I had no idea how to start writing this whatever this is supposed to become and is going to end up being. That is an awful grammatical sentence and it's really the best I could come up with in the past week. I've had this set up in the drafts, parsing, combing, and futilely attempting to toss out words to what Shaun Livingston's debut season as a Golden State Warrior has meant, and what could still happen. He hasn't been awful. He hasn't been good. He hasn't been as advertised. He does things well enough to stay on the court but not much to where he's openly hurting a team on either end. He's sort of just, a basketball player out there.
I am still a huge Livingston fan, albeit the odd fit on this team. He doesn't shoot past the free-throw line. His defense can be redundant when guys like Justin Holiday, Harrison Barnes, and Andre Iguodala can anchor the bench unit. You probably wonder why they didn't just go for a souped-up Leandro Barbosa - an offensively-minded backup point guard that will get buckets despite questions on defense. And you, General Manager on the couch, you, probably aren't wrong. Instead, Livingston duplicates what the Warriors have in abundance. He gives them length, quickness, and versatility on defense. And has been said a million times, as much as this team's branding relies on the atom bomb nature that are Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, much of their success is directly attributed to a swarming tentacle-esque amoeba of a defense.
But indulge me for just a little while. You've already read this far and given this a click, just keep on going. Forget the stats. Not in a Charles Barkley way. Livingston's statistics are not good. He's not a good shooter from anywhere, doesn't pass the ball well enough because he rarely penetrates, and hasn't graded well as a defender. So obviously, wipe that all away.
The Warriors are 46-12. They're free-rolling the signing of Livingston at this point. The season is already a roaring success unless a cataclysmic collapse were to befall Earth and the human race. Coach Steve Kerr played Livingston against the Boston Celtics in a unit with Stephen Curry to great success. Livingston locked up Isaiah Thomas and drove and posted up with success on the other end. Against the Brooklyn Nets on back-to-back and with Stephen Curry missing chunks of the game with foul trouble, Livingston again excelled playing with Curry and struggled as the primary point guard.
These are symptoms of every single Warrior with Curry on the floor. Harrison Barnes lives in the corner. Draymond Green shreds defenses with pinpoint interior passing. Andrew Bogut lob dunks and screams at his hand. Livingston is not unlike them. As the primary guard, the spacing cramps up and Livingston is seen dribbling from an open three into a congested well of limbs in the paint, much ado about nothing. I was going to show some video, but we're rehashing recycled points here. Average players are average sans Steph. Average players very good with Steph. Steph is MVP -- wait, wrong piece.
So given all that, the specific spectrum of success Livingston is tunneled into because of his redundant and limited set of skills, why and how does this work? Because the postseason is what matters. I'm not saying Bob Myers and the rest of management signed Livingston simply for the stretch run. But it's worked out that way. In the postseason, there's not as much of a need for a Rodney Stuckey or Isaiah Thomas, ball-dominant guards that can't defend. When the minutes start to rise, Curry needs and deserves the ball in his hands. The rest of the players should be built around him, for the specific role of defending around him, finishing at the rim, and shooting. Livingston can do two of those things really well.
Kerr has curiously sliced the rotation of his big men, most notably David Lee and Marreese Speights in the past couple games. That has given Livingston the chance to shine and he's looked much more comfortable as the third guard to Curry and Klay Thompson. Keeping Thompson on the floor to stretch things out with Livingston posting or slashing works wonders as well. Lots of talk has been given to the playoff rotation, the snipping of Lee and Speights' minutes. Festus Ezeli works much better as a screener and defender than the other two. Barbosa and Holiday are two other candidates set to play game and tempo-specific roles. So it really ends up being a Curry-Barnes-Green-Thompson-Bogut rotation with Iguodala, Livingston, maybe Ezeli shoring up the front line.
The small lineup doesn't work with Lee at the five unless Green is on the floor. That, however, starts a chain reaction and Barnes is stuck at the 3, where he is less effective, and there is less spacing for Livingston and Iguodala. Remove Lee and/or Speights and suddenly you have several shooters around Livingston and space with which he can operate on offense. At least to a level that isn't the infuriatingly nothing he's shown when paired with certain lineups.
The broad outlook on Livingston is not good. He's not played well. He's stringed together two solid games but that's a small sample size, we can argue. It's just that small sample size? Those lineups, executions, and style of play might soon become the most important sample size of this Warriors season.