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Warriors Season Preview: How will the shooting guard rotation shake out?

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Klay Thompson is one of the best shooting guards in the league, but behind him, the Warriors have questions.

NBA: Finals-Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

At the shooting guard position, Klay Thompson is key to the Golden State Warriors’ brand of basketball. A deadeye shooter with impressive defensive skills, Thompson is a low-maintenance star: he doesn’t need the ball in his hands to have an impact, and doesn’t mind being a secondary option on a winning team. He almost never misses games due to injury, and is a hilarious locker room character. Even to this day, he is under-appreciated.

But behind him, the Warriors have questions. Patrick McCaw hasn’t signed his qualifying offer yet, and there is a chance he isn’t on the roster this season. The only other “2” on the roster is Jacob Evans, a rookie. The Warriors will likely need Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala to play spend some time at shooting guard this season.

The Warriors sorely needed wings last playoffs when Andre Iguodala and Patrick McCaw were out with injuries. Wing depth is still a concern heading into this season, and somebody will simply have to step up.

Klay Thompson

Klay Thompson led the Warriors in both total minutes and minutes per game last year, averaging 34.3 minutes per game, which increased to 37.8 minutes in the playoffs. He could probably sustain that this year, but due to increased rest, let’s peg Thompson for 33 minutes this season. There is nothing to worry about here.

Patrick McCaw

What is happening with McCaw? As of Monday, he hasn’t signed his qualifying offer.

This is peculiar: McCaw is the only restricted free agent yet to sign a contract, and there’s even some doubt that he’s worth the $1.7 million offer sheet. Furthermore, almost all other teams either have no cap space left or have full rosters. Possibly, McCaw doesn’t think Golden State is the best place for him to develop his skills. I think at this point, it’s likely he’s not with the team this season. If he is, expect him to play around 15 minutes a night.

Jacob Evans

The Warriors’ first round pick this year should expect rotation minutes right away. If McCaw doesn’t return, Evans will probably slot right into his place, playing around 15 minutes a game, divided between the shooting guard and small forward positions. The main questions about Evans in his rookie season should be his outside shooting and defensive awareness: can he hit open threes, and defend NBA-caliber wings? I do fear that he may have trouble contributing offensively if his shot is inconsistent.

Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala

Both veterans are a little out of position playing shooting guard, but the relative lack of wing depth means they’ll be spending time here. As explained in the point guard primer, Livingston should play around 13 minutes a game, with about half of those coming at the shooting guard spot, playing alongside Stephen Curry or Quinn Cook.

Iguodala had a terrible regular season last year, but played well in the playoffs despite missing time due to injury. This year, Coach Steve Kerr should be extra cautious with his minutes: his 25.3 minutes per game last year should be decreased. Iguodala should play around 21 minutes a game this year, mostly at the small forward position. However, he could play the 2 spot alongside Kevin Durant if Kerr wishes.

The Warriors also have a bunch of wings on their training camp roster: Alfonzo McKinnie, Danuel House Jr., Damion Lee, and Marcus Derrickson could all snag a spot on the team. If McCaw doesn’t end up re-signing, I’d expect one of these players to make the opening roster. Of this group, I’d give the slight edge to Danuel House, who showed some athleticism and defensive potential last year in Phoenix, although he’ll have to improve his offensive game.

Going forwards, the Warriors’ wing depth is still a major concern. DeMarcus Cousins and Jonas Jerebko were great value acquisitions, but neither are wings, and they won’t help unlock the best lineups the Warriors have had in previous postseason: ones with Draymond Green at center. Even if the Warriors don’t need Draymond to play center to succeed, having one more wing that can contribute on both ends would be of great help in the playoffs. Let’s hope somebody steps up to the plate.