Final 2015 Player Power Rankings for the Golden State Warriors
A streak-busting, dead-legged 108-95 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Dec. 12 is the only blemish. However, although they remain at the top of the standings, the Warriors have slipped to third in net rating during December, per NBA.com. Even so, they still outscore challengers by an incredible margin, and the slight drop-off has a clear explanation.
The San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder have gone on a rampage this month, beating up everyone in even more convincing fashion than Golden State. Meanwhile, opponents approach every game against the Warriors with additional motivation in an attempt to spoil the most entertaining show in the league.
Harrison Barnes' ankle sprain, which has kept him out for 12 games already, has also stung. Even though Golden State has enough talent to fill the gap, additional short-term bruises to rotational players have tested that depth.
It's a case of nit-picking at this point, but even the players concur that, scary as it may be, there is still room for improvement. Starting center Andrew Bogut had the following to say, per Sam Amick of USA Today Sports.
"The last 10 games, we haven’t had great games – even though we won them. We just know how to win, but we felt like we weren't playing that well. So without sounding arrogant ... we're 28-1 and we're saying we haven't played that well, that we have things to work on."
Injuries shift responsibilities across the roster, which inevitably benefits certain individuals compared to the initial edition over a month ago.
All statistics are accurate as of Dec. 28.
15. Kevon Looney
There isn't much movement on the Kevon Looney front, as the 6'9" rookie has yet to make his NBA debut. The 19-year-old remains out following hip surgery, although he is on the right track and could be available later this season, per Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group. That's positive, although his services are unlikely to be required.
14. Jason Thompson
It's still perplexing that Jason Thompson hasn't managed to secure regular minutes outside of garbage time. He is a decent NBA-level rotation big, whose mobility and defensive chops seemingly fit Golden State's requirements. When a player of his caliber is the 14th guy on a team, it's a firm attestation of incredible depth. If the injury bug hits the Warriors' frontcourt, Thompson will be a great fill-in.
13. Marreese Speights
Marreese Speights has plummeted in the rankings, as his role continues to diminish. He is no longer guaranteed playing time in any game, and his offense has fallen off a cliff. He has an effective field-goal percentage of 32.2 on catch-and-shoot jumpers, a massive drop-off from the 45.5 percent of last year, per NBA.com. When he can't capitalize on open looks, he becomes borderline unplayable.
12. James Michael McAdoo
James Michael McAdoo has benefited from the Warriors' winning margins, which have given interim head coach Luke Walton more leeway in experimenting with the young big. Walton has even gotten frisky with bench-exclusive lineups, slotting the 6'9" McAdoo next to Festus Ezeli. Even so, McAdoo doesn't bring a single polished skill to the table yet and doesn't figure to be playing in important games.
11. Ian Clark
The fact that Ian Clark has managed to secure even a miniature role within the Warriors' stacked backcourt is impressive. He can provide bursts of scoring in short stints, and he has looked confident both in the pick-and-roll and playing without the ball. He moves his feet well on defense and is often a productive contributor in his minutes.
10. Leandro Barbosa
Leandro Barbosa has been a little banged up this season, most recently being sidelined with a shoulder injury. He hasn't been quite as effective as he was last year but is still considered a quality locker room guy by everyone in Golden State, and his exceptional speed brings an element of unpredictability to the Warriors offense.
Key Players: 9-6
9. Brandon Rush
Brandon Rush has made the biggest jump on the list since last month's edition, mostly due to present circumstances. With Barnes out, Rush has received the starting nod at small forward.
Rush isn't asked to do as much as Barnes offensively, but he plays within his boundaries and has put up four double-digit scoring performances in 13 starts. He has been more than reliable from range, knocking down 48 percent of his three-point shots. His defensive instincts remain intact, although he can't guard power forwards the way Barnes can.
8. Shaun Livingston
Shaun Livingston remains one of the most consistent and crucial members of the team. He has been the designated replacement for Barnes in the Warriors' small-ball lineup featuring Draymond Green at center. Even though he can't shoot threes, Livingston has ways to make up for it.
He can punish any guard in the post, and he is one of the best mid-range shooters in the league. Livingston is connecting on 52.4 percent of his pull ups, leaving teammates Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry in the rear-view mirror in the category, per NBA.com. It's an old-school shot which is going extinct in the modern NBA, but Livingston is one of the few guys efficient enough to justify taking it.
7. Andrew Bogut
Figuring out whether Bogut or Ezeli should be ranked higher is an exercise of coin-flipping, as the two have become practically interchangeable. Bogut remains the starter, but his younger counterpart is playing an almost identical amount of minutes.
Bogut is the more polished passer, and he can facilitate plays at the elbows which wouldn't be possible without his presence. His defensive instincts and timing are still elite.
6. Festus Ezeli
Ezeli can't match Bogut's intelligence, but his athleticism opens up other doors for Golden State. He is significantly more explosive in the pick-and-roll, has improved his hands and can finish with growing consistency.
