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2016-17 NBA Season Preview: Warriors aim to regain title with the help of Kevin Durant

Nothing less than a championship is acceptable for the Warriors this year. This is the new normal.

Golden State Warriors Media Day Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Team Name: Golden State Warriors

Last Year's Record: 73-9

Key Losses: Andrew Bogut, Marreese Speights, Festus Ezeli, Harrison Barnes, Leandro Barbosa

Key Additions: Kevin Durant, Zaza Pachulia, David West, Patrick McCaw

1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?

Obviously, Kevin Durant was the big acquisition for the Warriors and, honestly, the NBA. But two additional moves that may prove significant were acquiring second round pick Patrick McCaw in the 2016 NBA Draft and signing Zaza Pachulia shortly after the Durant move.

We should always temper expectations about a rookie drafted in the second round, but McCaw showed promise in college as a defender and displayed enough offensively during summer league to suggest that he might be able to contribute sooner than many of us expect. Pachulia was one of the biggest bargains of free agency this year and will immediately have to fill in minutes at center left behind by Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli.

2. What are the Warriors’ biggest strengths?

With the addition of Durant, the answer to this question is also pretty obvious: 3-point shooting, versatility, and just general unguardability. And Hugo Kitano made another important point: "The versatility of their top four stars (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green) complement each other better than any of the super-teams we’ve seen in the past."

Best of luck to the rest of the league.

3. What are the Warriors’ biggest weaknesses?

As hard as it is to find any debilitating weakness on this team, the biggest weaknesses this team possesses are actually pretty clear: rim protection and depth.

The rim protection issue is pretty obvious and it remains to be seen how they’ll mitigate that, as described by Dean Campbell.

Watching Bogut in the Olympics reminded me of just how good he is on defense. Hopefully Damian Jones recovers from surgery in time to get some run this season. Regardless, almost All-Star Zaza Pachulia will need to pick up the team’s defensive principles and strategies quickly. Or with the dearth of dominant big men in the league, could Durant defend centers who aren’t effective posting-up in the paint?

The depth issue has been a subject of a bit more debate among Warriors fans.

On the one hand, yes, the Warriors did give up a number of players who were key contributors to their back-to-back Finals appearances. On the other, they still do have Anderson Varejao a couple of solid bench players in Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston as well as promising young players like McCaw, Damian Jones, and Kevon Looney. If they can get any sort of contribution out of those younger guys while staggering the minutes of the stars, this could be less of a problem than some might expect.

GSoM community comment (from EvanZ):

I’m not worried about the bench. In fact I have more faith in this bench than I have in the last one.


Because if Kerr gets it right, we’ll always have either Steph or KD on the court. And that automatically is better than many of the lineups Kerr trotted out there the last couple of seasons.

Of course, he might not get it right.

4. What are the goals for this team?

I mean...

New Orleans Pelicans v Golden State Warriors Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

...need I say more?

5. Which of the Big Four do you expect to "sacrifice" the most statistically this year?

Derek Knight and Jason Lee combined to offer a great response to this question that I’m going to cobble together here:

In terms of statistical sacrifice, Curry is probably the one whose numbers will "decline" the most. But that’s because he had other-worldly numbers last year. If you’re asking who will "suffer" statistically, the answer is no one.

A lot of who ends up on the short end of the statistical stick depends on how the rest of the league defends them. Ultimately, the rest of the league has got to pick its proverbial poison and, in doing so, they’re bound to give up something.

Should that poison be giving Green the lane on 4-on-3s, it’ll be Draymonds’ night. If the plan of defense is to contain Durant, blanket Thompson, and let Curry go one-on-one, then Curry gets his numbers. If opponents decide to let Klay shoot instead of Curry and Durant, it’ll be Klay’s night. If they make adjustments during the game it’ll be Curry’s first half and Durant’s second.

Good luck, league.

6. Is Draymond Green a liability?

Derek Knight’s way of quantifying the answer to this question is a talking point that we should all embrace for times when we’re confronted with this question.

In terms of his on-court impact for the team, all respectable metrics (i.e. not based on counting stats) point towards Green being a top five player in the league. In order for him to be considered a holistic liability, his off-court impact would have to be hugely detrimental to the team’s success.

It’s not.

He has scuffed his image a bit this offseason, between a "we don’t know the full context of the situation" after-hours kerfuffle with some college kid in Michigan and a tragic case of "NBA-player-sized-thumb pressed the wrong button on a phone". So Draymond Green doesn’t have a sterling reputation -- that’s fine. It means he’s a human being with (gasp) the potential to make mistakes. If that casts him as a liability, then anyone claiming to not be a liability is simply dishonest.

7. What’s the biggest question for the Warriors this season?

We have a few questions as a staff heading into the season that I’ll just lay out here to conclude this preview:

Derek Knight: Will this Durant merger work out?

Dean Campbell: Can the Warriors excel on defense without a shot-blocking center?

Jonathan Asaad: Which -- if any -- of their young big men will emerge as the next defensive minded center?

Sami Higgins: Will they have the same "Strength In Numbers" off the bench?

Nate Parham: a) How much will the coaching staff commit to staggering their Big Four stars and b) which pairings will maximize their talents?

Jason Lee : Is Curry’s run of good health over?

Basketball Jonez: Is it April yet?

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