury in a game that didn’t matter.
The Warriors’ 1,077 three-pointers in 2015-16 shattered the previous NBA record of 933 set by the 2014-15 Rockets. A season after sinking a league-record 286 threes, Curry became the first player to hit 400 in a season (402). Golden State, which finished shooting 41.6 percent beyond the arc, became the sixth team in NBA history to convert at least 40 percent of its three-point shots.
Last season, Golden State was less successful — albeit, still elite by most standards — from its signature part of the court. Though they led the league in scoring (115.9 points per game), field-goal percentage (49.5), assists (30) and fast-break points (22.3), the Warriors were only third in both three-point percentage (38.3) and tied for third in three-pointers made (984).
The hope is that Golden State can inch closer to 40 percent from beyond the arc this season. Young, who owns a 37.6-percent clip from three-point range, should benefit from the extra space Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant provide. The Warriors will add another solid long-range marksman for Thursday’s exhibition against Minnesota in Omri Casspi, who missed Saturday’s matchup to observe Yom Kippur.
That Golden State struggled so mightily from deep in its first action since Game 5 of the NBA Finals is no great concern. Only a week into training camp, it expected to show signs of rust. The Warriors, though a far more complete product than they were at this point a year ago, are in the early stages of incorporating three new players on guaranteed contracts.
The two that were available Saturday — Young and Bell — showed flashes of their potential Saturday. Young accounted for half of his team’s made three-pointers. Bell, a second-round pick from Oregon, entered for the first time midway through the third quarter and quickly made his presence felt. Moments after hammering home an alley-oop dunk off a feed from Green, he took another Green pass in for a layup.
Outside of being off from long range, Curry (11 points, four rebounds), Durant (10 points, four rebounds), Thompson (10 points) and Draymond Green (eight rebounds, four assists, one block) reminded many how dominant they were last season. The highlight of the night came early in the third quarter, when Curry tossed a three-quarters-court pass to a trailing Zaza Pachulia, who finished with the layup.
Before Golden State focuses on how to build off Saturday’s opener, it must overcome jet leg. The Warriors will board a 16-hour flight Sunday afternoon for Shenzhen, China. Over the next week, they’ll try to balance training camp with a desire to entertain their burgeoning fan base in the Far East.
The last time the Warriors played in China, in October 2013, they faced Young and the Lakers. Now, the player known as “Swaggy P” hopes to endear himself to the NBA’s biggest international market in the blue and gold.