Ranking Every Key Golden State Warriors Player Before Season's End
We all know the sum of the Golden State Warriors is greater than any individual part, but that doesn’t mean some of those parts don’t perform more important functions.
The Warriors, like any team, rely on certain players more than others in their quest for postseason success. Determining the value of each player, however, is no easy feat. It’s easy to see the value in stars such as Stephen Curry and David Lee because their roles are so defined.
Pinpointing key secondary players like Draymond Green or Jermaine O’Neal, though, is far more difficult because their value can’t be determined by simply looking at a stat sheet. Leadership, passion and effort must all be taken into account to truly quantify the importance of certain players.
These rankings are by no means simply a list of the best players on the roster; it is a list of the most important ones. Talent, as you will see, does not always trump intangibles.
Honorable Mention: Jordan Crawford
Jordan Crawford is a flawed player; that’s obvious. But Crawford can score like few can. He’s very much like Jamal Crawford in that he always seems to be able to put up a clean look to the basket, regardless of the defense.
That’s an important asset to have coming off your bench. People will question his decision-making skills anytime an awkward shot misses, but few can get as red-hot as quickly as Crawford does.
His ability to create his own offense is his greatest asset, and on those days when his shot is falling, the Warriors become virtually unbeatable.
Mark Jackson knows exactly what he has in Crawford, and as long as he continues to use him wisely, Crawford can be an important member of this team. Jackson will never leave him in long enough to hurt the team, but he most definitely will ride him anytime he gets hot.
10. Marreese Speights
Marreese Speights came to the Warriors this offseason as insurance in the event that either David Lee or Andrew Bogut missed significant time during the season. While he’s had his highs and lows so far, he remains precisely what they brought him in for: insurance.
His minutes have been few as of late, averaging just 7.6 in his last 10 games, and with the Warriors approaching a stretch where they have five consecutive days off, Jermaine O’Neal will likely recharge the batteries enough to keep Speights strapped to the bench.
While Speights brings good size and a touch of outside shooting to the table, the Warriors’ tendency to play small-ball negates many of his best qualities.
Still, the fact remains that O’Neal is playing in his 18th season, and Bogut has found the injury bug to be particularly pesky throughout his career. That is what makes Speights so important. Should one of those two succumb to age or injury, the Warriors would not be lost.
While he is a downgrade from his higher-profile frontcourt mates, he’s always been a competent player. He’s also shown the ability to give good minutes when his number is called. This was evident in his 13-point, eight-rebound performance against the Orlando Magic Tuesday.
Despite not receiving the minutes he surely craves, it hasn’t deterred him from staying prepared. With big guys like Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard and Tim Duncan rapidly approaching in the postseason, don’t be surprised to see Speights’ minutes spike as Mark Jackson uses him in an effort to deter the dominant Western Conference big men.
9. Jermaine O'Neal
Nobody can be more excited to see five days off in the schedule than Jermaine O’Neal. After all, after 18 seasons and countless minutes, O’Neal would be the first to tell you that Father Time has let himself in the door.
O’Neal isn’t ready to call it quits just yet, however. He’s shown flashes of brilliance throughout the season, and he brings defense and toughness to the court every time his number is called.
His importance goes beyond just his impact on the court, though. O’Neal has never won a title, and nobody on the Warriors craves one as much as him. He’s been on six All-Star teams and has been an All-NBA player three different times. He’s had individual accomplishments in spades.
It’s the ultimate team accomplishment that has always eluded him.
In a postgame interview from late November, O’Neal talked about what this season means to him, referencing the past and looking toward the future, courtesy of Examiner.com:
Trials and tribulations will build the character of a true championship team...Everybody really loves each other here...I keep telling these guys do not let this moment pass us by. That's the only regret I have in my career because I believed in Indiana that we would win it every year. And multiple reasons happened injuries, brawl, suspensions whatever it may be I never got a chance and here I am in my 18th year still trying to win that championship...I believe this year is going to be a special year for us.
O’Neal has become the vocal leader in the locker room that Stephen Curry struggles to be, and when he speaks, the Warriors listen. After 18 special years, why wouldn’t they?
The passion and desire of O’Neal has helped stave off his rapidly diminishing skills, and the experience the grizzled veteran brings to the table makes his importance to the team all the more paramount.
8. Harrison Barnes
Nobody has garnered more criticism this season than Harrison Barnes. He’s shown timidity coming off the bench and has been out of sync from the start of the campaign. For a player who was expected to be a breakout star this year, he’s disappointed.
Barnes was supposed to be a super sixth man, in the mold of Manu Ginobili. Instead it’s been the less-heralded Draymond Green who’s filled that void. For as good as Green has been, however, the fact remains that Barnes has the tools to be the better player.
