Projecting Golden State Warriors' 2017-18 Depth Chart
If their rotation isn't already set in stone, it's at least written in wet cement.
Twelve members of that championship squad are back, including all five starters and their sixth man. The four newcomers arrived via the mid-level exception, a veteran's minimum deal, the purchase of a second-round pick and the new two-way contract, so there isn't much high-profile competition for the incumbents.
But that just makes our crystal ball clearer.
It's easier to tell how the dominoes will fall when so many have already been assembled. From there, it's just statistical analysis and future forecasting to compile a trustworthy projection for the 2017-18 Warriors depth chart.
Starter: Stephen Curry
Curry has started all but six games during his career, making three reserve appearances as a rookie in November 2009 and three more just ahead of having his papier-mache ankle surgically repaired in April 2012.
His stranglehold on the opening gig grows tighter by the year. Three seasons back, he won his first MVP award and world title. He followed that with a record-setting 73-win campaign and the Association's first unanimous MVP. Last season, he successfully led another championship charge and paced all players with a 12.8 plus/minus per game.
The addition of Kevin Durant may have cost Curry the title of team's best player, but the historically proficient sharpshooter still makes this team go like no one else.
"He makes this whole thing work," Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said, per Marcus Thompson II, then with the Bay Area News Group. "Everything revolves around him. The whole culture revolves not only [around] his talent, his unselfishness, but his joy."
Golden State outscored opponents by 17.2 points per 100 possessions with Curry last season and only 1.0 points per 100 without him. Draymond Green had the second-biggest on/off swing at 10.3 points.
Backup No. 1: Shaun Livingston
Livingston's free-agency fate could have taken some time to decide. He's a 31-year-old with a terrifying injury in his past and no perimeter shot in his arsenal. That's not the world's safest stock.
But the Dubs not only threw three years and $24 million at the mid-range master; they also got the deal done in the market's opening hours. That speaks volumes to their comfort with and confidence in the two-time champion substitute floor general.
His 17.7 minutes per game last season were the fewest he's averaged with the Warriors, and it's possible he'll see even less this time around. However, he will remain a rotation regular due to his offensive precision and defensive versatility.
Starter: Klay Thompson
In March 2012, the Warriors traded their high scorer, Monta Ellis, to clear a starting path for Thompson. The three-time All-Star has never looked back, despite his name blowing through trade winds every now and again.
Twice he's been mentioned in deals for in-prime All-Stars, and twice Golden State has kept him around. Three years back, Kevin Love would've been the prize, per Marc Stein, then with ESPN.com. This summer, a Thompson trade could have brought back Paul George, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
That Thompson is still a Bay Area resident speaks to the franchise's feelings about his two-way talents and snug fit alongside Curry.
"The Warriors value Thompson as much—if not more—for his defense than his prolific scoring," CSN Bay Area's Monte Poole wrote. "They consider him the perfect partner for Curry, who benefits from Thompson's floor-stretching ability on one end and his defensive qualities on the other."
Backup No. 1: Nick Young
Young stands as Golden State's biggest external offseason investment, having signed on for the full taxpayer mid-level exception of $5.2 million. That's because he filled the biggest (only?) need this world-beating roster had.
"Natural scorer," Warriors general manager Bob Myers said, per Anthony Slater, then with the Bay Area News Group. "When we had that opportunity, we went out and grabbed it."
Young may not pass or consistently defend like a Warrior, but his weaknesses can be covered by this core's strengths. Conversely, his self-sufficient scoring is a weapon last year's second unit lacked (11 outings of 20-plus points; Golden State's non-All-Stars had seven combined).
His deadly catch-and-shoot sniping (2.1 makes per game at a 44.2 percent clip) will garner him substantial minutes at both wing spots.
Backup No. 2: Patrick McCaw
It shouldn't be possible for McCaw—a second-round sophomore on the world champs—to already be competing for minutes, but somehow that's a non-story. Or, rather, it was last season's story, when McCaw was filling the shoes of a hobbled Kevin Durant in the starting lineup and logging the most minutes of the non-Death Lineup members during the Finals clincher.
After subsequently scorching the summer league (team-high 20 points per game), McCaw should have solidified his spot in the rotation. That said, he may not see an increase in his 15.1 minutes per game. Despite the departures of Ian Clark and Matt Barnes, the wings are even better stocked with Young and Omri Casspi added to the fold.
Starter: Kevin Durant
Durant's first marathon with the Dubs was...what's the right word...eventful. There were multiple cupcake-based jabs, an All-Star alley-oop heard 'round the hoops world, a terrifying knee injury and ultimately a pair of personal Finals firsts—first title, first Finals MVP.
Everyone knew adding an elite talent to the Association's top squad would be absurd, but year one might have went even better than expected.
"He's had an amazing career, but he just took it to the next level," Kerr said, per NBA.com's Shaun Powell.
Durant, who set personal bests in field-goal shooting (53.7), rebounding (8.3) and blocks (1.6) last season, will again be among the team's minutes leaders. If there's any mystery here, it's only with where he'll be deployed. He actually saw more time at the 4 than the 3 last season and even suited up at the 5 during the Finals.
Backup No. 1: Andre Iguodala
Iguodala's 33rd birthday is behind him, which leads one to believe his best basketball is as well—a conclusion also reachable by studying his diminishing stats. But what he still brings to the equation is potent enough to warrant his new fully guaranteed three-year, $48 million pact.
He's a master at fitting in where needed and, in the process, properly aligning the pieces around him. Send him out with the rest of the Hamptons Five, and he'll dazzle on defense while nibbling on wide-open shots. Put more reserves around him, and he'll orchestrate the offense with exquisite ball control (league-best 4.50 assists per turnover).
