The Warriors have the week off and their next game doesn’t come until Friday when they play the Nuggets in Denver. They have had a full week to run through practices, bond as a team, iron out the defense and fine tune the offense, with a solid base of game tape and experience to guide them.
While the coaching staff still has additional sets to install, game situations to manage and perfect, they also have one major task to complete: finalizing the roster.
This is a group decision — a combination of the GM and the Warriors staff looking at the talent of the remaining 18 (Elgin Cook and Scott Wood were cut on Sunday) and picking the talent that best fits this year’s rotation. Golden State of Mind (GSoM) has reviewed the roster and its assets. But, just like the front office, we have game tape to help us update our opinions and guess at decisions.
The Facts: The Warriors can only keep 15 players on the active roster, based on rules in the NBA collective bargaining agreement. Given that only 13 players can be active for each game, the importance of roster decisions becomes apparent. Many teams have to worry about injuries when naming their 13-player active list; they may have players “in uniform” but unable to play.
Currently, Golden State has the opposite problem, with a high number of healthy players. Damian Jones, a rookie with a guaranteed contract and no reason to be cut, will be on the active 15-player roster when the seasons starts. This creates hard decisions for the remaining spots, mostly decisions centered around a short list of guys on the bubble.
Starters: No need to debate these guys.
1. Stephen Curry
2. Klay Thompson
3. Kevin Durant
4. Draymond Green
5. Zaza Pachulia
Bench: Veterans and regular rotation players plus free agents added in the offseason.
6. Andre Iguodala
7. Shaun Livingston
8. David West
Rookies: No way these guys get cut after being drafted in the last two years.
9. Kevon Looney*
10. Patrick McCaw
11. Damian Jones **
* Kevon Looney has the backing of the front office to be an ongoing project after he sat out last year with an injury. He has also impressed too much in the D-League to think the team would trade him now. You could make a very deep argument that his spot could be better used on a vet. But, for now, the Warriors aren’t dropping him.
** To my point above, Jones will start the year having missed all of training camp with an injury, probably in the D-League. Given his potential, there is no way the team cuts him before his first year. This is what bad franchises do, not the Warriors.
Bottom-of-the-roster “lock” guys
Probably not bubble guys, but players who should be considered with skepticism:
12. Ian Clark - He is probably a lock, but I have to put him here because he has been a long-term Warriors’ project at this point. But you couldn't pass up his roster spot for a serviceable veteran with the same skill-set. Clark has shown improvement on his scoring and defense, but still remains a backup at best based on his limitations and inconsistency. Clark does have a guaranteed contract, meaning he is getting that roster spot.
13. James Michael McAdoo - I warn you, I’m not the biggest fan of his game. I think he gets destroyed on the glass, has no jumper, and is an under-skilled energy guy that works better in the D-League than in the NBA (a true AAAA player, if you know the analogy). He does fit the profile as a project guy for the bottom of a championship roster. However, when you realize he got playing time in the Finals, his spot could be used for a veteran with the same skill-set. Like Clark, McAdoo also has a guaranteed contract.
The Anderson Varejao category:
14. Anderson Varejao - Yeah ... he is getting a roster spot. He deserves his own category even though fans and pundits would celebrate his departure. The coaching staff loves this guy and we are going to be stuck with his “locker room presence.”
From the lists above, it’s quite clear that the Warriors have roughly one spot remaining that is up for grabs (unless they throw a curve ball and dump Varejao). This one spot is a competition between the following guys:
15. JaVale McGee - Chance to make the roster spot: 80%.
- He plays center and protects the rim — two skills this team needs and has deficiencies in.
- Players are coming out to his defense. If Iguodala, a key voice in the locker room and a key factor in player recruitment, comes out in the media to your defense, this tends to end well for you.
- He’s got potential for days. Nobody can question McGee’s overall potential and athleticism.
- There is no need to post the videos here, but McGee’s history ranges from “spotty” to “unintentionally hilarious.” His lack of discipline creates issues with his bad habits and tendencies to roam on the court with no sense of the system. Can a team that plays with such control handle a guy who ad libs as much as he does?
- Although he still has his physical tools, he is no longer the scorer he was earlier in his career. Can the team find value in the things he continues to do well, though?
16. Cameron Jones - Chance to make the roster spot: 15%.
- He has a history of great shooting and his outside shooting still puts him in contention. The Warriors can never have enough shooters coming off the bench, especially as their best 3-point shooters are set starters. Who will put the ball in the basket when the big four sit? Jones can be that heat-check guy if he can stay around .400% from range.
- He has a serviceable defense and demonstrated this in the preseason. His hustle and position have looked good against second stringers. But would it translate to regular-season games?
- He has experience. Between playing overseas and years in the D-League, Jones is no rookie.
- What position does he play? Is he a point guard? He probably plays better as a shooting guard, but does this mean he could cover the regular twos in the association? He is too small to be a three.
- Does he truly fill a need? With the minutes being divided between Thompson, Durant and Green, you are mostly talking about filler minutes at the two and three when these guys sit out games. Ian Clark already seems to have this spot filled. So does Jones bring the best of what the Warriors lack?
17. Elliot Williams - Chances to make the spot: 5%.
- He’s got veteran presence. Williams has years of experience in the NBA under his belt. Unlike Jones, most of his years have been spent on an NBA roster rather than overseas.
- It’s an issue of general production. He has not shot well in his career, either from behind the arc or in the paint. His shooting did not show up in the preseason either.
18. Phil Pressey - Chances to make the spot: 0%.***
- He can pass the ball well, and has proven himself to be a solid distributor in NBA games after starting for the Boston Celtics.
- If Pressey is not making layups, he should not be shooting the ball. This one dimensional skill-set only pays off in an older NBA where spacing was less important. Now, teams simply don’t have to cover you on offense.
***Pressey has a dual contract for both the Warriors and the SC Warriors. This means that even if he doesn’t make the team, he still stays “with the team” down in Santa Cruz and continues to mature his game. Therefore, the Warriors have no pressure to let him go because he will stay with the D-League squad unless he otherwise gets signed by an NBA team (which he probably will not).
The decision basically comes down to Jones, McGee or Williams. Looking at the facts above, my guess is that JaVale McGee gets the final roster spot. His skill-set is too unique, his potential is too high, and his headaches can be handled by a veteran team that often will be playing around him. Has he ever had the chance to play on a roster with the IQ this team has? Yes — back when he was playing in the playoffs against the Warriors with none other than Andre Iguodala. Put it this way — if you cut him, he immediately signs with another team. If you cut Cameron Jones or Williams? I’m not so sure where they go.
The other question is: Who suits up on game day? I think Damian Jones and Kevon Looney could be the odd men out to start the year on game nights, with Looney getting the nod when a player has a scheduled night off. I think Jones will spend most of the year with Santa Cruz. But if he dominates he could push Anderson Varejao off the game-day roster. If he doesn't, he will spend the year on the beach honing his maturity and general game presence.
One last thought before we go: Isn’t it nice to have a team where the only things you can think of to talk about are who is fighting for garbage time minutes at the bottom of the roster?
Oh, how times have changed ...