Warriors’ Supporting Cast Hold Key Roles in Finals


Mar 9, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Andre Iguodala (9) and guard Shaun Livingston (34) against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. The Warriors defeated the Suns 98-80. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

To top off a historical and magical season, the Golden State Warriors will finally be competing for an NBA Championship after 40 years.

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The road to the finals holds multiple story lines for each team. MVP Stephen Curry led his team to the best record entire league, defeating every All-NBA First Team member (sans Lebron) on the way. Lebron James returned home to Cleveland and led the Cavaliers through injury and early chemistry issues and will be playing in his fifth straight NBA Finals. While the current MVP vs former MVP narrative will surely captivate most viewers, the importance of each team’s role players is understated. Each team’s stars (Curry, Klay Thompson, James, Kyrie Irving) will most likely have profound impacts on the series, but it is the matchup of the supporting cast that plays a crucial role in deciding the victor. The Warriors’ role players are important cogs of the team’s defense which in turn fuels their offense.

Shaun Livingston

Shaun Livingston has done a remarkable job as a backup facilitator throughout the playoffs. He provided some valuable minutes in the series against Houston and put up an impressive stat line of 18 points, 7 boards, and 3 assists in the series opener and his strong efforts helped set the tone for the series. He’s had himself an effective postseason so far. He’s putting up only 5 points per game, but is shooting at an efficient 55.6 percent from the field.

Though he’s not known for his scoring prowess, his IQ and unique athleticism give him the strength of versatility on both ends of the floor.  He’s a reliable finisher due to his length and has the height advantage when he wants to post up and shoot over smaller defenders.  Livingston’s wingspan makes him a disruptive defensive presence. He allows Steve Kerr to run with a small ball lineup of Livingston, Thompson, Curry, Harrison Barnes/Andre Iguodala, and Draymond Green, which has proven to be deadly thus far. He’ll likely guard one any of the Cleveland guards, but he has the body and quickness to switch easily while still remaining a defensive threat.

Andre Iguodala

As one of the most high-profile free agent acquisitions in the Warriors’ recent years, Andre Iguodala is another important cog in the wheel. Though he’s been moved to the bench with his minutes shrinking from 35 minutes per game last postseason to this years 27 minutes per game, he’s still worth every penny of his contract. He’s another player whose skill allows Steve Kerr to use a variety of lineups and strategies.  Like Livingston, his speed, length and ability to read the opponent’s offense make him a brilliant defender. He’ll likely share duties with Barnes and Green in guarding Lebron for several possessions. Though Lebron has the ability to power through anyone in the paint, Iguodala may be able to bother him on the perimeter enough to cause some crucial mistakes.

Scoring-wise, his numbers have dipped considerably since his days with Denver and Philadelphia. He’s averaging 8 points, 3.4 assists, and 3.9 rebounds in 27.5 minutes throughout these playoffs. Though he has the tendency to over pass due to fear of shooting free throws, Iguodala has been a great facilitator in the playoffs. He has 51 total assists and only 8 turnovers in 15 games, resulting in an assist to turnover ratio of 6.38. His selflessness and passing vision creates opportunities for his teammates which benefits the team’s overall offensive rhythm.

Festus Ezeli

Size and rebounding are necessities when facing Cleveland. Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson are huge threats to the Warriors on the glass and in the paint. The Warriors will need a strong paint presence to limit their impact. Luckily, Festus Ezeli has given valuable minutes as of late, putting up a demonstrative performance against Dwight Howard in Game 5. He put up 12 points on 71.4% shooting and pulled down 9 rebounds. Once Andrew Bogut sits due to rest or foul trouble, Ezeli’s impact will be important. It’s unclear how often Ezeli will play in the finals since Marreese Speights will return, but if the Warriors need solid paint defense, Ezeli will be called upon.

Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green have had nothing but spectacular seasons. They arguably make up the core of this team. It’s the pieces that surround them that make this team historically good, however. The Warrior simply seem to be built with more depth in their supporting cast compared to what the Cavaliers have. Not only does each player know his role each night, but each player plays within the system. It is that discipline that makes this team great. Cleveland undoubtedly has talent and heart, but this Warriors team has a group of talented players that trust and understand each other’s abilities. As they’ve shown during key games in the playoffs so far, the role players will step up in their first ever NBA Finals.