Beachcombings: Sea Dubs With Eyes on the Prize

By Kevin Danna

Get the inside scoop on all things Santa Cruz Warriors and G League from play-by-play announcer Kevin Danna:

1. Getting You Caught Up on the Sea Dubs
The Sea Dubs have eight games left in the 2019-20 campaign, and they’re all going to be massively important to the team’s playoff outlook. Right now, Santa Cruz is 21-21, a game behind the 22-20 Sioux Falls Skyforce for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and two games behind the 23-19 Stockton Kings for first place in the Pacific Division. There’s not a lot of wiggle room down the stretch – Sioux Falls has the season series tiebreaker over Santa Cruz, improving to 3-0 against the Sea Dubs after a 125-102 win over the Sea Dubs on Friday night, so Santa Cruz will need to finish with a better record than the Skyforce, and not just be tied with the Miami HEAT’s G League affiliate, in order to earn a playoff berth.

On the glass-half-full side of things, Santa Cruz is returning home on a good note, defeating the Iowa Wolves 115-112 Sunday afternoon in Des Moines. Down 89-75 with 4:18 remaining in the third quarter, Santa Cruz held an Iowa team that is fourth in the G League in scoring at 119 points per game to just 23 points over the final 16 minutes to secure the win.

It’s going to be a fun/nerve-wracking final three weekends of the regular season.

2. Revolving Door in Surf City
Now a 21-21 record isn’t bad at all, and it’s even better considering the team’s roster situation. Santa Cruz has had a ton of player turnover this season, with 23 guys having already suited up for the Sea Dubs this season (by comparison, the 2018-19 Sea Dubs that went 34-16 and made it to the Western Conference Finals had 14 different guys play). This includes three different players who were bought out of their contracts to go overseas – Jared Cunningham (China), Devyn Marble (Italy) and Nick Zeisloft (Spain). Buyouts were pretty common back in the day when it was called the D-League, but in the era of two-way contracts in the G League, buyouts don’t happen nearly as often. Having three buyouts on the same team is unusual to say the least.

More importantly, however, is that Santa Cruz hasn’t really had the services of their two-way guys due to all the injuries up in Golden State. The Sea Dubs only got 12 games from Ky Bowman and never saw Damion Lee nor Marquese Chriss when those guys were on two-way deals. And now that Bowman is on a standard NBA contract as well, Santa Cruz is capped at 12 games from their two-way players (of course, they could get guys assigned from Golden State).

To contextualize how low that 12-game two-way number is, Santa Cruz had a combined 59 games from two-way contractees Damion Lee and Marcus Derrickson in 2018-19 and a combined 49 games from Quinn Cook and Chris Boucher in 2017-18. By comparison for this season, the next lowest number of games from guys on two-way contracts for a G League team is 28 (Sioux Falls).

Don’t take those last two paragraphs as a “come on, give us more help, Golden State!” plea. That’s the way of the G League. Things happen upstairs that trickle downstairs. This was a pretty unavoidable situation due to all the injuries up in Golden State. There really was no way for Santa Cruz to get more games from two-way players, but it does give some sort of explanation why Santa Cruz won’t match its win total from last season.

3. Welcome to the Squad, J-Simms
Due to all the roster turnover, Santa Cruz GM Ryan Atkinson needed to land a big fish for the stretch run to try to push the Sea Dubs over the hump and into the postseason. He got one in four-year NBA veteran Jonathon Simmons, who is just two years removed from averaging nearly 14 points per game with the Orlando Magic.

Simmons, who actually made his G League debut at Kaiser Permanente Arena in the 2013-14 opener for Austin against the Sea Dubs, has not disappointed for Santa Cruz, averaging 19.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.4 steals while shooting 49 percent from the floor and 39 percent from 3-point territory in his first five games. He was a major reason why Santa Cruz snapped its three-game losing skid on Sunday, going for a game-high 26 points.

Probably the most impressive thing about his stint is that he showed up ready to play in supreme game shape, which isn’t exactly easy to do considering he hadn’t played in a professional basketball game all season. He got into town the day before a back-to-back home weekend set against RGV and his former squad, Austin. He scored 24 points in 28 minutes on Friday and backed that up with a 23-point effort in 33 efficient minutes on Saturday night.

As long as Simmons is in town (along with Jeremy Pargo, Andrew Harrison, Deyonta Davis, etc.), Santa Cruz will have a real shot at making the playoffs.

4. Next Up
The Sea Dubs are back home for a pair of games this week. The 20-21 Oklahoma City Blue come to town on Thursday night followed by a tilt against the Austin Spurs on Saturday. However, due to escalating concerns about the spread of COVID-19, those games will be played without fans in attendance.

A win over Oklahoma City would give the Sea Dubs a leg up on the Blue in the chase for the final playoff spot, while a win over Austin would secure the tiebreaker against the 24-17 Spurs should things tighten up down the stretch. These are some crucial games, and though fans cannot watch the games at the arena, everyone can watch live on NBC Sports Bay Area PLUS.

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