It will be worth watching how the additions of Young and Casspi, coupled with the maturation of McCaw, will contribute to Iggy's floor time, which is riding an eight-year decline. But even if he plays less than before, he should lead all reserves in minutes and could again see time at the 2, 3 and 4 spots.
Backup No. 2: Omri Casspi
Casspi isn't a veteran's minimum-level player. That's just the contract he'll be collecting next season, since the basketball gods clearly love the Bay Area (and he really wants to win).
The 6'9" forward looks like a Warrior. He's long, athletic and, when he heats up, lethal from long range. He's also another interchangeable part, having split most of his career between the 3 and 4 spots and even getting a smattering of action at both the 2 and 5.
Starter: Draymond Green
Green's 2016-17 campaign featured his worst shooting and scoring rates in three seasons. And yet, his starting spot has never felt more secure.
He has been the team's top distributor for two years running, which, last season, meant quarterbacking one of the league's most efficient offenses ever. But it's his defense—dubbed basketball's best in June—that makes him such an integral part of this nucleus.
"What Green provides to the Warriors defensively can never be [overstated]," CBS Sports' Chris Barnewall wrote. "His versatility and ability to guard positions 1-5 is invaluable. Not to mention the emotional leadership he provides both on and off the court."
Green is the NBA's ultimate small-ball weapon. The 6'7" forward-center not only anchors the league's top unit; he does so while providing its stingiest interior defense. He plays more 4 than 5, especially during the regular season, to help reduce the wear and tear from battling bigger, bulkier opponents.
Backup No. 1: Jordan Bell
Comparing a rookie to an All-Star is never fair, but Bell looks like Draymond-lite through squinted eyes. The former Oregon standout offers a similar package of undersized-but-effective defensive versatility, using impressive athleticism to replicate the impact of Green's advanced hoops IQ.
Like Green, Bell displays the ability to both protect the rim and defend the perimeter. He's not much of a shooter, but he's a willing passer and explosive finisher around the basket.
He'll see some action as a rookie, although it's unclear where. He could be a nominal power forward who spends most of his time as a speedy center, while guys such as Durant and Casspi devour the bulk of the backup 4 minutes.
Backup No. 2: Kevon Looney
Looney moves like he's had multiple hip surgeries, because he has. He squeezed two into his five-game rookie season, and his already limited athleticism has yet to return.
The 21-year-old has been a formidable force on the glass (career 10.3 rebounds per 36 minutes) and little else. His lack of mobility might restrict him to center duties, but the roster is already overloaded there. He's the early—and heavy—favorite to log the club's fewest minutes.
Backup No. 3: Chris Boucher (two-way contract)
Boucher's pact allows him to spend up to 45 days at the big-league level, but any time with the varsity team is unlikely to yield meaningful minutes. For starters, the 24-year-old is still recovering from a torn ACL that prematurely closed his college career in March. The Dubs' depth works against him, as does his paper-thin frame.
That said, it's clear why Golden State pegged him as a project worth undertaking. Standing 6'10" with a 7'4" wingspan, he's a defensive force around the rim (career 4.4 blocks per 40 minutes). And he's also shown capable of spacing the floor as a shooter (1.8 threes per 40 minutes at a 34.4 percent clip), potentially giving him a rare and highly coveted combination of skills.
Starter: Zaza Pachulia
Entering last season, there were legitimate concerns over the Warriors' center rotation. They were without their top three options from the year prior (Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli and Marreese Speights) and had limited funds with which to fill those voids.
That wasn't all the work of the centers. However, the three-headed monster of Pachulia, David West and JaVale McGee proved productive enough for Golden State to run it back with the same collection. The leader of that group, Pachulia, looks highly likely to reprise his role as rugged screen-setter and restricted-area muscle.
"There's almost zero chance of any kind of competition for the starting spot," The Athletic's Anthony Slater wrote. "Barring a health issue, Zaza Pachulia will open the season in that same role. And barring a steep decline by the 33-year-old, he'll likely remain in it, again playing far less...than typical starting centers."
Backup No. 1: David West
West could not have looked more comfortable during his first year in Oakland, shooting a sizzling 53.6 percent from the field and shattering his previous best with 6.4 assists per 36 minutes. He didn't play a ton (12.6 minutes), but his minutes were consistent (often starting the second and fourth periods) and usually effective.
There's no obvious reason to rock the boat during the 36-year-old's swan song. Unless he aged horribly over the summer, he's a more reliable option than increasing McGee's workload or entrusting one of the youngsters to handle more than mop-up duty.
Backup No. 2: JaVale McGee
Limited to short bursts by asthma and defensive deficiencies, he gave maximum energy inside the lines, and the Dubs made a commitment to maximize his threat as a vertical spacer.
The formula worked so well—club-high plus-18.7 on-court net rating—there may be no motivation to change it. But if McGee backtracks or the youngsters make noise behind him, his floor time could be the first to get cut.
Backup No. 3: Damian Jones
Jones had 85 minutes spread across 10 games last season, and that was the extent of his rookie run. If his sequel is going to be dramatically different, he must force the change.
He's big and athletic, and he's flashed everything from thunderous dunks and volleyball-spike rejections to feathery jumpers and rapid, on-point passes. But none of his game is consistent, and there are several layers of polish missing.
However, that's not his biggest hurdle on the depth chart. He's buried behind no fewer than four other players—the three listed above and Green—and could also trail Bell and/or Durant if the Warriors want more small ball.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ZachBuckleyNBA.