Entering his second season with the Golden State Warriors, Alfonzo McKinnie finds himself in a position to become the squad’s leading wing, but how much can the Dubs realistically expect to get out of him?
Just days before the start of the 2018-19 NBA season, the Golden State Warriors signed Alfonzo McKinnie as the 14th man on their roster.
Clearly, the Warriors didn’t expect to get much out of McKinnie, but he worked his way into the lineup through hustle plays, corner threes, and a special knack for finding offensive rebounds.
Many thought that the Warriors had struck gold early in the season, including outspoken NBA pundit Stephen A. Smith who nearly lost it when he thought the Warriors having McKinnie “ain’t even fair.”
The 19-point, double-double performance by McKinnie in his Chicago homecoming was pretty special and maybe caused some Golden State Warriors fans to have premature perceptions about his skill.
As expected, McKinnie ended up coming back down to Earth after his hot start to the season, becoming an average NBA player at best with his 4.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 36% three-point shooting in 13.9 minutes per game.
To McKinnie’s credit, he worked his way into a regular role on a championship-caliber team, appearing in 72 games.
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McKinnie took a route to the NBA that is nothing short of inspirational — going undrafted in 2015 and subsequently playing professional ball in Luxembourg, Mexico and the G-League before seeing his first NBA minutes with the Toronto Raptors in the 2017-18 season.
It’s a feel-good story that you can get behind, but the Warriors and fans alike are wondering for 2019-20: How good can McKinnie get and how much can he help the Warriors?
At 26 years of age, is the McKinnie that we saw the McKinnie that we will get, or does he have the ability to improve in the 2019-20 season to bolster up the Warriors’ wing position?
With the offseason departures of Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant and a long-term injury to Klay Thompson, the Warriors are very thin at the wing and at the moment the only real options are McKinnie and newly acquired Glen Robinson III (also Damion Lee who is currently on a two-way deal between the NBA and G-League).
McKinnie will get more than ample opportunity to solidify his spot, but there surely are doubts of if he is worthy of a starting position in the NBA.
And the way that McKinnie ended last season provides no reason for optimism.
McKinnie’s minutes dipped during the playoffs, partly due to a natural shortening of rotations and partly due to his ineffectiveness on both sides of the court. When the action intensified in the playoffs, he was noticeably exploitable on the defensive end and he dropped in his three-pointers (that the Dubs desperately needed) at a sub-par 31.3% clip.
In the playoffs, McKinnie’s scoring, field goal percentage, and rebounds all dropped — not play that would lead one to believe that better things are to come for 2019-20.
On the other hand, McKinnie has his first full season of NBA basketball under his belt and he will start the season knowing that minutes at the small forward position are his to lose. Maybe the added experience and relative lack of uncertainty will have positive effects on his results. After all, this is the first summer he has spent knowing that he has an NBA job waiting for him in the fall.
For now, the Warriors will surely be looking to buy time at the small forward position until the return of Thompson, where they would probably use more three-guard sets with Thompson playing small forward.
Will McKinnie seize this golden opportunity sitting in front of him, or will he be more or less the same player that we got to know last year? Or, worst case scenario, was his performance last year a fluke and he is in fact worse than we think?
Time will tell, however, his performance could be strongly correlated with the Warriors’ early season success, or lack thereof, in a very strong Western Conference.