By signing free agent Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors set in motion a snowball effect which takes them away from what made them famous and champions. Going by the theme Strength in Numbers, Golden State relied on its deep reserve of talent and savvy basketball from its bench when things got stuck in the mud.
Since then, Center Andrew Bogut and Small Forward Harrison Barnes have been moved to Dallas Mavericks to make space for Durant’s massive contract. Moving a former number 7 pick-2012- and number one pick-2005- for a number two pick-2007- with multiple scoring titles and an MVP (Most Valuable Player of the Year) title seems the most logical thing to do. Every NBA General Manager would do same.
However, the Warriors are not just any team; this team is built around a core of in house built products who have transcended the NBA into a highlight reeling product on constant play. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were drafted into the league with lingering issues but have developed as a unit to end a 40 year wait for a title and score the most wins in regular season history. But the most telling aspect of this special Warriors team is versatility; versatility Okyeame Kwame will die for.
Every player on the team is a shooter be it Center, Power Forward or Guard. Bogut scores three pointers, Green does and Iguodala does same; Curry and Thompson are exemptions since both guys were proven shooters before landing in the league. On defense or the less glamorous end of the court, versatility, again, is the life blood of the team.
Fielding a side that thrives on both ends of the court is a recipe for success and owning the second best offense and best defensive ratings in the league got bookended with a title in 2015. The trophy dose was nearly repeated before LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers morphed themselves into folklore by rallying from a 1-3 deficit in a finals series to claim the title. As the Warriors stew over the painful loss, there is no telling this team will be contending next season but their climb back to the top will be done differently cue Durant’s signing. Key championship contributors David Lee, Leandro Barbosa, Marresse Speights, Festus Ezeli, Bogut and Barnes have departed to other locations.
In their place, is Ghana’s adopted favorite son David West and Zaza Pachulia who are both on the lookout for a title after multiple years in the league. As things stand, Golden State’s projected starting lineup has Pachulia replacing Bogut as Curry, Thompson, Durant and Green man the remaining spots. On the bench, there is Shaun Livingston, Iguodala and West and that is where the bus stops. Aside the above mentioned three, a sharp drop in quality and experience is omnipresent. Ian Clark and James McAddo, first and second year players including Kevon Looney and Patrick McCaw rule the roost.
For starters, this make up deprives Golden State of championship quality. The super team starting lineup can only play better if the second unit is good. The NBA season is incredibly long as such several variables can affect how it goes. Injuries, suspensions, fatigue and loss of form all factor into a team’s end result. From the looks of it, Warriors starters will play lots of minutes since the renowned support system it had been blessed with in prior years, has been decimated. Curry’s back to back MVP seasons was most notable considering he barely played in the final quarters of games.
Whenever Curry rested, Livingston, Barbosa deputized, when Green needed a break from getting pounded in the paint as an undersized Power Forward/Center, David Lee, Speights and Ezeli sustained production. Things will be different now as the new look bench fluctuates from an old team comprising Iguodala, Livingston and West to an inexperienced squad featuring Looney, McCaw and fellow 2016 Draftee Damion Jones.
Unless Bob Myers and Warriors owner Joe Lacob do something intriguing on the market, Golden State will lose its uniqueness. Replacing Bogut with Pachulia takes away that uniqueness somewhat due to the former’s ability to shoot three pointers. Pachulia is no shooter but makes his money pounding away in the paint. Bogut, had he stayed injury free, would have been in the league of elite rim protectors long before teaming up with Curry and Co in Oakland.
Pachulia is no slouch on defense but checks in behind Bogut’s timing and feel in the paint. Aside scoring threes, Bogut’s sublime passing is one of the key elements Golden State possessed in unlocking any defense in the league. The good news is these moves happened so early in the offseason, fans will have three plus months to digest a Golden State attack without a passing big man.
Adding Durant essentially means Warriors will make the grade as or as one of the most hated teams in the league. Over two seasons, arenas were packed to see the darlings of the league play. Fielding overlooked prospects who single handedly changed the way the game is played and blinded opposing sides with crossovers and wrist flicks, Curry’s half court shooting clinics for instance became a must see.
Now, Warriors would be seen as nothing more than a carbon copy of the 2010 Miami Heat who assembled a star studded team with LeBron, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Just as LeBron left Cleveland heartbroken, Durant did same a few weeks ago by leaving Oklahoma. Draymond Green’s bar scuffle and eventual arrest compounds the loss of love. Even the angelic Curry’s, who seemed to do no wrong, have irked people in the past months. Steph hit a fan court side with his mouth guard after getting ejected in Game 6 of the Finals against Cleveland and his wife Ayesha’s subsequent tantrums on twitter did not help matters.
The change is here, Golden State is new, insanely rich on talent and nothing like it used to be.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah