Early Predictions for Golden State Warriors' Starting Lineup Next Season
The Golden State Warriors’ offseason featured a series of moves that shored up some pesky holes that were dramatically highlighted last season. While those moves improved the Warriors as a whole, they weren’t signings that would change anything in the their starting lineup.
It will be a change within the previous squad that will truly shake things up.
Pegging the majority of the first unit is an easy affair, as the Warriors are brimming with star power at the top of the roster. Spoilers: Stephen Curry is starting next season.
Throwing a group of stars together on the court is not the key to winning, however. What Steve Kerr will need to do to truly help the Warriors realize their full potential is find the right balance of them, ensuring that the lulls on offense that plagued the Mark Jackson era do not find their way onto the court this season.
These predictions are based on the assumption that the Warriors are out of the Kevin Love sweepstakes and that the roster currently constructed will be the one going forward. Also, while many of the Warriors have been historically prone to injury in the past, all players will be presumed healthy for this exercise.
Sixth Man: David Lee
Let’s start things off with a bang.
David Lee has been the starting power forward for the Golden State Warriors since the 2010-11 season and has put up numbers worthy of that spot since his arrival. With averages of 18.3 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game, he’s earned his nearly $80 million contract on the offensive side of the ball.
His defense, however, is a whole different story.
Lee is the ultimate one-way player, a master of scoring from the low post and a generous benefactor of points to the opposition on the other end. For an in-depth analysis on just how bad Lee's defense really is, the Bay Area Stats Guy Scott Willis wrote a great piece here. If not, the video above will show ample evidence.
While it is rare that a man making as much as Lee would ever come off the bench, it would actually be the best course of action for both him and the team. As talented as the Warriors are, only a select few can truly create their own offense. Lee is one of them.
Putting him on the second unit would make him the focal point of the bench attack, ensuring that the offense runs through him. As a starter, he is the third option at best. For such a gifted scorer, the more touches he gets the better, especially if those touches are not coming at the expense of Curry or Thompson.
A bench consisting of Shaun Livingston, Brandon Rush, Harrison Barnes, Lee and Festus Ezeli would absolutely compete with anyone. With Lee as the featured option, the bench could go from being the Warriors’ Achilles' heel to it being a true weapon.
Center: Andrew Bogut/Festus Ezeli
Andrew Bogut, when healthy, is one of the premier defensive anchors in the game of basketball. Seeing him in the starting lineup has often felt more like a treat than anything else, though. His propensity for getting hurt has sidelined him far too often during his brief Warriors career, particularly last postseason when the Warriors were defeated by the Los Angeles Clippers.
When Bogut was on the court in 2013-14, the Warriors allowed a mere 98.8 points per 100 possessions, a number that jumped by nearly two points when he sat. His impact was undeniable.
Here’s the thing, however—whether Bogut stays healthy or not, he will not be starting every game this season. He’s too valuable to put his body through such a rigorous schedule at this point in his career.
Steve Kerr is not blind; he understands that Bogut, because his body has a tendency to break down more than others, must be allotted regular days off. On those days, it will be Festus Ezeli who carries the load.
Although Ezeli missed all of last season while recovering from knee surgery, he should be ready to go this year. He was scheduled to play for the Warriors’ summer league team but was scratched late because of inflammation in his right shin, courtesy of Monte Poole of CSN Bay Area.
Still, inflammation is not knee surgery. He’ll be ready to go when training camp begins in September. While he is not nearly the player that Bogut is, the onus will be on him to hold down the fort on the days that Bogut cannot.
Power Forward: Draymond Green
Even though the Warriors lost in the first round of the playoffs last season, Draymond Green still won.
Nobody did more to improve his stock than Green, who showcased increased range, tenacious defense and, most importantly, chemistry with the first unit. While Green is not your prototypical power forward, the intensity that he plays the game with makes up for his size disadvantage.
Green is just a better fit for this Golden State team than Lee is because he doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be productive. He can move without the ball, set jarring screens and score in transition. He is the perfect team player.
Defensively, the Warriors will create havoc with Green in the lineup, especially when paired with defensive juggernauts like Bogut, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson. It could very well be the stingiest defense in the league.
Because Green and Iguodala are so similar in size, they can switch at will and the drop-off would be minimal, if at all. Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News has been convinced since last season that Green should be the one in the starting power forward spot:
Lee has been a big part of the Warriors' rise to relevance, he can do a lot of things on offense, and he is the Warriors' favorite son -- that's absolutely one thing Joe Lacob and Jackson have agreed upon from Day 1. He's protected, he's cherished, his status is unchallenged. However . . .
