A bevy of offseason maneuvering has given California's Golden State Warriors several new faces heading into the 2013-14 season.
Golden State may have a roster to get the job done, giving the franchise expectations it hasn't had in what seems like ages. They made a flashy move in acquiring Andre Iguodala but they also have smaller acquisitions that go a big way in determining where the Warriors finish at year’s end.
Let’s take a look at each position and how they’ve changed over the course of the offseason.
He's no Jarrett Jack, but Toney Douglas is a capable point guard
There’s no denying Stephen Curry’s talent. The man carried the team on his back at various points in the most recent season. From dropping 54 in Madison Square Garden to carrying the team in Game 4 of their first round matchup with Denver, he has proven himself as an elite playmaker and leader of the NBA.
As long as he stays healthy, Golden State can adjust the rest of the lineup to compete night in and night out.
Toney Douglas replaces Jarrett Jack as the backup point guard and would presumably step in should Curry miss significant playing time. Douglas is a downgrade from the gutsy Jack because he lacks the former's offensive skill set.
Instead, his above-average defensive ability and three-point shooting (38.9 percent on two and a half attempts a game) will get him on the floor as a key reserve.
Meanwhile, Nemanja Nedovic is unlikely to see many meaningful minutes this year. He may get a few stints in the D-league to ease the transition from playing in Europe his entire career but the Warriors backcourt is just too stacked.
That being said, Nedovic has potential to be a reliable backup. He already has the size and athleticism to hold his own, standing at 6’ 3” and posting a vertical of 41”. As with any European prospect, Nedovic may need time to adjust to the pace of the NBA. If he develops his ball-handling and passing, in addition to cutting down on turnovers, he can become a serious player.
Klay Thompson is it a pivotal point in his young career.
People seem to either love Klay Thompson or hate him. For those looking to end the debate, this season will play a huge role in the development and direction of whom I think is the most intriguing player on Golden State this year.
Proponents point to his lethal shooting and size for the 2. Last year, he was third in the NBA in treys made and became Golden State’s best perimeter defender.
However, he still has a knack for blowing layups and he struggles to create off the dribble. Given his size, Thompson should have gotten to the free-throw line much more than he did—he had less than two attempts a game last year.
This year, Klay will most likely be used more as a shooter and less as a scorer and primary defender. Golden State's Iguodala is a player who finishes at the rim and provides even better defense. This puts less pressure on Thompson. In the meantime, he can work on the rest of his game in the gym until it has improved.
Kent Bazemore opened some eyes this summer. Already regarded as a persistent defender, he finished the NBA Summer League with one of the best all-around stat lines out of any player (18.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.7 SPG). He brought the thunder too, highlighted by emphatically dunking on two occasions.
Summer league always has to be taken with a grain of salt, as the competition isn’t the same as what the NBA offers. But it’s encouraging enough that Bazemore is ready for a bigger role on the Warriors. He should see consistent minutes as a defensive specialist.
Iguodala and Barnes are now on the same side. Not good for opposing teams
Aptly named the poor man’s LeBron James for his diverse skill set on offense and defense, Iguodala is in the prime of his career as he begins his first season with the Warriors. He immediately becomes their best perimeter defender and will be used to lock down either the 1, 2 or 3.
He can score, pass, rebound and dribble and does not have to be the primary offensive option to succeed. Paired with the rest of the lineup, that bodes very well in terms of his performance and overall team chemistry.
As if having Iggy wasn’t a luxury already, Harrison Barnes’ move to the bench makes him an immediate candidate for sixth man of the year. He put his scoring ability on full display in the Spurs playoff series while shooting 38 percent from three and continuing his strong defensive play from the regular season. Factor in his killer athleticism and Golden State has a potential superstar on their hands.
Finally, the Warriors have Draymond Green. After a rocky regular season for the Michigan State rookie, Green also elevated his game in the playoffs. From Basketball-Reference, he upped his shooting percentage from 33 percent to 44 percent while averaging 11.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists per 36 minutes.
I’m of the belief that the Warriors have the best rotation of small forwards in the league. Iggy and Barnes are stars and Green’s coming-of-age in the postseason is proof he has the chance to be special as well.
David Lee could be the weak spot in the Warriors starting five.
It will be interesting to see how Golden State uses David Lee, who didn’t play at full strength in this season's playoffs due to a hip injury. The only all-star on the team last year, Lee is the Warriors’ best post scorer and one of the better passing big-men in the game.
Marreese Speights takes over for Golden State’s other departed super-sub, Carl Landry. Fortunately, Speights possesses the same mid-range game that Landry had. According to HoopData, he shot over 46 percent from between 10 feet and the three-point line last year.
Additionally, he has a reputation as an exceptional rebounder, particularly on the offensive boards. Speights doesn’t bring the same physicality Landry did but the Warriors could have done much worse than bringing him in. He also has experience at center, another iffy position that will be discussed in the final slide.
This is possibly the weakest position on the roster if you had to pick one. Lee’s defense will be the focal point of opposing teams’ attacks and Golden State has to figure out a way to account for that.
After Curry, Andrew Bogut is the most important player on Golden State.
The center position for Golden State will be the X-factor in determining how deep of a run they make next year. All of the Warriors’ centers are talented and play their roles well but are either coming off an injury or dealing with a history of injury problems. Their health is just as important as Curry’s.
It all starts with Andrew Bogut. Not coincidentally, Golden State was playing their best basketball when he was playing at full strength and full confidence. Bogut is the defensive presence down low that the Bay Area has been craving for years and his above-average court vision and post game only makes him that much more valuable.
If he finally gets over the injury hurdle, Bogut can re-achieve his elite status and take the Warriors to new heights.
Ezeli would likely be the backup center, but is recovering from surgery and is expected to miss the first month or two of the season. As a result, O’Neal slides into the second-string spot.
O’Neal’s career has seen a small resurgence as he became a much more efficient player after leaving Boston. While his knees will prevent him from being the player he ever was, he still posted 15.9 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per 36 minutes in Phoenix (courtesy of Basketball-Reference). He is perfectly suited for limited minutes and brings experience matched by very few in the league today.
Ezeli is with the Warriors to do three things—defend, rebound and defend some more. His post game is still very raw but there’s a reason the Warriors bought a first-round pick to get him. He had a positive rookie year and will try to continue to establish himself as a dangerous shot-blocker.
Finally, Golden State can give Speights some time at the 5 as well. Though his natural position is at power forward, he's a serviceable backup should something happen to Bogut.