The Warriors may have actually gotten worse this season
In undeniably the most controversial move of free agency, former MVP and top-five talent Kevin Durant took his talents to Golden State. The very team, who only a few weeks prior to his decision, had eliminated him and his former Thunder group in the Western Conference Finals.
A decision met with outrage, disgust, excitement, and absolute shock from whatever end of the NBA spectrum you lie. The general consensus, however, saw this as a magical move, and a stroke of genius by the Warriors’ front office. It certainly was impressive but on further inspection, Durant may not make much sense for Golden State. Let’s take a look at why the Warriors took a step backwards this 2016 NBA Offseason.
ONE BALL, MANY SCORERS:
Ever heard the old adage ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’? That may just ring true for this Warriors unit. With the inclusion of Durant, the 2016-17 Warriors now have a starting five consisting of the first, third, and 12th best scorers in the league from last season. Whilst instantly you’d think more offense is a good thing, it’s doubtful that the reigning, and unanimous, MVP, a past MVP, and an elite shooting guard are going to be particularly eager to give up their shots.
Look at what Klay Thompson said when asked about the arrival of Kevin Durant, in a past article by Shams Charania of The Vertical.
“We all want to see each other do well. But I’m not sacrificing [expletive], because my game isn’t changing. I’m still going to try to get buckets.”
If the Warriors are to make this work, someone has to miss out somewhere. Stephen Curry? You would lose your most focused offensive weapon. Durant? You would lose your most versatile scorer. Thompson? You would lose your best floor-spacer and spot-up shooter. Let’s face it, there is only one ball and how the Warriors share this will be absolutely integral to their success.
Now that the Warriors are without Alvin Gentry and Luke Walton, two important offensive coordinators from the last two seasons it will be up to Head Coach Steve Kerr to try and find a way to split the shots amongst the league’s best. One thing is for sure though, despite what they’ve said or will say otherwise, these Warriors aren’t giving up any of their own production.
As an NBA fan for well over a decade now, there is one distinct trend I’ve noticed amongst NBA championship teams; chemistry. The intrinsics of chemistry can’t be measured in a box score or even by some analytic but it’s as powerful as anything. The 73-win Warrior team had impeccable chemistry, and for the most part we’re inseparable. However, adding Durant, a major piece, may have disrupted that totally.
The Warriors and Kevin Durant are not unfamiliar with each other, thanks to a seven-game series and multiple regular season classic games. As for how they mesh is still akin to their success, an absolute mystery. The buzz around is about the glaring comparisons of this team and the 2010-2011 version of the Miami Heat. I say to them you’re right and wrong. Right in the fact that this team will experience the same teething problems the Heat did; wrong in the fact that Miami was incapable of not having excellent chemistry.
Long-time friends Dwyane Wade and LeBron James had always wanted to play together, and Wade openly accepted being Robin to James’ Batman role. We are still yet to see who will become Robin out in the Bay Area. Funnily enough, despite being the MVP, Curry was left outside of the top three by League GMs when asked which player they would like to start their teams with, whilst Durant received over 20% of total votes. Sounds interesting, but who takes the back seat will be pivotal in how the Warriors operate, especially with both superstars coming off their own incredibly disappointing and sub-par postseason series.
WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH DRAYMOND GREEN?
The forgotten piece of the Warriors’ puzzle, Draymond Green seems to have absolutely flown under the radar when it comes to the new Warriors. The best defender, passer, and glue guy of the Warriors, his implementation will again be incredibly interesting.
Let’s take a look at Draymond Green and what he brings: second-best defensive player in the league, 14 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game last season, an All Star talent, and a high motor. Nothing to sniff at hey? I agree, and outside of LeBron James along with a few others, Green may be one of the most versatile players in the league. The most interesting thing about Draymond Green is his relationship with now-Lakers coach Luke Walton.
Walton and Green really hit it off last year especially during Coach Kerr’s absence. Whilst Kerr appreciates Green, he does not integrate him into the offense as seamlessly as Walton. In addition, Green, with their smaller front-court will need to guard larger players and play center more often. Despite his elite defensive versatility, he is not equipped to guarding centres for long periods of time. Draymond Green is an emotional guy and the key to the Warriors’ energy, but if he gets into foul trouble and puts himself in situations where he’ll become limited or unavailable, he significantly impacts the Warriors’ defense, passing, and chemistry. All things that may be a result of a potentially decreased role with the arrival of Durant.
HEALTH AND DEPTH:
This is where I have my greatest concerns for the Warriors who were once revered for the bench that they now have severely thinned out in depth. Let’s take a look at who they lost this offseason.
All key contributors in the depth of the Warriors and all with very important roles. Outside of Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala, its hard to trust any of the Warriors’ reserves to consistently deliver. And in today’s NBA, a seven or eight-man rotation just won’t cut it.
Not to mention Iguodala’s health concerns which limited him in the previous finals. Whether he will break down over an 82-game grind remains to be seen, but the Warriors don’t run nearly as deep as they’ve done previously. You’d hate to see a starter getting injured, because the replacement would be atrocious. It’s just difficult to envision this current Warrior team being able to sustain their bench play especially going up against the likes of Cleveland and San Antonio.
Whilst the Warriors made a major move with the addition of Kevin Durant, the team might have regressed at the same time. They will still win more than 60 games. They will still finish first in the West. But don’t expect the same depth, chemistry, and regular season dominance from last year, and this may just be what makes or breaks their postseason run.