So... we're doing this thing where we rank the players, but we're doing it "Survivor" style, eliminating one player per poll, until we've decided who is the most valuable to the Warriors in 2016 and beyond. Once a player is eliminated, they shouldn't be counted as a reason to choose the next player. For example, whether or not Jason Thompson's presence lessens the value of Festus Ezeli in real life shouldn't be taken into account once Jason Thompson has been voted out in this little game.
We're referring to the players as "assets", to remind voters to consider age, salary, injuries, production, and potential as well as value to the team (as either a player or trade piece) when making their selections.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...
It is a period of civil war. The upstart Warriors, striking from behind the arc, have won 50 games before succumbing to the evil Los Angeles Clippers in the postseason.
During the offseason, general manager Bob Myers managed to steal secret plans to the NBA's ultimate weapon, POSITIONLESS BASKETBALL, a deadly swarm of length and ball movement with enough versatility to destroy preconceived notions about how a team could win.
Pursued by the Warriors' sinister opponents, Bob Myers raced to free agency armed only with a mid-level exception, looking for the right piece to complete his plan to save his people and restore freedom to the galaxy...
Enter the #7 MVA (most valuable asset, as voted by GSoM) for the Rebellion, the one and only Shaun Livingston.
When he was signed, it really was during a comment thread civil war. Arguments exploded throughout just about every thread. There was already plenty of disagreement about the non-trade for Kevin Love, as well as the firing of polarizing head coach Mark Jackson. By themselves, either of those events would have been more action than most fanbases see in the average offseason. The discussions went back and forth, branding Bob Myers as either a genius or an idiot.
In the midst of all the controversy, Myers added one of the quietest, most unassuming players I've ever seen to the roster, and our community exploded. Writers quit, mods went on hiatus, and longtime community standouts resorted to insults and name calling. The best Warriors fans in the world were at each others' throats. The reaction was as dramatic as Darth Vader's entrance to Leia's ship.
The signing was a different approach than Myers had used in previous summers, when he had tried to stretch his dollars into depth. This time the future Executive of the Year decided to use the entire midlevel exception on just one player.
Shaun Livingston is more than one player. I mean, he's one player as far as roster spots are concerned. He only gets one locker and he always wears the same number, but still, he seems like more than one guy. The Swiss Army knife of the Warriors bench, sometimes he's a 6'7" point guard, bringing the ball up like Penny Hardaway back in '96. Sometimes he's a shutdown defender on the wing, enveloping ball handlers and patrolling the passing lanes with lightning-fast hands and impossibly long arms. Sometimes he's sneaking around the baseline, ready to throw down a ruthless dunk when his teammates spot him for the backdoor pass. Oftentimes he's all of those things on the same play.
It seemed like Livingston took a little while to find his place with the team. He started last season slowly, leaving many of us speculating if he was the right fit for the Warriors. His plus/minus numbers were less than ideal, and the second unit struggled with spacing issues early on. He's not what you'd call a scorer, and he almost never even shoots a three. By the end of the regular season, however, he had solidified a role as a ballhandler and offensive hub, running the offense off the elbow like Andrew Bogut or seemingly teleporting under the rim for another unguarded backdoor dunk (seriously, how does he always seem to get so open under the rim???).
The Warriors were the best offensive team, the best defensive team, the best shooting team, and the best "they too small Ernie" team last season when they won 67 regular season games en route to the title. Seriously, which of those descriptors works best? They were the best at all of those things, leading the league in everything while completely obliterating all the formal conventional wisdom about what sort of teams could win it all. The most versatile team in the league hung it's hat on ALL of those characteristics.
The only description that really says it right is this: the Warriors were the best team. To dominate in so many areas, to defy categorization, the team had to have long, smart, versatile players all throughout the roster. Shaun Livingston is that player.
A year later, and the fit is even better. He's smart. He's a model citizen. He's tall, has long arms, runs the floor, defends 3 spots well. He's become an absolutely crucial part of the positionless basketball scheme we're seeing run roughshod over the rest of the league, and his savvy ballhandling has allowed Steph Curry to start taking off the 4th quarter again, reminiscent of last year (when the MVP only played 32 minutes/game).
The ball zips around the perimeter for the Warriors' offense. When the machine is humming along properly, the ball handler is the screen, the shooter, the passer. There are specialists, like scorers Marreese Speights and Leandro Barbosa, but the long, switching defenders and brilliant ball movement on offense is why this team is in video game mode. I mean, the team's TS% is an absurd 59.7%. To put that in perspective, Michael Jordan's career TS% was 56.9%. Offense or defense, SDot is what the moment needs him to be. Fluid, filling in any holes for the Warriors, eroding the weak spots in the opposition's gameplan; a giant, scrawny point guard that doesn't shoot. Shaun Livingston is the definition of positionless, and yet his role is the moment.
He's clearly a valuable piece to the team, and I fully expect the Warriors to exercise the team option they hold for next season to keep Livingston at the bargain rate of $5.8 million, which is slightly less than a season ticket to see the team will be after the move to San Francisco.
So here's where we stand in our series:
16) Chris Babb (41%)
15) Brandon Rush (68%)
14) Ian Clark (68%)
13) Jason Thompson (34%)
12) Leandro Barbosa (36%)
11) James Michael McAdoo (41%)
10) Marreese Speights (35%)
9) Harrison Barnes (47%)
8) Kevon Looney (52%)
7) Shaun Livingston (61%)
On to the next selection!
So, we're in the top six now, for a squad that should contend for a championship. If you had to lose one of the remaining players forever, which one would it be? Hit the poll and tell us why in the comments!