This might be a post about the Golden State Warriors’ new addition, but I am, first and foremost, a Tar Heel, so let me start off by saying farewell to Harrison Barnes and James Michael McAdoo. Barnes is off to Dallas, along with Andrew Bogut, where he will reportedly receive a four year, $94 million max deal. It might be fair to wonder whether the Black Falcon is worth a max contract, but it was almost certain some team was going to offer him that kind of money. The real question was always whether Golden State would match, and the answer depended entirely on Mr. Kevin Durant, who I assume that you’ve heard by now is continuing his career in the Bay Area.
Although Golden State was rumored to have been of interest to KD for quite some time, when the news finally broke that he actually was leaving OKC, it elicited shock. Some of the reactions might be better categorized as outright criticism and, outside of Thunder fans, if you are in the camp, I recommend reading this post over at Deadspin. Then get over it and get ready, because next season is going to be a doozy.
Golden State will enter the 2016-2017 NBA Season as the clear favorites to win the title. They have added Kevin Durant to an already generationally superior roster of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, all of whom are 28 years old or younger. Toss in X factors Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston and this is, without question, an incredible collection of talent. Those six players alone are enough to challenge every team in the league.
The Warriors have every reason to look forward to next season, when the historically great shooting Splash Bros get a new addition to the family in the form of a superhuman KD. As Zach Lowe details in his article on the potential super team, all that shooting will force defenses to spread thin, leaving the driving lanes to the rim uncongested. Add that to the new-look Lineup of Death, swapping Barnes for Durant’s go-go gadget arms, and it doesn’t take much to envision that this may be the league’s best offensive and defensive team next year. There just has never been a team that was already operating at the top level who swapped out an average player for the another MVP. It’s hard to overstate how much of a coup this is for the Dubs.
In the face of that optimism is the flip side of KD’s move, that being the exodus of the aforementioned Barnes, McAdoo and Bogut, along with Festus Ezeli, Anderson Varejao and others in order to make financial room. Those moves leave the Warriors with a very conspicuous hole where a normal 6’ 10” to 7’ human being should be. Reports are out suggesting at least one solution has presented itself in the form of Zaza Pachulia, who, besides having a great name, is formerly of the Dallas Mavericks. At 6’ 11”, Zaza should become Golden State’s new starting center and keep the Dubs from completely abandoning the idea of a traditional big man. David West, too, is supposedly heading to the Warriors, which is exactly the kind of low priced/high upside signing they needed. The Ringer also reports that David Lee may be on his way back to the Bay.
Still, even with Pachulia and West, the Warriors’ roster is fairly barren for a team that regularly played four different guys at center, plus most of their bench. The only other player on the payroll for next season is Kevin Looney, who will be entering his second year in the league out of UCLA. The little-used forward is 6’ 10” and potentially offers some relief minutes for one of Durant or Green but unless he shows vast offseason improvement, cannot be relied upon in big moments. Which means Golden State still has work to do in order to acquire a couple rotation players, most notably at guard. With little cap space to work with, the best they can do is hope to snag a couple of ring-chasing veterans or perhaps stumble into an overlooked reliable young talent. Enter Ray Allen?
Gaps aside, there is no team in the league who wouldn’t of moved players for a chance to sign Durant. And when the Warriors trot out a starting lineup of Curry, Thompson, Durant, Green and Pachulia, most doubts about bench depth fade away. Steve Kerr is a smart coach who will ably stagger minutes, allowing each of the core-four to get their due while keeping the team competitive when the majority of the starters rest. All four can take turns running the show while the others rest and then in closing minutes the newly improved Lineup of Death with Green at center and either Iguodala or Livingston at guard should be unstoppable.
This ought to be an incredible season for Golden State. There will be speed bumps and learning curves, just as there were in Miami, when Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh decided to join forces. Then again, a team that just set the record for most wins in season went out and added one of the best players in the NBA, so who knows? None of Curry, Thompson, or Green need the ball in their hands to make an impact; in fact, Curry and Thompson running around off-ball while KD runs the pick-and-roll with Green should terrify every team in the league from Day 1. Regardless, this is going to be appointment television. C’mon October 25!
Photo Credit: USA Today