After Kevin Durant made the controversial decision to leave the Thunder after nine seasons, people had already anointed the Warriors as NBA champs for this season. They had good reason for it too. Durant is joining the most prolific regular season team in NBA history, as they are fresh off winning 73 games en route to a Finals appearance. We all know what happened next. By adding one of the best four players in the whole league, it seemed predetermined that these Warriors would avenge last season’s collapse.
I’m not completely sold on this. For one, this guy is still playing.
But, the thing most people are overlooking is the Warriors’ barren frontcourt and shallow bench. Right now, they are starting Zaza Pachulia at center, which is not ideal. The guy has averaged seven points and six rebounds for his career and is entering his 14th season. He isn’t a rim protector and doesn’t offer a whole lot on offense besides some clever passing. He is a definite downgrade from Andrew Bogut, who himself was benched in the Finals.
They also lost some depth when Maurice Speights left for the Clippers in free agency, who was replaced with established ring-chaser David West, who is 36 years old. This pair of dinosaurs has a real chance to get exposed by Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love. The Warriors also acquired JaVale McGee, which is not going swimmingly thus far. If people expected McGee to replace the also departed Festus Ezeli, they were mistaken.
There is a reason for optimism for the Warriors frontcourt, however. They can play Draymond Green and Kevin Durant at the four and five position more often in the playoffs, which is a pretty nasty combination. Both players can switch onto guards while also spreading the floor on offense. What they lack in rim protection and rebounding is made up for in lateral quickness and shooting, which is arguably much more important in today’s game.
The Warriors also have first round draft choice Damian Jones, who is yet to play this season due to injury. Jones is a big body that many scouts were pretty high on. He won’t be mistaken for an athletic freak such as DeAndre Jordan, but he is a big body who can bang down low and play solid defense, which is exactly what the Warriors need.
However, the Warriors lost more pieces than just players in their frontcourt. Leandro Barbosa signed with the Suns in the off-season, and he was a big part of their bench production a year ago. He could shoot and make plays off the dribble, which means he will be missed. Ian Clark is a definite downgrade, but he could improve with a larger role this season.
Additionally, as bad as Harrison Barnes was in the Finals, he is still a guy who could hit open threes, play quality defense on threes and fours and make the right pass at the right time. Yes, they replaced him with Durant, but losing this many players from last year’s roster is cause for concern.
Look at the last dream team in their first season. People ignored fundamental issues due to the crazy amount of star power and the Wade-LeBron-Bosh Heat were upset 4-2 by Dirk Nowitzki in the 2011 Finals after chemistry concerns throughout the regular season. Throw in the fact that Andre Iguodala is only getting older and it might just start to show that the Warriors perhaps aren’t the shoe-in everyone thought they would be. We will have to wait and see how this team figures itself out.
Collegian blogger John Scriffiny can be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @JScriff. Read more of his content here. Leave a comment!