clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Brandon Rush, Shaun Livingston, and a defensive offseason

The Golden State Warriors didn't do much this offseason. After the splashy signing of Steve Kerr of head coach, they weren't able to pounce any big free agents, instead settling on Shaun Livingston, Brandon Rush, and a partially guaranteed contract to backup guard Aaron Craft.


It started before last season. We just didn't listen. Or believe, for that matter. Mark Jackson strutted into Oracle Arena verbally berating and beating fans over the head that they'd play defense. Real, actual defense. The fans didn't know they were about to get sent back to the 1980s but no matter, the wins were plentiful. Running parallel to the gradual change in team philosophy was Stephen Curry's transcendent offensive repertoire. A player with a shot so lethal it would bend defenses the moment he stepped across the logo. On his coattails was the similarly perfect shooting abilities of Klay Thompson. While the team consisted of nasty defenders like Andrew Bogut, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and a scheme fit for success, it was the Splash Brothers moniker that stuck in the craw of national viewers. That type of image casting hovered over the team despite its nearly complete 180-turn into the Western Conference's Indiana Pacers.

This offseason started with the glittery lights out for Steve Kerr. After the messy and complicated departure of Mark Jackson, Kerr was there to promise change, innovation, and most importantly, an efficient offense built around the strengths of the team. To read between those lines meant that he'd use some concepts from the Triangle he played in and Motion offense he was comfortable around Gregg Popovich in producing improvements from the most ostensibly simple maneuver in basketball; passing. All of a sudden, the league's worst passing (last in passes per game) team would suddenly evolve into willing backdoor cutters, screen-setters and Indiana Hoosier-esque stylers. That's the hype, at least.

To back up an offense predicated on passing, shooting, and precision, like those frisky San Antonio Spurs, Bob Myers went out and signed.....Shaun Livingston and Brandon Rush. And as a kicker after a couple weeks in Summer League? A partially guaranteed contract for Aaron Craft. To recap; the Warriors signed a guy who took six three-pointers last season but could defend three positions; another who blew up as a Warrior, blossoming into an excellent wing defender before blowing up his knee; and a college point guard that can neither shoot but made his pay (heh) in college as its most annoying defender. That'll show those Spurs!

And then the cherry on top? Declining a trade for the best offensive big man in the game because of the defensive issues it'd potentially, perhaps, maybe, but actually probably not, create on the perimeter. The apparent absence of Klay Thompson would cause a landslide of epic proportions, cratering a defense that was ably tightened up by Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. In the Warriors' mind, defense is that inflexible. The mere prospect of losing their fourth-best team defender wasn't allowable. And yet, I digress to digress.

For all the talk about a glittery five-man offense, it's more feasible for management to build a successful playoff contender behind a suffocating lockdown perimeter squadron spearheaded by the ferocious rim-protecting Andrew Bogut. If Festus Ezeli can return to form and Jermaine O'Neal is willing to come back for another season, that only helps.

The amount of snark imbued with every comment after a move and non-move this offseason doesn't mean it's necessarily a bad move. There's about a year or two left in this "championship window" and the Warriors are defensively  established and proven at all positions. To blow it up, at least from a schematic and philosophical standpoint seemed like too extreme a shift after what they has strived to accomplish, purposefully or otherwise. That's a fair, if ultimately foolhardy, adventure these Warriors are ready to embark on. So while Steve Kerr and his shiny new offense are ready to roll into town in front of a crowd obsessed and starved over a need for buckets, this team has been and will be built on the other side of the ball. Don't let anything fool you otherwise.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Golden State of Mind Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Golden State Warriors news from Golden State of Mind