The Warriors thrive in transition, and it's another area in which Ezeli helps. He runs the floor better than Bogut, sometimes even beating guards across the court. He is a great rim protector and quite possibly Golden State's starting center of the future.
5. Harrison Barnes
A lengthy absence has Barnes dropping from third in the rankings, but a solid start to the year keeps him among the top five.
Before he got hurt, Barnes was having the best season of his career. It's hard to pad individual statistics when playing next to volume scorers such as Thompson and Curry, but Barnes has managed to secure more responsibilities. He uses 17.6 percent of Golden State's offensive possessions, a 2.7 percent uptick from last year, per NBA.com.
Barnes is shooting 50 percent from the field, and he should be able to bump the 38.9 percent accuracy from deep to above 40 with the open looks he feasts on.
On any other team, Barnes may already be flirting with 20 points per night as a secondary scorer. He has worked on all aspects of his game, and he looks more polished as a scorer. He's still just 23 and will continue to improve.
The Warriors may have survived without Barnes so far, but he makes the team undeniably better. His ability to guard multiple positions and fill a stretch-4 role provides the coaching staff with infinitely more lineup possibilities.
4. Andre Iguodala
Andre Iguodala has struggled in December, but he still moves up with Barnes injured and Ezeli splitting minutes with Bogut.
After shooting 50 percent from deep in November, Iguodala has knocked down just 22.2 percent of his threes this month. His true average lies somewhere in the middle, so the temporary blip isn't too concerning.
The Warriors are 7.4 points per 100 possessions better with Iguodala on the court compared to when he is on the bench, per NBA.com. Even with the presence of Green, Iguodala often assumes the task of guarding the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant, being as disruptive as possible against such unstoppable behemoth scorers.
The free-throw shooting remains a worry, as Iguodala is terrified of going to the line. He averages just one attempt per game, while connecting at a 65.5 percent clip.
The Cleveland Cavaliers employed a sneaky tactic of hacking him within the forbidden two-minute mark of the fourth quarter in their 89-83 loss to the Warriors on Dec. 25. They had Matthew Dellavedova climbing on Iguodala's back, and it wouldn't be surprising if other teams used the same strategy.
3. Klay Thompson
To say that Thompson has flipped the script after a slow start would be a severe understatement. He dealt with back stiffness early in the year, but he has been firing on all cylinders since the issues subsided.
In December, Thompson is putting up 25.2 points per game, the fourth-highest scoring average of the month behind Curry, James Harden and LeBron. He has delivered those figures in efficient fashion, shooting 48.1 percent from the field and 45.9 percent from deep.
Thompson has regained the spring in his step, darting around screens with ease. He avoided contact earlier but has gladly returned to the post to abuse smaller guards. He isn't afraid to feel out his defender, which allows him to use crafty spin moves to get to the rim or create room for a jumper.
The Warriors collectively picked up the slack for Thompson, but his resurgence as an explosive and unpredictable scorer makes the NBA champions even scarier.
2. Draymond Green
Arguing whether Green is an All-Star isn't even a discussion worth having at this point. It's actually not crazy to suggest that he has been one of the 10 best players in the league this season.
Green doesn't fit the general mold of what we perceive an All-Star to be. He isn't a volume scorer who requires double-teams, yet there isn't a team in the league which wouldn't immediately improve its record, versatility and toughness if it had the 25-year-old on its roster.
He guards every position, facilitates the offense and injects a copious amount of energy. He is a unique specimen who can do a little bit of everything, and so trying to define him is a futile exercise. Green is simply just an incredible basketball player, capable of making winning plays in every way imaginable.
Green finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, five steals and five blocks in 50 minutes and became just the third player in the past 40 seasons to have at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, five steals and five blocks, joining Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon and Derrick Coleman.
1. Stephen Curry
There's no way around it—Curry is the best player in the NBA. The title which LeBron has irrefutably had a stranglehold on for many years has suddenly become volatile, and the Warriors' superstar has seized it, at least for now.
Curry is the leading scorer in the league this season, and no player causes opposing coaches more dread than the incredible sharpshooter. Golden State is the basketball equivalent of a dazzling orchestra, and Curry is its irreplaceable conductor.
His value goes beyond any statistical measures, but a quick glance at how the Warriors fare without Curry tells the story. They outscore opponents by a mind-blowing 22.3 points per 100 possessions with him on the court, while posting a -5.3 net rating when he hits the bench, per NBA.com. That's the difference between an unbeatable juggernaut and the 26th-ranked team in the league, per NBA.com.
Perhaps Golden State wouldn't plummet to the lottery without the reigning MVP, but he lifts the team to unfathomable heights. The threat of a pull-up jumper as soon as he crosses the half-court line, accompanied by the most reliable ball-handling skills in the league make Curry simply unstoppable.