Once a preseason invite with a minute chance to make a star-studded roster, Alfonzo McKinnie overcame all odds by plunging the final spot of this Warriors team a year ago after Patrick McCaw’s puzzling absence from training camp. McCaw’s hardball approach and his refusal to sign a deal ultimately helped McKinnie ink a two-year deal with the team, making his dream of playing significant minutes finally true.
Standing at a lanky 6-foot-8 and 215 pounds, the 26-year-old is the best bet to be the starter at small forward and garner decent minutes, even if the 4.8 points and 3.4 rebounds he averaged last season don’t point to greatness.
McKinnie is by far the best option at the three-spot now that Klay Thompson will be out for the foreseeable future, which would give him plenty of opportunities to work off catch-and-shoot opportunities, as well as make use of his offensive rebounding to generate second-chance points.
The Green Bay alum shot only 35.6% from deep last season, but that was due largely to a slump after his minutes declined through stretched, reducing his opportunities to bust out of it as well as generating the right confidence. McKinnie will have plenty of opportunities to shoot after attempting less than four shots per game through his 72 appearances in 2018-19.
The backcourt of Stephen Curry and D’Angelo Russell will draw most of the attention offensively, allowing for McKinnie to snipe away from the corners and stay on the weak side of the court waiting for the incoming pass. His length and ability to drive the ball should make for clear opportunities when the lane is open and his ability to snatch the offensive rebound can’t be overstated.
However his biggest test will come on defense, as he is a willing defender with the right tools, but still learning the intricacies of defending at this level. Luckily for him, former Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green is always willing to give pointers, and a full training camp and another year of chemistry should only bode well for the lanky forward.
McKinnie will have to quickly evolve from a role player to a starter the Warriors can rely on, now with no Kevin Durant or Andre Iguodala at the wing position. He will have to grow into the job, even if it will go away once Thompson is healthy enough to take the court after suffering a devastating torn ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
The Chicago native will have to take a reserve role once Thompson returns, but he will still be bound to solid minutes at both forward spots if he proves to be the contributor he’s capable of being.
Expect McKinnie to not only double his scoring average, but drop them in double digits, surging as one of Golden State’s trusted cogs in a similar way as Kevon Looney once did when thrust into a role. If he can maintain his aggression, pull the trigger and cash in when given the chances, McKinnie will give Steve Kerr no choice but to keep him in the game and make him part of this overhauled team’s identity.