The GSoM community is ranking the Warriors 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 2017 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 Shaun Livingston's presence lessens the value of Patrick McCaw in real life shouldn't be taken into account once McCaw or Shaun has been voted out of the exercise.
We're referring to the players as "assets." As such, voters are reminded to consider age, salary, injuries, production, potential and overall value to the team (as either a player or trade piece) when making their selections. Basically, you're part of the front office, and it's time to cut the next player.
When the Warriors lured Kevin Durant onto the roster, it was like an earthquake that sent tremors throughout the league. If an earthquake is strong enough, you can feel it from anywhere. However, it always hits hardest in the center. In the case of the Warriors roster, it hit hardest in the centers. Defensive stalwart Andrew Bogut had to be traded to another Western Conference playoff team for nothing in return, while key reserves Festus Ezeli and Marreese Speights both signed with conference rivals for less than anticipated.
There were aftershocks to the initial KMFD earthquake. Zaza Pachulia, followed by David West, both volunteered to provide their considerable skills in exchange for a shot at a ring and a loaf of bread. Both are savvy and tough defenders, but neither one of them can deter opponents the way that Bogut or Ezeli could. Very few players can.
Bogut led all centers in Defensive Real Plus-Minus (DRPM) the last two seasons, after being narrowly edged out by Marc Gasol the previous season. He also had the second best defensive rating in the league for two of the last three seasons, and is second among all active players in Defensive Box Plus-Minus (DBPM), just behind Joakim Noah and ahead of Kevin Garnett. The team that won it's first championship in 40 years behind the strength of the league's top defense was going to have to find a different way to protect the paint.
It turns out Kevin Durant can hurt a defense in more ways than one.
Thankfully, Durant's a stronger defender than the guy he's replacing in the lineup was, and the offense could be the most prolific of all time. The Warriors won't need to be a dominant defense most nights, and should cruise to a 60 win season either way. However, there will be times when the Warriors want a big, shot blocking presence down in the paint.
The team has looked for answers in the draft, coming up with two injured big men late in the first round of the last two summers, but no one really knows what they can contribute besides medical bills. The problem is, banking on late picks to pan out is a losing strategy, and often times the "project" players don't develop into useful contributors until several years down the line.
The Warriors are clearly in "win now" mode. Visionary GM Bob Myers scanned the free agent horizon. Larry Sanders is available (sort of), but it looks as though he will remain that way at least until his hip hop career brings him true happiness. Chris Kaman is still out there, I suppose. Kendrick Perkins won a ring once. However, the team had already decided to bring back Anderson Varejao, meaning that the role of "old guy" was already filled.
Things looked bleak for the Warriors defense. Rivals garrisoned their rosters with interior scorers and perimeter defenders, positioning themselves to attack the team's apparent Achilles heel. Draymond Green will rise to that challenge, but even Green needs some backup if he's going to take on all of the league's giants (especially with the whistle-swallowing act I expect from officials this season). With such a glaring hole in the middle and only long-toothed veterans or injured rookies to protect the rim, it seemed a simple twist of fate (or ankle) could unravel the team's championship intentions.
Myers kept digging, determined to find treasure among the rubble at the bottom of the free agent pool. On July 29th, he found a gold nugget. Or former Nugget, I should say.
The Warriors are signing veteran center JaVale McGee to a make-good deal for a chance to make the team in training camp, league sources say.— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 29, 2016
The twittersphere erupted into laughter. The world's greatest basketball analyst, Shaquille O'Neal, had already spent a great deal of airtime focusing on mistakes made by McGee during the 2012 and 2013 NBA seasons. The most influential basketball program on television created a blooper segment called "Shaqtin' a Fool," on which Shaq had declared the 24 year old McGee the MVP for the first of two consecutive seasons.
Perception is powerful and impressions are tough to change.
In the case of JaVale McGee, the Warriors decided to ignore the analysis of the popular show and conducted their own investigation. The research showed that the Flint, Michigan native had very strong seasons during his tenure as the "Shaqtin' MVP." Three consecutive seasons among the league leaders in blocks and field goal percentage, a rapidly improving defensive rating, and per 36 averages of 18 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 3.9 blocks for a 57 win team.
Then George Karl was fired, and McGee's massive potential was entrusted to his fourth coach in less than three seasons. However, rookie head coach Brian Shaw wouldn't have much opportunity to work with the enigmatic center. McGee played just five games to open the season before a stress fracture in his left leg put him on the operating table.
After his surgery, the Nuggets were in shambles. The decision to rebuild the front office and coaching staff had made a terrible impact on the roster, and news outlets reported mutinies up and down the locker room. McGee's recovery was going to take too long to matter for the beleaguered franchise. He left the frying pan of Denver after only 17 games played, and wound up in the fire of Philadelphia, where he played just six games in the 2014-15 season.
Sometimes leg surgeries can take a few seasons to heal up all the way, and JaVale signed up with the Dallas Mavericks even though they knew he wouldn't be available to start the season. After his debut in late November, he began to play more and more minutes for the Mavs before suddenly disappearing into Rick Carlisle's doghouse in favor of Salah Mejri.
Apparently the coaching McGee had received throughout his career was inadequate for Carlisle's liking. The freewheeling nature of George Karl and Flip Saunders' offenses had done little to develop McGee's feel for half court sets, and they were the good coaches McGee had trained under. His new coach lacked both the patience and the energy to undo the habits McGee had learned, and Dallas GM Donnie Nelson decided that the roster space was better spent elsewhere.
Suddenly, JaVale Lindy McGee was unemployed... but like the song goes, "One man gathers what another man spills."
Take a look at what Myers gathered.
McGee's father was a former NBA second round draft pick, and his mom AND sister both play (or played) in the WNBA. The potential coursing through McGee's DNA is still obvious, tempered only by the perception that his mistakes might outweigh his considerable ability.
Like the ability to dunk on two baskets at once.
The ability to dunk three basketballs on a single jump, and make it look easy.
And the ability to do this to the NBA:
Oh man. That's a lot to look forward to. Not only that, but the man is a human pogo stick with arms so long they outreach the law. Seriously. His wingspan, measured at an insane 7'6.5", was the longest in NBA history before Rudy Gobert began terrorizing offenses for the Utah Jazz. His standing reach is 9'6.5," he weighs 270 lbs, and he can run the floor.
Bob Myers had done enough research to be intrigued, and then an endorsement from McGee's former teammate Andre Iguodala tipped the scales. I don't know about the rest of you, but if there's one guy on the Warriors roster that I trust, it's Iguodala. Whether it's his defense, his clutch shooting, or his palpable intelligence, I have the utmost confidence in whatever Iguodala brings to the table. I have a feeling the Warriors do too.
McGee impressed the Warriors on the first day of camp. He blocked "like six shots" in a 90 minute practice session in a sub par performance (I say sub par because his career per 36 averages suggest he should have blocked closer to nine shots in 90 minutes... drool). JaVale was endorsed by another one of his new teammates immediately after practice.
"He looked really good, athletic and long and can do a lot for us. We’re going to need him to protect the rim and finish over the top of the rim," Durant said after practice.
"We all have our flaws out there on the court," he continued. "But someone that long and athletic is hard to come by. He can block shots, can rebound and can go over the top of the rim and finish. That’s what I’m focused on, trying to bring that out of him. That’s what everybody on our team has been encouraging. Today was a good day for him and he’ll just try and build on it."
I have a good feeling about this.
On to the next selection!
It's election season and time for your voice to be heard! If you had to lose one of the remaining players forever, which one would it be? Vote in the poll and tell us why in the comments.