The Golden State Warriors are seemingly entering a new era, with Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, and Demarcus Cousins all gone from the team. Their stranglehold on the league is officially over, and with the west having gotten significantly stronger, it’ll be a battle for them to just get home court advantage. Still, there’s plentiful reason to think they can still compete, as Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Steve Kerr, and Klay Thompson all remain. Even in the offseason, it wasn’t all departures for the team, as they managed to snag first time all-star D’Angelo Russell. His fit on the team is questionable (more on that later), but his talent is undeniable. Their starting lineup looks a lot different, and has a lot more questions to answer than it has in years past.
|Point Guard PG|
|Shooting Guard SG|
|Small Forward SF|
|Power Forward PF|
|Point Guard PG||
|Shooting Guard SG|
|Small Forward SF|
|Power Forward PF||
One of the biggest blows for the Warriors happened at the end of the finals, when Klay Thompson blew out his knee and tore his ACL. He’s likely to miss most, if not all of the regular season, and though he may be able to return for the playoffs the Warriors will need a replacement for him. Now D’Angelo Russell may be expected to be the replacement, but with Iguodala and Durant’s departure, it feels like the Warriors may need to utilize Klay in the forward slot. As it stands right now, the most likely option to replace Klay would appear to be Alfonzo McKinnie. McKinnie was a utility player that the Warriors would use every now and then, but will likely see his role increase this year. He has the size to play the position, and he’s a good enough shooter to adequately fit in the Warriors system. Obviously he’s a downgrade from Klay, but he’s a solid role player that can hold down the fort for the Warriors.
Draymond Green struggled through some injuries last season, and he played poor and looked like he was declining in the regular season. Then, the playoffs happened and he turned in one of his best performances yet, reminding everyone why he’s one of the most versatile players in the league right now. The big question will be which version we’ll see this season. Unlike previous years, the regular season will actually matter for the Warriors, as they won’t be able to easily cruise into a high seed anymore. That means they can’t afford for Green to play as poorly as he did last regular season, he’ll need to be in playoff form the whole year. Obviously he’s capable of doing so, as seen by his previous seasons before. At his age and mileage however, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to sustain that, and it won’t be getting easier as time goes on. Draymond Green has always been the x-factor for this team, and that is even more true with so many pieces gone.
The Warriors surprised a lot of people when the snagged D’Angelo Russell, as they weren’t a team he was linked to. Although they’d rather have him here than nobody at all, there are questions about his long-term position with the team. To be fair, Warriors executive Bob Myers has said they plan on keeping him here long term and they did give him a 4-year max contract. However, a lot can change in a couple of months, and there are a lot of factors that could change the Warriors plans. First is his imperfect fit with Curry. Offensively they should be fine but defensively is another question. Neither Curry nor Russell are particularly good defenders and with Durant and Iguodala gone, and Klay likely out for a while, they don’t have anyone to cover them. Green is a great defender, but he’ll likely have his hands full guarding other teams’ forwards. The Warriors perimeter defense with Russell and Curry could get ugly in a hurry. Another important factor to consider is the Warriors cap situation, and Draymond Green’s free agency. Green is due for free agency next year, and it’s likely he commands a max contract. The Warriors are already giving Klay, Russell, and Curry the max, so giving another max to Draymond would be a tough pill to swallow. There’s a lot of overlap between Russell and Curry, it’s possible they choose to jettison Russel for picks or depth in favor of Green. Right now things appear to be rosy with Russell and the Warriors, but don’t be surprised if things change once the season starts.