Small Ball 2016-17 Season Previews: Golden State Warriors

Golden State Warriors: 73-9
Key Additions: Zaza Pachulia, Kevin Durant, David West
Departures: Andrew Bogut, Jason Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Leandro Barbosa, Festus Ezeli, Brandon Rush, Marreese Speights

How do you come back from beating Michael Jordan and the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ regular season wins record at 73 games? Well, by signing Kevin Durant of course. Even though the Warriors are coming off of an epic NBA Finals loss, they can at least take solace in the fact that they added a top-three player in the league to an already dynamic lineup. At 2 years, $54.3 million and an opt out option after this year, Durant will be joining the Golden State Warriors and forming one of the most potent offenses in recent memory. The Dubs also signed Zaza Pachulia to a 1 year, $2.9 million dollar deal and David West to a 1 year, $1.55 million dollar deal to fill in some of the gaps in the front court. With the departures of Andrew Bogut, Marreese Speights, and Harrison Barnes, there is no denying the fact that the one area in which to back-to-back Western Conference Champs can be exposed is on the offensive boards. The Cavaliers and Thunder both gave the Warriors fits by countering their “Death Lineup” with some size and pounded them on the offensive glass. Pachulia should help out a bit and West, although not necessarily that tall or athletic, has plenty of experience banging in the paint. The expectations for this team are through the roof after adding Durant, but there are plenty of areas where they can be exploited.

When you try to analyze the Warriors there is only one place to start. The Splash Brothers have been one of of the most dominant duos in the NBA and they are the catalyst for Golden State’s free-flowing, beautiful style of basketball. Steph Curry is the back-to-back MVP coming off of one of the best statistical seasons of all time, and Klay Thompson is a top-tier defender who can get on hot streaks that rival anyone in the league. The stats speak for themselves, but a lot of the problems that these two players cause for opposing teams comes from the folklorish mystique of Curry and Thompson. Defenses bend at the thought of Curry and Thompson coming off of screens and needing just a split second to get a shot off that is almost always going to go in. So they have these two studs in the back court, and now they add the last player besides Curry to win the MVP award? The offense will be a marvel to watch all season long, but defense and rebounding are going to be a problem. Enter Draymond Green.

While Curry is the MVP of the league, Draymond Green is the most valuable player on the Warriors. And now that Bogut is gone as an interior presence, Green’s specific set of skills is are going to be even more important if the team wants to succeed. Green is a top-two defender in the league, one of the best passing bigs in the league, and the emotional leader of the Warriors. His ability to guard multiple positions in the front court and rebound at an impressive rate for someone who is undersized for his position are going to be crucial. With the addition of Durant to Steph and Klay, Draymond may be forced to take a back seat on the offensive end in terms of the number of shots he gets on a regular basis. He will still run the offense from time-to-time, but his defense and rebounding are going to be the most essential during this season.

One of the biggest issues outside of the lack of size on the roster is going to be their bench unit. Since the Warriors’ rise to title contention, the Dubs bench has been one of the best reserve units in the league. Andre Iguodala, Sean Livingston, Leandro Barbosa, Marreese Speights, and Festus Ezeli were essential to the success of the Warriors, and now three of those five players are gone. That five-man unit were able to hold down the fort while Curry, Thompson, and Green rested, but will that be the case this season? Certainly with the addition of Durant it will be easier for Steve Kerr to stagger his stars, but there will be times where the bench will be needed to carry the game for their stars. Players like Ian Clark, James Michael McAdoo, and rookie Patrick McCaw with have to take larger roles in that second unit to help out veterans like David West and Anderson Varejao. The chemistry will not be as good as it has been over the past few seasons, but they were able to fill the gaps enough to help their starting unit get the job done.

Oh and by the way, in case we hadn’t mentioned it enough by now, the Warriors added Kevin freaking Durant. Enough said.

Overall

The expectations are sky-high for the Warriors. When you add a top-three player in the league to a team that has been in the NBA Finals for the past two season, people are going to have some strong opinions about it. After suffering a devastating loss to LeBron and Co. last season, Golden State went out and got better. Although only the preseason, Durant has fit in seamlessly and has been dynamic alongside Curry, Thompson, and Green. There will be growing pains, and there is no guarantee that this team will break the wins record again this season. This team was built to win championships, and, while anything can happen, they are in a position to do so. The rebounding and second unit will be something to watch as the season goes on, but the collection of talent on this team is unparalleled. Regardless of whether or not you think this team is “good for the league” or not, there is no denying that watching this team once they gel and start forming chemistry is going to be something special. Sit back, and enjoy.

Prediction: 68-14

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