No dynasties can last. Luckily for the Warriors, their star players are all in their primes, and they have a few interesting young players that will hopefully grow into significant roles. They’re not an aging team.
The four stars (Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green) are all under the age of thirty, and likely won’t decline in performance for a couple of years. But the Warriors do have a few role players whose play may decline due to age in this coming season, and further in the future.
The fifth member of the Death Lineup is already 33, and signed a three-year deal this offseason. Iguodala’s game has changed substantially over the years: he’s no longer a high-flying athlete tasked with scoring. He is still a phenomenal defender, but offensively he’s become a playmaker and improved his long-range shooting.
Iguodala’s had problems staying healthy, notably looking injured at the end of the 2016 Finals. His shooting has also fluctuated in consistency during his time with the Warriors. But when he’s been healthy, his play is still at a Sixth-Man-of-the-Year level.
I would expect Iguodala’s play to begin declining soon. He’s already become a worse finisher at the rim, and as his athleticism really begins to drop off, his defense will become less valuable. He’ll always have value because of his IQ and passing on the court, but don’t be too surprised if Iguodala becomes increasingly marginalized throughout the duration of his contract. The Warriors hope Patrick McCaw grows into Iguodala’s role.
Livingston signed a three year contract this offseason as well (although the last year is only partially guaranteed), and at age 32, he might decline as well. Livingston, despite his devastating knee injury in his younger days, is a “young” 32: he’s played far fewer minutes than most athletes his age.
Livingston has also refined his game around his size, mid-range shooting ability, and passing. His part on the Warriors is clearly smaller than Iguodala, and he’s entirely comfortable in his role. I predict his game will age well.
The Warriors’ starting center is 33, like Iguodala, and signed a one-year deal to return to the team this offseason. Pachulia was not good enough to stay on the court in the 2017 Finals, but he was valuable every step of the way until then. Of course, Pachulia has never been known as a good athlete, rather using his humongous size and defensive smarts to be a nuisance on the court.
Pachulia is a regression candidate, largely because being a starting center in the NBA is a huge role. If Pachulia simply isn’t quick enough to have value defensively, he’ll have to play fewer minutes. I imagine Steve Kerr will stick with Pachulia as the starter throughout the season, but guys like Draymond Green, Jordan Bell, and even Kevin Durant may play crucial minutes at center this season. I doubt Pachulia returns to the Warriors’ next season.
The oldest Warrior has already declared that this coming season will be his last. At age 37, he’s not the quickest or strongest big man on the court. But he proved himself to be the second best big man on the roster last year behind Draymond Green, playing extremely well at the end of the Finals. Not only is he an asset defensively, but his passing and midrange shooting were superb all season.
West plays an extremely important role on the second unit, and any regression would be deeply felt. At his age, players are always at the risk of suddenly becoming unplayable. But there’s still a good chance West continues his solid play: his minutes will likely be conserved, and his regular season role will likely be small.
Rest and reduced regular season roles will help the Warriors keep their older players in their best shape. Fortunately, they’re deeper than last year, and the regular season is the least of their concerns. As long as the veterans are ready for the playoffs, and some of the younger guys are worthy of consistent rotation spots, the Warriors will be better than last year.