The one thing Barnes has proven is he’s not afraid of the moment. As a rookie last season, he entered the postseason and took the league by storm. He was aggressive, he was physical, and he attacked the basket with reckless abandonment.
Those types of skills don’t just go away, especially not for a young player like Barnes. The potential is still there, and the key to unlocking it lies solely in him. With stars like Stephen Curry and David Lee flanking him, Barnes can still be an incredible asset to the team.
He has the explosion to be a young Andre Iguodala, scoring on the fast break and getting open on screens and cuts to the basket. If he can learn to move without the ball, the sky is the limit for the Warriors offense. Fortunately for Barnes, aggression isn’t a skill that needs to be acquired over time.
He’s shown that it resides somewhere in that head of his, and if he can somehow get out of his own way and let the game come to him, he could easily shoot up this list.
7. Steve Blake
Steve Blake is not a star. He doesn’t put up numbers like Stephen Curry or possess the sheer talent or potential of Harrison Barnes.
What Steve Blake is, however, is the ultimate glue guy. He’s a three-point assassin who brings excellent ball-handling and a calming demeanor to a team that has often lacked those two things.
More importantly, though, Blake is a winner, a reputation sharpened under the watchful eye of one of the greatest winners of all, Kobe Bryant. And if anyone is still not sold on what Blake brings to the table, well, you can take that up with Kobe.
While Blake is only averaging 4.9 points and 3.5 assists in 21.1 minutes per game for the Warriors since joining the club, he’s only turning the ball over 0.8 times per contest. When juxtaposed against the rather sloppy play of Curry, the value is easy to see.
Is it any surprise that the Warriors are 12-4 since Blake joined the team? You don’t have to answer that.
Blake has proven to be the perfect backup for Curry, the yin to Curry’s yang. They have radically different games, but as the old adage goes, “opposites attract.” Curry will be the general that leads the Warriors in their charge through the playoffs, but Blake will be the officer making sure the ranks don’t fall apart along the way, including his incredibly talented but flawed leader.
6. Draymond Green
Somewhere along the way, Draymond Green became everyone’s favorite Warrior. It wasn’t his scoring—he’s averaging just 5.9 points per game. It wasn’t his other counting numbers either, as 1.8 assists and 4.7 rebounds hardly look impressive.
There’s just something about Green that really sticks out. It’s what Harrison Barnes lacks, and it’s what has earned Mark Jackson’s trust and made Green an intricate part of the Warriors’ late-game rotation.
Green plays with a chip on his shoulder, a chip that oftentimes makes him the most active player in the game. His hands are always moving, his feet shadow offensive players perfectly, and he’s never met a floor he didn’t like.
The man makes the most of his 20.9 minutes per game.
Having players like Green is a necessity—not a luxury—when constructing a championship roster. The Warriors have enough players capable of putting the ball through the net. Green has never cared about being a star, only about doing whatever he can to make the team better.
He’s not likely to ever have a play drawn up for him, but he most certainly contributes to making sure plays come to fruition. He’s an unselfish, unheralded star, and in a league that has fallen in love with the flamboyancy of the game, he shines bright by being the opposite.
5. Andre Iguodala
Andre Iguodala was one of the highest-profile acquisitions during the offseason, and while he hasn’t quite lived up to the lofty expectations he brought, his impact on the team is undeniable.
Iguodala has been fascinating to watch, because while his numbers are down all across the board, he leads the league in plus-minus this season. Something has to give, right?
The reason for it is obvious when you consider the guy we just covered in the last slide. Iguodala is Draymond Green, just in a more refined package and with a bigger name. He’s all hustle and all about the team, and if that means sacrificing shots for teammates like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, he’ll do it.
He understands what he can and can’t do, and he also understands that getting an open three for Thompson is better for the team than a contested jumper from himself. Like Green, he’s become a truly unselfish player, and his attitude has spread throughout the team. Everywhere you look, shades of Iguodala stand out.
Nobody would have thought at the start of the season that the Warriors would be an elite defensive team. Yet here we are, in the homestretch of the regular season, and the Warriors rank near the top in every defensive category. The defense experiencing a revival with Iguodala joining the squad is not a coincidence.
Everyone knew the Warriors could score with anyone, but with Iguodala on the team, they can contain any team as well. And when the playoffs roll around, that will be the biggest factor in determining how far they go. Stats no longer matter to Iguodala, wins do. And that is the ultimate trait a leader can possess.
4. Klay Thompson
Charles Barkley has often stated that teams which live by the three-point shot, die by the three-point shot. History has shown he is correct in that assumption. There’s only one problem with that theory, however: Few teams have ever shot the three-pointer as potently as the Warriors’ dynamic duo.
Klay Thompson has absolutely set the nets on fire this season, making the second-most three-point shots in the league at a blistering .413 clip. He excels at the most efficient of offenses, a master of getting the most points out of each trip down the court.
