ESPN has done its best to kill the offseason by constantly providing new analyses and articles to keep basketball fans informed and excited for the coming season. Recently, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton provided his Player Profiles for us to dive into, though the article is “Insider Only,” meaning you would have to pony up to read it.
Fear not Warrior fans, I have you covered by providing you the highlights of this excellent piece, which not only breaks down the goods we want to hear about the Big Four, but also gives some great scouting reports on the new additions, including the rookies.
Stephen Curry: No surprise here, Pelton praises the unanimous MVP for his offensive skills while reminding everyone that Curry has become an underrated defender. Pelton points out Curry was limited by the sprained knee in the playoffs (see? justification!)
Klay Thompson: Thompson gets praise for developing an ability to make plays off the dribble and shooting inside the arc (45.5 percent from beyond 16 feet while taking fewer mid-range jumpers). Thompson is becoming his own lead offense when Curry is off the court—will he live up to his “sacrifice” quote and continue to generate his own offense with Kevin Durant on the court as well? Thompson finally gets praise as the defensive rock of the backcourt.
Kevin Durant: Pelton points out a potential concern we’ve also discussed here since the Durant signing. Last year, Durant held the ball for 3.1 seconds per touch, which would be second highest on the team behind Curry. Harrison Barnes held the ball for only 1.2 seconds per touch, meaning the offense will either have to flow through Durant or Durant will have to adjust his game. Durant took over games when Russell Westbrook went to the bench, but he won’t necessarily have to do that on the Warriors, and his usage percentage should drop accordingly. Regarding his defense, Pelton says Durant can be a scary defender when he is engaged (referencing early Rio 2016 Olympic Games when he was NOT engaged). Durant is set up to be the ultimate upgrade for the Death Lineup when he is locked in, as he’s a better defensive rebounder and rim protector than Barnes.
Draymond Green: Green’s contributions to the team are not questioned, however, his emotional control is. Green is the facilitator that drives the team emotionally and as a passer (7.4 assists per game), but will have to keep his head in check. Green’s defense was highlighted, with opponents shooting 46.6 percent from the field within five feet of the basket (better than Hassan Whiteside at 46.9 percent). Why was he second in Defensive Player of the Year again?
Zaza Pachulia: Pelton gets real here, saying Pachulia has better instincts than physical ability. He will play good positional defense, but will not nearly be the shot blocker and help defender that Bogut was (Pachulia was ranked 16th among NBA centers in real plus minus, whereas Bogut led the league). Pachulia did have 3.7 assists per 36 minutes out of the post (not Bogut-level, but not bad). Also, he will not finish the lob in the same way that Bogut did, but understand that might be because nobody was running the lob for him in Dallas.
Andre Iguodala: Pelton thinks Iguodala is an average three-point shooter (agree) and can still be an elite defender off the bench.
Shaun Livingston: Livingston gets love for his quirky midrange game, highlighting the unblockable turnaround. He can also defend three positions when Iguodala and Durant are on the bench.
David West: West is praised for his great midrange shooting, physical defense and seemingly perfect fit in with a Livingston pick-and-roll. His post defense (but not rim protection) will be an asset.
Patrick McCaw: The rookie gets an early bill on the list with the expectation of high-level contribution this year. McCaw gets dinged for an inconsistent shooting form, but does get praised for his defense and passing. Pelton compares him more to Iguodala than Barbosa (high praise), the latter player who McCaw will hope to fill the role of. Pelton says that McCaw is more of a team defender than one-on-one stopper.
Anderson Varejão: Varejão gets casted as an annoying defensive presence and a player who relies more on deception than athletics, and who has lost his midrange jumper. Pelton shows no love for Varejão and says “his main tactic at this point is to draw fouls” on defense. Ouch.
James Michael McAdoo: McAdoo is called out for being an undersized defender whose best skill is finishing in the pick-and-roll. Pelton points out that his best value will come at back up five, but says McAdoo has been bad on the defensive glass because of his lack of strength against more physical players.
Ian Clark: Clark is labeled as the primary taker of Barbosa’s minutes off the bench. His three-point shooting is better than league average, but Pelton points out he should try to do shooting off the dribble. Fans agree.
Kevon Looney: A wildcard, Pelton thinks that Looney will be a great offensive and defensive rebounder, can improve his outside shooting and finish on the breaks. Looney remains a project.
Damian Jones: Another project, Jones gets love for his shot blocking. He does struggle on the defensive glass and can finish at the rim (22nd in the nation for points on post ups). Jones does turn the ball over too many times (another Festus Ezeli?) but does not protect the rim as well as Ezeli did. A long-term project.
JaVale McGee: Pelton gives McGee love to hang on the roster by including him in the list. McGee is labeled a great shot blocker with low basketball IQ that usually takes him out of position on the defensive side. Can Ron Adams fix this guy in time to help the squad?
Elliot Williams: Williams gets the last place on the list, probably because of the guaranteed deal he got in the offseason. Pelton calls him a “quadruple-A player;” too good for the D-League, but not good enough for the NBA. Williams projects to be a three-and-D guy, hopefully as a Brandon Rush replacement at the end of the bench.
There is nothing really new from Kevin Pelton here but it’s clear that the Warriors will need to look deep at the front court defense this year with the losses of Bogut and Ezeli. Will the Warriors need to score more and player more minutes to stay in games if their defense suffers? Will they have counters to big physical teams, such as against the Clippers with DeAndre Jordan or the Jazz with Rudy Gobert? It should be interesting to see how training camp plays out and what the final roster will look like.