Who's New?: F Jason Thompson (trade), F Kevon Looney (draft)
Who's Gone?: F David Lee (trade), G Justin Holiday (free agent)
Off-season Grade: C+. Lee was a cost-cutting move they had to make, partly for cap reasons and partly out of respect to him. Thompson is an adequate-at-best replacement. The reviews were high on Looney early on, but then he had to go under the knife to repair a torn labrum. They never really addressed their lack of depth in the backcourt. They gave Ben Gordon a shot but cut him after 16 minutes of run in two preseason games.
2015-16 Slogan: "We're just another championship or two away from you not finding us endearing anymore."
What Else Is New?: The Warriors were relatively quiet on the transaction front but certainly didn't rest on their laurels after capturing their first championship in 40 years. They replaced their training staff after a season in which they missed just 80 games collectively due to injuries. They hired Steve Nash to be a "part-time development consultant," ostensibly to work with Stephen Curry and their other ball-handlers. More importantly, they just bought 12 acres of land in San Francisco in which they'll build their new arena. Refreshingly, it will be completely privately financed. The arena is supposed to be ready in time for the 2018-19 season and obviously the team's East Bay fan base isn't too pleased with the notion of San Francisco stealing yet another part of their culture, especially given the "front-running" timing of it all. Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles penned a beautiful story to explain their sentiments.
Your Likely Starters:
C Andrew Bogut
F Draymond Green
F Harrison Barnes
G Klay Thompson
G Stephen Curry
Curry, the reigning MVP, kept busy in the off-season. He welcomed a second daughter to his brood, golfed with President Obama, dueled with fellow Stephen Colbert in a shooting competition of sorts, and pounded the pre-game drum to hype up the fans for his beloved Carolina Panthers. Any concern that all these distractions will take away from his game?
Hmm. You sure?
Well okay then.
In terms of PER and WS/48 Curry had the best season of any 6'3 or under player in NBA history except for Chris Paul in 2007-08 and 2008-09. It's hard to imagine him getting any better, but he might have to be for them to repeat.
His backcourtmate Thompson made huge strides last year, having a legitimate star season and setting a league record with 37 points in a single quarter against the Kings last January. He tailed off a bit after the All-Star break and then slid some more in the playoffs, to the point where he was a liability by the end of the Finals. I still think it's a stretch to tab Thompson as the "best two-way shooting guard in the NBA," which his agent proclaimed prior to Thompson agreeing to a contract extension, but he's in the conversation now.
Speaking of contract extensions, Barnes reportedly turned down the Warriors offer of four years and $64 million, which I found extremely foolish. Barnes is the fourth option in their halfcourt offense and often finds himself benched in favor of Iguodala in big spots. He doesn't have much of a handle or a mid-range game, doesn't have much of a left hand, his finishing inside is spotty, he doesn't create for others and he's inconsistent defensively. I understand he'd have a bigger role elsewhere, but I just don't get the appeal, honestly. Doesn't it seem like they drafted Looney to be his replacement? They have similar bodies and skills. Also, I don't get the impression that Barnes has the temperament to handle the pressure of playing for a max deal, the way Green did. From reports I've read, he's been disappointing in training camp and the preseason. Plus he hurt his knee against Denver.
Green was their all-around second-best player last year and obviously he's very versatile and talented as a defender, passer, rebounder and scorer. He does a little bit of everything. However, maybe I'm old fashioned, but I'm not quite ready to buy into the micro-ball revolution just yet. I'm not some dinosaur who refuses to accept the math of the three-pointer dominating offensive concepts, I just think as the game continues to evolve we'll see more guys like Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge and Anthony Davis, people big and athletic enough to do everything from everywhere on both ends. Timofey Mozgov was killing the Warriors offensively and on the boards, but there was simply no one for him to guard on the other end and he closed off the paint for LeBron. A newer generation of bigs won't have those limitations and they'll make life hell for 6'6 dudes like Green (possibly as early as this postseason).
Bogut is a more celebrated version of Tiago Splitter, only with more veteran tricks and a quick wit that occasionally gets him into trouble. He's a passer and screener on offense who can't do much outside of dunking to score. He's their defensive coordinator in his own end, always chatting, organizing the others, holding guys, grabbing, pulling, provoking, embellishing, and just making himself a nuisance. Both guys are injury prone (Bogut just broke his nose against the Rockets as I'm writing this). The Australian is slowly being phased out to make room for Ezeli so look for his minutes to drop this season.
Your Likely Bench:
F Andre Iguodala
G Shaun Livingston
C Festus Ezeli
F Marreese Speights
G Leandro Barbosa
F Jason Thompson
F James Michael McAdoo
G Brandon Rush
As good as the Warriors were last season, their bench was sneaky mediocre. The team actually was outscored with Curry off the floor. One thing that Kerr did that I don't think got enough notice is that he was good about staggering his subs so that he usually had a couple starters out there with them unless the score was really lopsided, and this kept them from being exposed.
Iguodala is a terrific defender and he too can create for his teammates but you almost have to shock him with a cattle prod to get him to shoot the ball. Livingston is strictly an inside scorer and he works best playing with Curry, though his length helps a ton in his own end. Speights has a nice mid-range jumper but offers little else. Barbosa still has some quickness and is a streaky scorer, but he's also their worst defender by some margin. Ezeli didn't play much during the regular season but was quite useful in the playoffs. He has no offensive arsenal but is a bit reminiscent of Bismack Biyombo and will likely command an eight-figure salary as a starter soon. Thompson escaped the asylum in Sacramento and the netherworld of Philadelphia and will look to replace as the fifth big. His jumper isn't as reliable and he's nowhere near the pick-and-roll finisher that Lee was, but he's a bit more reliable in his own end. Thompson hasn't been even league-average in some time however, and fared very poorly in the adjusted plus-minus stats.
While most of the subs are old and stale, there are some interesting names at the end of the bench. McAdoo was lively in cameo appearances last season and the staff seems to be high on him. It won't be surprising at all if he leapfrogs both Thompson and Speights in the rotation. Rush hasn't made it all the way back since tearing up his knee a few years ago and nearly ate his way out of the league last season. He got into shape this summer though and has already shown enough for the team to dump Gordon. Looney showed all kinds of promise in Summer League despite being a 19 year-old, and who knows, maybe he'll get in the mix during the second half of the season, though the D-League seems like a safer bet.
Your Coach: Steve Kerr
After a dream season to start his coaching career, Kerr's already experiencing some adversity in his sophomore campaign. He ruptured a disc in his back during the Finals and off-season surgery did not fully correct the problem so he had to have a follow-up procedure. He and the team made the joint decision for him to take a leave of absence during training camp to rehab and recently he explained that leaking spinal fluid from the surgery caused him painful headaches, forcing him to take time off. Kerr appointed assistant Luke Walton to be the interim coach in his absence, though he is expected to return by the regular season opener. It's worth noting that last year's lead assistant and their de-facto "offensive coordinator" Alvin Gentry got hired for the top job at New Orleans.
Bottom Line: The Warriors haven't lost anyone from their rotation and most of their best players haven't even entered their primes yet, so it's hard to not think of them as favorites to repeat. I don't think much of their bench, however, I'm not high on Barnes' prospects as long as his contract situation is unsettled and I'm expecting --though obviously not rooting for-- some injuries to wobble them this year after they were so fortunate in that regard a year ago. There will be formidable challenges from the Clippers, the Thunder, the Rockets and yes, the Spurs, not to mention Cleveland. If you ask me to choose between the Warriors or the field, I'm definitely taking the field.
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