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Warriors vs. Raptors analysis: Golden State may have found some strength in their numbers

Despite opening their preseason with a loss, the Golden State Warriors may have some key pieces in Patrick McCaw and JaVale McGee.

2016 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors debuted their new “Super Team” in Saturday night’s preseason game against the Toronto Raptors. And, boy, was it a preseason game. Sloppy play abounded as we were treated to deflected passes, poor outlets, fumbled handles, missed free-throws, and wide open bricks. And that’s just from the starters. So what did we learn from our first taste of this season’s team?

The Death Lineup

Obviously the main draw of last night’s game was seeing Kevin Durant with his new teammates. While there isn’t much to glean from a preseason game that was far from a competitive environment – for example, at one point, Draymond Green simply slid aside and allowed a wide open layup on a fast break by Toronto – we were given our first glimpse of the new and improved Death Lineup.

Midway through the second quarter, Durant, Green, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Andre Iguodala took the floor together. The two teams seemed to trade turnovers, but you could see flashes of the Death Lineup’s offensive capability. Although many of them were missed, they were able to create wide-open shots.

The lineup also produced probably the best highlight of the night when Green pulled down a defensive rebound and threw a touchdown outlet pass to Curry who, in turn, put up a fantastic lob to Iguodala for a dunk. You know, business as usual.

Off the bench

Looking past the stars, perhaps one of the more interesting parts of the night was seeing the “McBackups” — Patrick McCaw and JaVale McGee. (You may be thinking, “Wait, James Michael McAdoo is missing.” You know what? “Missing” is the right word ... ) We’ve heard positive things from training camp about McCaw and McGee but this was our first opportunity to get a good look at how these two new Warriors would do on the team.

Not surprisingly, it was a bit painful to watch the bench units play and it served as a reminder of how refined starters’ games are relative to roster hopefuls. But McCaw and McGee were clearly the most effective players out of those who haven’t secured either playing time or a guaranteed spot on the team.

McGee was an early substitute and got decent minutes, a good indication that he’s ahead in the running for a roster spot. McGee was active on the boards and blocked and challenged multiple shots; he displayed the athleticism we are so used to seeing from him.

But he did have a few bonehead moments where he was caught out of position on defense, mistimed jumps, and fell for pump fakes. And he’s such a ball-hawk that, if he makes the team, I’m certain there will be that moment where he knocks the ball away from his own teammate when they both go for a loose ball or rebound, even as the other guy yells, “Got it!”

I must say, I did like how McGee kept a number of plays alive with his activity. Similar to how Bogut would swipe at rebounds he had no business getting in an attempt to deflect it to a teammate, McGee constantly poked rebounds away from the other team. His size and athleticism are just what the Warriors need and racking up 3 blocks and 4 rebounds in 16 minutes is no joke.

By contrast, McCaw didn’t physically overwhelm anyone but exhibited a solid handle, good passing instincts, and patience beyond his years. With a little over seven minutes left in the third quarter, McCaw showed off his passing prowess by creating three consecutive scoring opportunities with (in order):

  • an interior bounce pass after penetrating the defense;
  • a cross-court pass; and
  • a pass out of a double-team on a pick-and-pop.

Even when he was put back on the floor with a bunch of the weaker bench players, McCaw was still able to penetrate and dish for easy points. Best of all, he used his length to come up with 5 steals and his decision-making was on full display after those picks.

Not only did he take a few steals the other way for easy lay-ups, he also knew when to pull up and wait for the rest of the team to run a set offense. His patience and ability to seek out high-percentage plays were in stark contrast to the chucking and horrible shot selection going on around him from players pressing for a roster spot or more minutes.

If McGee and McCaw continue to produce off the bench, they will definitely be able to crack the rotation and give the starters some valuable rest. And if McCaw continues to show up this preseason, demonstrating that the Warriors have sufficient back-court depth, it may help McGee secure a spot on the team — as the focus for remaining roster spots shifts to the front court.

Further, the Warriors may be the perfect team for these two players. Durant has already taken McCaw under his wing, teaching him the ins-and-outs of the game and the league. On the Warriors, McCaw can learn from some of the best players in the league with virtually no pressure.

Similarly, McGee, a player known for being maddeningly inconsistent, can simply focus on rebounding, blocking and dunking, and he would surely benefit from the stability that the franchise and its star players provide.

Grand takeaway

Clearly, one preseason game is not enough to give a reliable prediction of how any player will do the rest of the season. But if the promise we saw today translates into future success, we just may have our strength in numbers after all.

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