The Warriors Need To Find A Starting Center

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 8: Zaza Pachulia
OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 8: Zaza Pachulia /

The Golden State Warriors may be practically invulnerable, but if they want their reign at the top to last long, they’ll have to find a permanent center.

The Golden State Warriors are virtually invincible. Their combination of shooting, defense, and speed proved unstoppable as they scorched their way through the playoffs. This year they should be even better. They brought back their core members, signed some key upgrades, and drafted some interesting pieces. However, one position remains in a state of flux and could haunt the Warriors if they don’t address it: the center.

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Ever since the Warriors starting and backup centers Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli left before the 2016-2017 season, the Warriors have operated with a center-by-committee approach.

Last year, Zaza Pachulia was the starter in name only; he barely made more of an impact than his substitutes, David West and Javale McGee. This platoon style worked better than anyone could have imagined. Pachulia, West, and McGee all filled different needs, and in crunch time the Warriors could turn to their secret weapon in reigning Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green.

The style makes sense considering the teams history. In 2015, the Warriors became the first team to win a title without a true center. They started Finals MVP Andre Iguodala in lieu of Bogut and unlocked their superpower – the lineup would become known as the Death Lineup. Yet what was once invincible has now become replicable. The NBA is rapidly getting smaller. More teams are finding centers who can match with the Warriors speed while keeping their size advantage.

The Warriors don’t need a superstar center. They just need someone who can hold his own in the playoffs. Their platoon of centers were barely playable in the last finals. With their salary commitments already high, where can they find a new center?

Could Javale McGee rise to the challenge?

Javale McGee is easily the most exciting big man in the Warriors platoon. A former NBA castoff, he’s transformed himself into an explosive finisher who can break down opposing defenses. Plus, he’s the same age as the rest of the Warriors core – making him a much more viable fit than veterans Pachulia and West.

He showed his full potential in the first round of the playoffs against Portland last year. With Kevin Durant out with injury, the Dubs needed some extra offense. Whenever McGee was on the court, the Warriors seemed invincible.

With all the attention given to the all-stars, McGee had a free run to the rim. He’s always been good at dunking though; the real surprise was his defensive prowess. He was blocking shots and corralling Portland’s speedy backcourt in the pick and roll.

The magic didn’t last. After the series, he went back to being a role player. He was downright ineffective in the finals, to the point where Head Coach Steve Kerr told him he wasn’t going to play before the clinching game 5 of the series. Now McGee is signed back with the Warriors, but is disgruntled he wasn’t considered for a bigger role. Perhaps he could play his way into the starter the team needs.

What about the rookies?

It’s possible that the next Warriors center could come from one of the young players they’ve drafted. Kevon Looney and Damian Jones are both rangy big men who have spent their early years prepping in the D-League.

They are clearly archetypes for the type of big man the Warriors want; they are mobile, have some range, and can guard multiple positions.

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It’s just unclear whether they can play at a high level. The most exciting prospect for the Warriors is Jordan Bell. A steal as a second round draft pick, Bell spent his time at Oregon earning a reputation as a defensive stalwart. After lighting it up in Summer League, expectations are high for the rookie. Maybe he could be the solution for the Dubs?

The Golden State Warriors are in great shape. Pachulia and West are still on the team and the makeshift platoon could work again. Draymond Green would probably take it personally if he read this – like they need a center with him on the team. Any critique of the best team in the NBA is just nitpicking at this point. What’s so exciting about the Warriors is they even with all their success, they still haven’t reach their pinnacle. With the right center, maybe they could.