And the scariest part for opposing teams? He’s really starting to heat up.
He’s shooting over 50 percent from the field in his last 10 games and averaging almost 21 points. If that momentum carries over into the playoffs, eliminating the Warriors becomes exponentially harder.
It’s not just the shooting, though, that makes Thompson so vital. His size makes him a menace on the defensive side of the court as well. At 6’7”, Thompson is big enough to battle with bigger guards and small forwards but is still quick enough to switch to smaller, speedier point guards as well.
He offers Mark Jackson so much versatility and can be relied on in any facet of the game. When paired with Curry in the backcourt, there is no guard duo more dangerous in the NBA.
3. David Lee
David Lee has always been one of the most polarizing players on the team, his defenders highlighting his refined offensive skill set and the naysayers bringing up his less-than-stellar defense and bulky contract.
Regardless of which side of the fence you inhabit, the fact remains that Lee averages 18.5 points on over 52 percent shooting to go along with 9.4 rebounds. There aren’t many players out there putting up those numbers, and that is a luxury the Warriors are lucky to have.
The value of Lee is obvious. When you need a bucket, just dump it down into the low block and let Lee go to work. More often than not, good things happen. His ability to shoot the jumper is also essential to the Warriors’ game plan. His ability to stretch the floor grants attackers like Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala some breathing room when they drive toward the hoop.
Obviously Lee will never be known for his defensive prowess, but when you have a guy like Andrew Bogut covering up his mistakes, his offense more than makes up for his subpar defense.
Lee is the answer to prolonged offensive slumps—a threat to score anytime the ball is in his hands. With an arsenal of attacks as versatile as anyone in the league, the Warriors will often find themselves riding his unique offensive barrage. When the playoffs finally do commence, his scoring will be vital to any Golden State victory.
2. Andrew Bogut
Nobody should be surprised to see Andrew Bogut ranked so high, especially if you’ve seen the enormous impact he has in each and every game he is a part of. Bogut has made defense an art form, schooling the opposing team every time he takes the court.
He’s garnered huge praise from players and coaches alike, including a ringing endorsement from head coach Mark Jackson himself, courtesy of ProBasketBallTalk.com (via CSNBayArea.com and the Associated Press):
He’s been spectacular, protecting the paint, setting screens, rebounding the basketball, being a leader, being durable, Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. If he’s not here, you’re asking basically a power forward to be a (center), and to do it for a lengthy period of time is a recipe for disaster. But he’s been awesome, and certainly should be in the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year.
There isn’t much left to say that Jackson didn’t in that quote. His rebounding has been spectacular this season, gobbling up over 10 per game in just under 27 minutes of action. He sends away would-be scorers in droves, blocking 1.9 shots per game. The teeth-jarring screens he sets makes everything the Warriors like to do possible.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson often find themselves open for threes for a reason. That reason is Bogut doing the dirty work. He’s the anchor of the defense and a leader in the locker room and his importance cannot be diminished, despite his feeble scoring numbers.
Bogut understands that the Warriors don’t need him to score, and he’s fine with that, because much like Draymond Green, the one thing Bogut cares about is winning. And when Bogut defends the way he’s come to be known for, that’s exactly what the Warriors do.
Don’t let the 7.8 points per game fool you; Bogut is the second-most important player on the Golden State Warriors roster.
1. Stephen Curry
Surprise, surprise, Stephen Curry tops the list!
Every single player listed before Curry is a vital part of the team, each and every one a crucial ingredient for the recipe to success. Not all ingredients are created equal, however. As George Orwell said in his novel, Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
The same principle applies to the Warriors. The team would not be complete should one any of its players go down, but should that player be Curry, the consequences would be far greater than anyone else.
Curry has taken his game to new heights this year, and the success the team has experienced is directly related to his rise to superstardom.
Curry, to the surprise of nobody, is once again leading the league in three-point shots made this season, and he’s making them at a .415 clip. He’s not just scoring from the outside this season, though. His mid-range game has been a thing of beauty, and he’s entertained the masses with his spectacular creativity near the basket.
The one flaw with Curry is his overwhelming looseness with the ball—3.8 per game is too many turnovers, regardless of what your usage rate is. His 8.6 assists helps alleviate the pain a bit, but the fact remains: Curry must improve in this area.
Still, no star is perfect, and Curry brings as much to the table as any other star in the game. He is the most lethal shooter in the Association and the orchestrator of one of the most dynamic offenses in the league. The road to the finals hinges on Curry’s performance, and based on what he’s done all season, the Warriors have reason to be optimistic.
Few teams have the luxury of a star that can go shot-for-shot with the giants of the game, but Curry is one of those few guys. He is the reason the Warriors will have a shot in any series and why they are the last team anyone wants to meet when the postseason rolls around.