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.
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.