A look back to Shaun Livingston's second season with the Warriors reveals, again, the great luxury the Warriors have in bringing such an skilled veteran off the bench to play the point.
It's hard to find a greater contrast in styles between a team's starting and backup point guards than Stephen Curry's long-distance assault and Shaun Livingston's old man game on the block. The variety can give opponents fits when SDot posts up smaller defenders and makes use of his 6'7'' frame to ably defend many positions in Golden State's switch-happy defense.
The jump that Livingston made this season was that of increased efficiency. While the Warriors habitually reinforced their reputation for playing recklessly at times, SDot provided veteran leadership in improving his assist-to-turnover ratio from 2.5 in 2014-15 to 3.0 in 2015-16.
And in another area that hurt the Dubs, Livingston shot 86% on free throws. Where the team showed weakness, Livingston showed strength.
Livingston enjoyed his best full season shooting percentage of his career last year at 53.6%, indicative of his growing comfort level with the offense. He had no problem asserting himself as a go-to option when the team needed it, as evidenced by his eight-of-ten shooting for 20 points in Game 1 of the Finals when the Splash Bros struggled.
And let's not forget this HUGE stuff over Richard Jefferson in Game 5. (Really, no foul on that?) SDot is a force around the rim.
Potential future growth
For all of the improvements he made, Warriors fans were hoping to see SDot increase his shooting range. Preseason rumors that Livingston had developed a three-point shot last summer appear to have been exaggerated, as Livingston hit just two of twelve attempts from distance last season.
But the reaction from his teammates on those makes, as seen in the second clip of this selection from our fantastic Explain One Play series, is all the evidence needed to show that he's being encouraged to make that a part of his game. He celebrates threes so well on the bench that it'd be great to see him take and hit more himself.
What to expect next season
The Dubs lost the man on the receiving end of a lot of SDot's assists, the one and only Marreese Speights. It'll be interesting to see how Livingston meshes with a new squad of reserves next year and how that will affect his play to start the second quarter.
Roster analysis: How will the minutes be divided?
Livingston is coming off one of his best seasons as a Warrior. He contributed large in the playoffs, and looks to be playing healthy. Even with that, the Warriors staff will likely try to limit his minutes.
David West could be the new beneficiary of Livingston's drive and kicks. West has traditionally been a decent outside shooter from inside the arc, though West's personality will never fill the void of Mo Buckets' departure.
The influx of new players adds additional mystery to Livingston's upcoming season. Patrick McCaw's strong summer league performance raises questions about how minutes will be spread out among a talented group of guards.
Add to that the fire power of a starting lineup that includes Kevin Durant and you're left wondering whether lopsided scores would lead to more or less playing time for Livingston while younger guards like McCaw and Ian Clark seek playing time.
What's certain is that Coach Kerr can rely on SDot in crunch time to play responsibly, shoot a high percentage, and use his length to his advantage on both ends of the court. When he plays with the starters, count on Livingston to make opponents pay at the rim if opponents dare to double team KD or Curry.
I'm hoping to see SDot show more confidence from behind the arc while staying true to his old man game. It'd be nice to add the outside shooting threat, but the consistency of his post up shooting and awareness in getting to the rim forces opponents to stay honest in guarding the interior when they're scared to death of what's happening at the three-point line.
In addition to his contributions on the court, one of Livingston's most important roles will be to serve as an example of professionalism for the young guys. Given the knee injury that threatened his career, SDot will make sure everyone on the roster appreciates the opportunity to chase a championship and lead by example.
For more on the historic 2015-16 NBA season, check out our Warriors season review section.