Apr 29, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors bench react after a shot made by Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second quarter in game five of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

A First Look At The 2014-2015 Golden State Warriors' Bench

It’s less than 24 hours into free agency period and all the big names have deservedly dominated the headlines.

I’m as guilty as the next Warriors fan checking Twitter at every opportunity, but I want to take a second to tell everyone to take a deep breath. It’s no secret that the starting five of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut was an elite lineup through the first 30 games of the season. This lineup had a 5.8 point differential, the highest in the league.

Around mid-season, Zach Lowe pointed out: “Their starting lineup has outscored opponents by nearly 21 points per 100 possessions, by far the best margin of the 50 lineups in the league that have logged at least 150 minutes this season. In simple terms: Golden State’s starting five may well be the best lineup in the entire NBA.

As tempting as trading for Kevin Love is, I don’t think many people would argue the starting unit was a glaring weakness last year. With the recent signing of Shaun Livingston, I think it’s worth looking at the Warriors’ bench for next year. Livingston, a solid 6′ 7″ combo guard, will provide the bench with length, playmaking, and quality perimeter defense. Also worth noting is that he can play either guard spot, giving Kerr some roster flexibility to play around with.

Now that the Warriors have declined extending Crawford’s contract, Livingston is the surefire back up to Steph at the 1. At the other guard spot on the bench, the Warriors don’t have a lot of answers, just a lot of wings who can fill in at the 2. Although Livingston will be able to replicate Klay’s length, he is not a 3-point shooting threat, nor will he command the same respect from the defense.

Draymond Green will continue to contribute as a super-sub at small forward and power forward. While his defense is what got him drafted, his offensive game continues to blossom as he develops range on his jump shot. He’s also an especially adept passer which makes everyone on the second unit more effective.

A big question mark is what direction Harrison Barnes game goes. While he may have been over-hyped coming off his explosion vs. the Nuggets and Spurs in the 2013 NBA Playoffs, he underwhelmed by any imaginable metric last year. If Barnes can regain his confidence and attack the rim again, he should rightfully become the focal point of the second unit. Ideally, he’ll also be able to spell Iguodala allowing him to play reasonable minutes and stay healthy.

The other big enigma is the return of Festus Ezeli. A lot of people will eagerly watch his return to the floor during the Summer League. If Ezeli can (catch the ball) and finish, as well as defend the rim, the Warriors will have a much-needed, legitimate backup to Bogut.

“If Barnes can regain his confidence and attack the rim again, he should rightfully become the focal point of the second unit.”

At the four, Marresse Speights will continue to jack up shots to everyone’s dismay. One has to think Speights’ playing time will be limited under Steve Kerr if he continues his selfish play. Hopefully he can turn it around and allow everyone else more touches while crashing the glass.

A second unit of Livingston, Green, Barnes, Speights, and Ezeli has some clear advantages and disadvantages. Some advantages are length, size, and athleticism. With no one under 6-foot, 7-inches on the floor, this unit would be able to dominate the glass and guard the perimeter. On the flip side, this unit would really struggle to score and would lack spacing with the absence of outside shooting. Livingston and Barnes would be the primary scoring threats and playmakers and would have to set up the other players on the floor.

It also remains to be seen what will happen with Steve Blake‘s free agency status or if “the European Derrick Rose,” Nemanja Nedovic will play a bigger role in next year’s lineup. Overall, this unit of Livingston, Green, Barnes, Speights, and Ezeli is worth looking forward to, but could use some more outside shooting and an improvement at the front-court.

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Tags: Golden State Warriors Harrison Barnes Shaun Livingston

  • David

    Now don’t you think that we would have been better off/ would be better
    off with Klay coming off the bench as a sixth man? Hear me out, I know
    people were talking about Iggy as a sixth man at certain points because
    of his versatility. However Klay has more scoring versatility. Barnes,
    who I still think is solid, was clearly not ready to run the second
    unit. He can still contribute easily in the starting unit where he is
    the 4th or 5th option, while still playing good defense. Iggy always had
    an advantage at the 2 because of his size and athleticism. He is losing
    his athleticism and he has a size disadvantage at the 3. Everyone talks
    about how elite of a defender he is, and he is, but not nearly as much
    at the 3 as he was at the 2. Iggy and Barnes can also knock down 3′s
    when needed to provide spacing alongside Steph. I know people freak when
    you talk about breaking up the splash bros but Klay can still play
    starter minutes off the bench. He will space out the second unit and
    scoring in the second unit allows of defense to get set, not allowing as
    many big runs as we’ve seen the past two years. And Klay is probably
    the best equipped to provide a spark in the second unit without truly
    hurting the 1st unit by switching to the 2nd. He runs more distance per
    year than anyone on the team, plays both ways, and can create for
    himself better than Iggy, Barnes, or anyone in the 2nd unit.

    • Thomas Donovan

      Interesting idea!

      Klay has developed some versatility yes, but as a six man it would be necessary to create your own offense ala Jamal Crawford. This is something that Klay Thompson simply does not do. If Livingston is capable of setting him up properly this could be something worth experimenting with, but it could prove to be potentially detrimental to the team. Being a starter is a psychological status and taking that away can have adverse effects (see Harrison Barnes.)

      I’m curious what you mean by “can create for himself better than Iggy, Barnes, or anyone in the 2nd unit.” I’ve never considered Klay Thompson as someone able to do this. Do you have any evidence to support your claim? I’d be genuinely interested to see if this is the case.

      • Matt Packer

        I agree Thomas.

        It’s pretty apparent that Klay benefits greatly from playing alongside Curry, much more than vice versa. If Curry penetrates and draws a second defender, he can kick it out to Klay for an open look at a three. Thompson can drive and occasionally create his own shot with a step back or by getting to the rim, but he rarely creates opportunities for his teammates. I think it’d be a mistake to consider Thompson “instant offense off the bench” if he isn’t paired with a great ball handler and passer (i.e. Curry).

        I’d also be interested in seeing some stats or video clips that show him “creating for himself.” I’m not sure if getting fed on the low block for a fade away shot counts as that.

        I wouldn’t mind have Iguodala coming off the bench, although he and Livingston seem to do a lot of similar things. If AI was the sixth man, I think Green starting at the 3 as the glue guy would make a lot of sense. I like his ability to defend anyone on the floor and do all the little things on the floor. I still don’t think Barnes is ready to be thrusted into the starting five. Regardless of who starts, continuity has to develop between a five man unit to be effective over the course of the season.

  • Steve N

    Finally! I’ve been saying this same thing. It was always the bench that gave up the leads that the starters have us. If Kurr manages the rotation better than Jackson did we’ll be fine. Another outside threat off the bench is all we need.