Now that Lee is out indefinitely and the Warriors are finally getting a look at Green in a major role -- and alongside Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala in the starting lineup (when those two guys are healthy) . . .
Well, things might be changing, because in real life you make adjustments when things happen in front of your eyes.
It’s time for the Warriors to make that adjustment and finally bring together what Bogut described as their killer lineup.
Small Forward: Andre Iguodala
It’s back to the status quo here, I’m afraid. Andre Iguodala, barring some type of injury, will be the starting small forward for the Warriors.
Don’t fear, however, because the passive, spot-up-shooting Iguodala of last season will be no more if Steve Kerr is to be believed. In an interview with KNBR 680, via Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk and Diamond Leung, Kerr said, “I don't like to see him standing in the corner. That's where he gets lost a little bit."
Kerr knows exactly what type of player Iguodala is, and while he did shoot well from three-point range—39.1 percent—Kerr knows that’s not his game. Iguodala is at his best on the move, either in transition or in half-court sets. He has always been a deadly cutter and finisher.
Iguodala is capable of being so much more than what he showed last season, and now with the chain that was Mark Jackson off of him, he will finally showcase his true potential.
He has the tools to truly elevate the Warriors, and under Kerr, he will be unleashed.
Shooting Guard: Klay Thompson
Klay Thompson is in for the biggest season of his career, both on the court and off of it.
The Golden State front office showed a lot of faith in Thompson with its refusal to trade him for one of the premier players in the game, Kevin Love. He needs to reward that faith by proving he was worth it.
Thompson is coming off a great season that saw both his offensive game and defense improve dramatically. He upped his scoring average to 18.4 points per game and continued to shoot the three at an astronomical pace, knocking down 223 of them at a .417 clip.
Defensively, he helped keep Curry fresh by picking up the toughest backcourt assignment and holding his own against all comers. He is a fine two-way player with an outside shot at making an All-Star game in the future. That’s not quite Kevin Love, though.
No, if Thompson truly wants to reward his bosses, he’ll have to up his game even more. He showed flashes of an improving post game late in the season, and his drives to the basket also yielded more rewards as the year progressed. He’ll need to put it all together on a consistent basis before we really see how good he is.
Will he ever be the offensive genius that Love is? Probably not. But if he continues to improve on that end, when coupled with his defense, he could be one hell of a player. It also doesn’t hurt to get a ringing endorsement from his best teammate, Curry, courtesy of Bleacher Report’s own Dan Favale:
He's a guy that hasn't even scratched the surface of his full potential yet. Just thinking about how much he makes me better as a player, and I try to make him better. He's a great shooter and he plays at both ends of the floor.
Point Guard: Stephen Curry
My apologies for ruining the surprise on the first slide, but yes, Stephen Curry will indeed be the starting point guard for the Golden State Warriors this season.
Don’t worry, though; we’re not done just yet.
Curry has blossomed into one of the most valuable assets in the entire NBA, a dynamic offensive player with one of the few cap-friendly deals in the league. At just over $10 million this coming season, he’ll provide more bang for the buck than any player in the NBA.
When it comes to Curry, it’s scary to think about just how good he could be next season. His game is not one that diminishes, not when it’s so predicated on bombing from outside. If anything, he’s only going to get better, especially if he can polish up the pesky mistakes that plagued him last season.
At 3.8 turnovers per game, Curry tied with Russell Westbrook for the league lead in that category in 2013-14; those turnovers proved to be especially fatal late in games. There is always an answer for everything, however, and in his case, it was fatigue. At 36.5 minutes per game, Curry was ninth in the NBA.
While that may not seem exceptionally high, the manner in which Curry plays is what is really important. Curry is constantly moving on the court, bouncing off screens and cutting left and right in an attempt to get an open shot. His body takes a significant amount of punishment.
Fortunately for Curry, the Warriors nailed it with the offseason acquisition of Shaun Livingston. For the first time since Jarrett Jack left for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Curry has a backup capable of giving him much-needed rest and keeping him fresh for the end of games.
Livingston will also allow Curry to play off the ball, maximizing his shooting abilities even more.
The Warriors will have a dangerous starting five next season, one that rivals any team in basketball—and it all begins and ends with Curry.
What do you think? Will the Warriors’ starting five be different next season? Sound off in the comments below.