This offseason, the Warriors opted to let combo guard Ian Clark walk, signing swing man Nick Young instead. Though the swap is an upgrade, it leaves the Warriors without a third point guard.
The Warriors want to get plenty of rest for both Stephen Curry and Shaun Livingston, the two point guards on the roster. A third point guard will absolutely be necessary when both men are sitting (in blowouts, for example), or in games when one is sitting for other reasons.
What are the Warriors’ options for the position?
Earlier in training camp, Coach Steve Kerr named Patrick McCaw the nominal “third string point guard.” McCaw showed play-making potential in his rookie season, handling the ball well and working within the flow of the offense. But he only averaged 2.6 assists per 36 minutes and, at only 22 years of age, may be overwhelmed with learning to play another position offensively. McCaw be most valuable to the team as a wing next season, and it might be wise for him to focus on a limited number of roles.
McCaw could be the lead ball handler at the end of blowouts, but it might be asking too much for him to run the offense confidently in his sophomore season.
The veterans share duties
The Warriors certainly do not lack good passers. Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green and, to a lesser extent, Kevin Durant and David West, can handle the ball and create for others. Though these veterans probably won’t be playing at the end of blowouts, they could sustain the Warriors’ offense if Curry and Livingston are off the court, especially working together.
Given Kerr’s emphasis on passing and off-ball movement, having a ball-dominant, third point guard is not really necessary. I expect that when both Curry and Livingston are sitting, these veterans will take on the ball-handling duties in the minutes that matter.
A two-way contract
This season, the NBA introduced two-way contracts, which allow teams to sign players that can spend time between NBA teams and their G-League affiliates. Chris Boucher has already been signed to one of these contracts, but the Warriors have one spot left to offer.
The Warriors could find a young point guard to groom in Santa Cruz, and call him up whenever necessary. But this is likely a long-term plan that would not help the Warriors much this season.
Sign a veteran
Further into the season, I could totally see the Warriors cutting one of the big men and signing a veteran point guard. The team sort of did so last year, when it cut Anderson Varejao and signed Jose Calderon, before swapping Calderon for Matt Barnes in the wake of Durant’s injury.
Of the big men (there are many on the roster!), Kevon Looney is the most likely to be cut. He has a team option for next season the Warriors will likely decline, making him an unrestricted free agent. His hip injuries have simply sapped too much of his athleticism, and he doesn’t seem to have a defined position or role on the Warriors’ roster.
Ultimately, whoever plays third-string point guard won’t make or break this Warriors’ season. But it’ll reveal what Kerr thinks about his offense, and who he trusts running it. Hopefully, the third-string point guard will never matter, and it probably won’t: Stephen Curry and Shaun Livingston are among the best point-guard duos in the league.