The Warriors are out to prove that their dynasty isn’t quite over and that they can still contend for a championship. (Photo via ClutchPoints)

2019–2020 NBA Season Previews: Golden State Warriors

Head Coach: Steve Kerr

Last Season: 57–25, 1st in Western Conference

Projected Starters:

  • PG: Stephen Curry
  • SG: D’Angelo Russell
  • SF: Glenn Robinson III
  • PF: Draymond Green
  • C: Willie Cauley-Stein

Additions: Ky Bowman (R), Alec Burks, Willie Cauley-Stein, Marquese Chriss, Andrew Harrison, Jordan Poole (R), Glenn Robinson III, D’Angelo Russell, Alen Smailagic (R), Omari Spellman.

Losses: Jordan Bell, Andrew Bogut, Quinn Cook, DeMarcus Cousins, Marcus Derrickson, Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Jonas Jerebko, Damian Jones, Shaun Livingston, Alfonzo McKinnie.

After creating one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history and assembling arguably the most talented basketball team ever last season, it appears the Golden State Warriors have finally come back down to Earth. For the first time in over a half a decade, the Warriors are not the clear-cut favorites to win the NBA Finals this season. With Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Igoudala gone, and Klay Thompson out for most of the season, the Warriors will look a lot different in the 2019–20 season.

While the Warriors did lose KD, they did not do so for nothing as they acquired star point guard D’Angelo Russell in a sign-and-trade. Russell is coming off a career year in Brooklyn, as he averaged career highs of 21 points and 7.1 assists per game on 43% shooting. “DLo” is a smooth playmaker with a sweet outside shot. While he is streaky and struggles to get to the line, Russell has shown more consistency as he continues to build up experience in the league.

The combination of Stephen Curry and D’Angelo Russell should make for one of the more explosive offensive backcourts in the NBA, but many have questioned their fit as a duo. Part of the reason Russell was so effective last season was that he had the ball in his hands a lot and was able to run a lot of pick-and-rolls, which is the opposite of what the Warriors motion offense is. Curry is more than capable of playing off the ball, but like Russell, Curry thrives more with the ball in his hands. Neither of the two guards have ever been elite defenders either, and as a duo these weaknesses could be even more magnified.

On the contrary, having Russell takes away from opposing teams abilities to blitz Stephen Curry. As long as Russell is on the court with Curry, the Warriors have another go-to option offensively if Curry runs into trouble.

With Kevin Durant out of the bay area, Stephen Curry will once again be the bonafide offensive star for the Warriors. The first unanimous MVP in NBA history is coming off another phenomenal season in which he averaged 27.3 points per game on 43.7% shooting from 3-point range.

At this point, Curry may be the most disrespected star of this generation, and I believe that many underestimate his value and how much he has transformed basketball. He is one of the greatest scorers in NBA history and may be the most efficient scorer the league has ever seen. The “Baby Faced Assassin” has never shot under 41.1% from 3-point land in a season and has taken 8.2 3’s a game for his career. On top of his shooting, he is a wizard of a playmaker and excels in one-on-one situations as a dribbler, scorer and facilitator. Last season, Curry was just second in offensive Player Impact Plus-Minus (PIPM) to James Harden.

One big reason Curry is often criticized is that many believe he doesn’t show up in big moments and big games. In the 2019 NBA Finals, Curry missed an open 3-pointer that could have potentially sent the series to a Game Seven. Now, without Durant to take pressure off of him, all eyes will be on Curry this season. If the Warriors want to continue their torrid rate of success, Curry will have to return to his MVP form. With Durant out of the picture, Curry should get more attempts and usage, which is exactly what you want if you’re Golden State. Added pressure from opposing defenses has never affected Curry before, and I don’t see it happening this year.

Speaking of underrated players, Draymond Green will have a greater role in the offense this upcoming season. Green averaged 7.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.9 assists last season, earning all-defensive honors for the fifth straight year. The three-time All-Star and 2017 Defensive Player of the Year has won three titles and has reached the Finals five times with the Warriors, as is emergence as an all-around star helped launch the Warriors into a dynasty. Green is a leader for the Warriors both on defense and emotionally and is a good playmaker on offense.

While he isn’t a good scorer or shot creator, Green’s ability to push the tempo on offense, put pressure on defenses and unlock the floor for his teammates makes him a valuable asset. Green and Curry have developed a superb chemistry over the years and their playstyles compliment each other very well. Given how effective Curry is off the ball and how good Green’s vision and anticipation skills are, Green is always able to find Curry on open shots or backcuts. When Curry is pestered or is getting too much attention, Green is able to find other Warriors for wide open dunks, layups or 3-pointers. Outside of Nikola Jokic, Green is the best passing big man in the league and ranks in the 99th percentile in passer rating for all players. He struggles with his shooting and post scoring, especially in half-court offenses, but Green’s ability to run an offense in transition makes up for those deficiencies.

