Preview: Golden State Warriors

2017-18 Golden State Warriors


Projected Record: 69-13 (1st in West)

Over/Under: 67.5

2016: 67-15 (1st in West)


Key Additions:

  • F/C Jordan Bell
  • G Nick Young
  • F Omri Cassipi

Key Subtractions:

  • G Ian Clark
  • F Matt Barnes
  • F James Michael McAdoo

Summary

Strengths:

  • Best team in basketball
  • Loaded with stars
  • Excellent depth
  • Huge ceiling

Weaknesses:

  • Role players getting older
  • Frontcourt depth a little questionable

I’ve been writing these previews in pretty much no discernible order, but the one guideline I’ve held myself to is that I have to save some of the more interesting teams for last to keep myself motivated. I don’t want the home stretch of this project to consist of the Detroits and Indianas of the NBA, because frankly, they’re just not as fun. What I’ve realized, though, is that the Warriors are now so good, they’re actually sort of boring to write about?

It’s largely been forgotten after how they performed in the postseason, but the Warriors were a little weird – by Warriors standards – at times last year. The fit with Kevin Durant was a little awkward at first and he missed 20 games due to injury, Curry endured some slumps, and Thompson was a mess in the playoffs. They were still more talented than the league by a wide margin, so they didn’t waver much during the regular season, but there were times where they didn’t seem like the Warriors.

They’ve got a whole year and a championship under their belt with Durant now, and they’ve retained nearly the whole gang. Durant and Curry got their contract extensions, and the only rotation player they lost was Ian Clark, who they replaced with a pair of useful wings in Nick Young and Omri Cassipi. Golden State looks to be operating at full power again this season, and that’s why I have them improving on their already gaudy 67 wins from last year.

You can start to feel the faint tick of the clock with this Warriors dynasty, maybe, a little it. The role players are getting old – Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Zaza Pachulia, David West, Nick Young, and JaVale McGee are all solidly into their 30s, and the kids – Patrick McCaw, Jordan Bell, and Kevon Looney – probably aren’t ready yet. Klay Thompson’s contract looms as the first crucial decision for this core; he’s up in two years, the same time as Durant’s current deal. Can the Warriors afford to retain him when they obviously must keep Durant, while also bolstering a supporting cast that will certainly have lost some members by then?

The organizational aspects of the Warriors – the coaching and front office – are on the cutting edge of the league right now, and they’re up for this task. For the present, we have two more seasons of the current Warriors for a certainty, and they’re going to accomplish quite a lot during that time without a doubt.


Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant, Steph Curry

Durant vs Curry became a mini-debate during some of the dry stretches of the offseason, and while they’re both easily top-five players, I think Durant is the only realistic choice. There are just no holes in his game at this stage; he’s complemented his elite scoring abilities with quality defensive chops, rebounding, passing, and versatility. He can do anything you ask of him. If Draymond Green were to go down with an injury, Durant could functionally be this team’s new forward/center.

Curry was still dominant, but it’s a testament to how good he’s been since this run started that last year felt like a down season from him – a season in which he scored 25 points per game on a usage rate of 30% with a true shooting percentage of 62%. At one point, it looked like his three-point shooting could dip below 40% for the first season of his career. Most of this just seemed like that awkward adjustment period all superteams have initially, though, as he was a supernova again in the playoffs like you’d expect. It was Durant that truly buried the Cavaliers, though, and Durant who is this team’s best player.

X Factor: Patrick McCaw, Jordan Bell

The Warriors essentially bought Patrick McCaw last season, sending the Bucks cash in exchange for the second-rounder. It’s extremely Warriors, then, that McCaw is now a promising young prospect on a roster built for the here-and-now. McCaw only picked up about 15 minutes per game as a rookie, much of it coming in garbage time after the starters had finished playing with their food for the night, but he played well and showed enough flashes that the Warriors were comfortable letting sharpshooter Ian Clark walk in free agency.

Minutes won’t be easier to come by for McCaw this year with the additions of Nick Young and Omri Cassipi, but it’s probably the best situation in the league for a player his age. He’ll continue to learn the game with little pressure (barring an injury to one of the stars) while experiencing high-level and playoff basketball under one of the league’s best coaching staffs. I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned out to be a great starter in his own right a few years down the road.

That McCaw trade worked out pretty well for the Warriors, so naturally, they did it again this summer. This time, Jordan Bell was the addition and the Bulls were the mark. Bell is an interesting player because, as a 6’9″ combo big and a defensive specialist, he has some natural Draymond Green attributes to him on the defensive side of the floor.  With the exception of Draymond, the Warriors primary frontcount rotation is getting fairly advanced in age now – Zaza Pachulia, David West, and JaVale McGee have a combined 37 years in the NBA  – so having the chance to work in some fresh legs couldn’t hurt. The trade already had virtually no downside, and it can only look better the more effectively Bell performs.


Conclusion

The 2017-18 Warriors will be very good at basketball, win many games, and probably win another championship.

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