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Why the Warriors invested in shooting

The Warriors already boast three of the greatest shooters of all time. Why did they decide to upgrade their bench shooting with their limited resources?

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Around the league, the Golden State Warriors are perhaps known best for their amazing shooting. Their starting backcourt, dubbed the “Splash Brothers,” features Stephen Curry, probably the best shooter of all time, and Klay Thompson, who is not far behind.

When Kevin Durant decided to join the Splash Brothers last summer, the Warriors added another one of the league’s best shooters. A career 38% three-point shooter (though on a high number of attempts), Durant may not be as consistent a spot-up shooter as Curry or Thompson, but his arsenal of offensive moves in the midrange and off the dribble is practically unparalleled. Oh, and he can also hit clutch shots on the biggest stage.

Despite featuring these three marksmen, the Warriors decided to add more shooting this offseason. Their two veteran additions this summer, Nick Young and Omri Casspi, are proven shooters that can theoretically defend multiple positions.

Let’s delve into why the Warriors diagnosed bench shooting as an area of need this offseason.

Why do the Warriors need more shooting?

Beyond Curry, Thompson and Durant, the Warriors simply didn’t have many three-point shooters. The next best long-range threat was Ian Clark, who couldn’t hold a consistent spot in the rotation and saw his role diminish in the playoffs. The only other player who shoots above the league average of 35.8% is Andre Iguodala, who is still fairly inconsistent and doesn’t shoot very many threes anyways.

Compare the Warriors’ 2016-2017 roster to their 2015-2016 roster; despite not yet acquiring Kevin Durant, the earlier team had far more shooting from their supporting cast. Marreese Speights, Leandro Barbosa, Harrison Barnes and Brandon Rush, who were all above league average from long range, left the team during the 2016 offseason. Draymond Green shot 38% from three in 2015 as well, compared to 30% in 2016. Considering his earlier seasons, Draymond Green’s true shooting ability is likely closer to his performance last season than his performance two years ago.

The Warriors’ starting lineup won’t have any problems with spacing, but the bench units often do. If any combination of Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and David West are on the floor, the Warriors have had to rely on playing Thompson, Durant, or both in order to space the floor.

With Young and Casspi in tow, the Warriors won’t have to play their stars to have adequate spacing on the floor. This will allow them to rest their stars more in the regular season and allow for some creative lineups in the postseason.

Nick Young

A jokester known more for his antics than his on-court play, Young quietly had a comeback year under former Warriors coach Luke Walton in 2016. He’s a classic wing who, at 32 years of age, is a little older than one might think.

He’s a career 37.6% three point shooter and shot 40.4% last year — a very good rate. He also shot a lot of threes; he shot almost 10 threes per 36 minutes, comprising two-thirds of his total shots. He was assisted on 90% of his threes.

He’s no longer the high-usage chucker from his youth. For the Warriors’ offense, he’ll be a valuable spot-up-shooter that will slot in immediately as Thompson’s backup. Hopefully, he’ll be able to retain his focus and efficiency from last year.

Omri Casspi

Casspi is a tall small forward that will definitely get time at power forward this year. He had a poor season last year, dealing with a fractured thumb on his shooting hand. He shot 34.9% from three, though on far fewer attempts than previous years.

In the 2015 and 2016 seasons, however, Casspi was one of the most dangerous long-range shooters in the game. He shot 40% from three both seasons, on high volume as well. You might remember him going toe-to-toe with Stephen Curry in a scintillating shootout in 2015. Notice how far away from the three-point-line some of his shots are.

Hopefully, Casspi will be healthy this season. If so, he’ll be a deadly stretch-four, decent defender and smart passer for the Dubs.

What can we expect from them?

The Warriors last year were fairly sparse at the wing position; other than Iguodala, Patrick McCaw was the only reliable bench wing come playoff time and even he was an inconsistent rookie.

With McCaw’s expected sophomore improvement and the addition of Young and Casspi, there will be far more talent on the wing. Expect Young to split his minutes between the two and the three, while Casspi will mostly play the four.

Nicholas Sciria created an interesting “Spacing Rating” calculator that estimates the percentile rating of any lineup the user inputs. The Warriors have so many lineups with excellent spacing. For example, a lineup with Curry, Thompson, Young, Durant and Green grades as one of the best lineups for spacing league-wide. Imagine running a fast break with four elite shooters picking their spots along the arc. This group would be a horror to defend.

The Warriors decided that they were set at the center position and had enough defense on the wing this offseason. With these extra shooters, the Warriors hope to open up the offensive playbook via better spacing, especially in their bench-heavy lineups.

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