Defensively, while many believe he has taken a stepback, Green is still one of if not the most elite player in the league. Even though his production has tapered off a bit in the last two regular seasons, Green is still exceptional on defense thanks to his elite help awareness and quickness. Despite being just 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, Green is strong enough to fight off almost all big men in the post with the exception of Jokic and Joel Embiid at times. Green is highly switchable on defense as well, as his quickness, strentgh and length allow him to cover all five positions.

Outside of Green and Curry, there are a plethora of new faces on the Warriors this season. 10 players from last year’s team are gone, including Durant, Cousins, Igoudala, Shaun Livingston, Quinn Cook and Jordan Bell. The Warriors have 11 new faces on their roster at the moment, including Russell, Willie Cauley-Stein, Glenn Robinson III, Alec Burks and Omari Spellman.

While I believe Kevon Looney should start at center, Cauley-Stein should be thrust into the five spot by Steve Kerr. While he hasn’t lived up to expectations to this point, Cauley-Stein is still just 25 years old and has a chance to thrive on the Warriors.

Two big knocks on Cauley-Stein have been his motivation and work ethic, or lack there of. While his numbers have gone up since entering the league, he is essentially the same player he was coming out of Kentucky. He is an awful rim protector for a player with his length and athleticism, as he finished last season with only 51 total blocks in over 2,000 minutes of playing time. While Cauley-Stein hasn’t developed as a shooter, he is still a good rim-running big man and is an exceptional rebounder.

The Warriors other prominent big man, Kevon Looney, established himself as an important rotation player for the Dubs last year. Looney averaged 6.3 points and 5.2 rebounds on 62.5% shooting and stepped his game up come playoff time. In the postseason, the UCLA product averaged 7.1 points and 4.5 rebounds in helping the team to a fifth-straight NBA Finals.

Looney projects as a player with excellent defensive upside, thanks to an uncommon mix of elite length and nimble feet. He is also strong rebounder, shot-blocker, and is capable of grabbing steals. Offensively, while he is still developing, Looney can create his own shot and knock down jumpers. According to the CARMELO market value provided by fivethirtyeight.com, Looney is the second most underpaid player ($28.7 million market value, $4.6 actual salary) in the NBA behind Kemba Walker.

X-Factor: Draymond Green

Looney is also another option for this spot, but I’ll give it to Green since his production is the most important to the Warriors outside of Curry. While Green should continue to be a stopper on defense, he will have to elevate his offense until Klay Thompson returns. The Warriors don’t have a clear third option at this point, and while Green won’t ever be a dominant scorer, Golden State will need him and many others to step up and take pressure off the guards scoring wise.

Questions:

Will the Warriors trade D’Angelo Russell?

As previously mentioned, the fit between Curry and Russell is a questionable one on paper. It seems the Warriors acquired Russell out of panic as they wanted to get some talent in return. Russell is a valuable offensive player who is on the upswing of his career, but he’s also been linked to trade rumors since the minute he was moved to the bay area. I believe the Warriors will start off the season with Russell and gauge how he fits with the team before making a decision about moving him. Blake Griffin and Kevin Love have already been thrown into the rumors in terms of potential candidates to be acquired for Russell.

Who plays small forward?

It’s amazing how fast things can change in sports. One minute you have two of the more elite wings in the league, the next you don’t have a small forward that is above replacement-player level.

After losing arguably the most gifted scorer in the league in Kevin Durant, the Warriors now have a gaping hole at small forward until Klay Thompson returns. Here is a current list of players who will more than likely get minutes at the three until Thompson recovers from injury.

  • Glenn Robinson III
  • Alec Burks
  • Jordan Poole
  • Jacob Evans
  • Devyn Marble
  • Damion Lee

Given their options, I expect the Warriors to go with a rotation of small forwards like they’ve done with their centers over the last four years. Robinson is my projected starter at the three, but I’m not expecting any of these players to get above 17 minutes per game. Most of these players will give you decent shooting, but that’s about it. Upside wise, I’d choose Evans, but it could really go any way.

Verdict:

I’ve learned over the years that it is never a good idea to underestimate a team with a chip on its shoulder, as that’s exactly what Golden State will be this season. Several players on the roster, including Curry and Green, have already said that they will embrace being counted out.

While this team won’t be as dominant as years past, the Warriors will still be a force. I refuse to sleep on a team with the greatest shooter in NBA history, a defensive juggernaut, and the best wing shooter of all time when he eventually comes back. Despite their losses, the Warriors will be an elite team this season.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Brandon Monty

Brandon Monty

Words: @gamehaus @capperspicks Broadcasting: @OhioVarsity @WWSweets | Ride the wave 🤙🏻