Many Golden State Warriors fans remember one particular regular season game against the Sacramento Kings on December 28, 2015, when Steph Curry had an entertaining lights-out duel with the Israeli gunslinger, Omri Casspi. This writer certainly does, and it was one of the most memorable shooting duels in recent memory.
During the last three minutes of the second quarter, Curry and Casspi exchanged a flurry of 3-point baskets, as if they had a non-verbal agreement to merely chuck up shots from beyond the line to see who was the better shooter. Although Curry is without question the much better player, Casspi proved that he was no slouch, and showed that he could keep up with the greatest shooter of all time.
Casspi closed out the quarter by hitting four threes, while Curry himself finished the half by making six shots, five of them being threes. It’s rare that a player can match Curry in terms of shooting in a single game; names such as Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, and even his Splash Brother, Klay Thompson, have been some of the players who have proven their worth in shooting displays against him (or alongside him, in Thompson’s case). Even if it was for only one game, Casspi will always be included in that revered list.
A Quality Acquisition...on Paper
Fast forward to July 12, 2017, when Casspi was signed by the Warriors to a one-year deal for the minimum salary. He thus joined the ranks of ring-chasing veterans who turned down more lucrative deals for a chance at a championship with the Warriors, as proven by the fact that he apparently turned down a one-year, $4.5 million offer from a lottery team before joining the Warriors.
As soon as the signing was announced, Warriors fans rejoiced at the thought of adding another deadly shooter to the plethora of snipers the team already possessed. It was envisioned that Casspi would replace the shooting of Ian Clark, who had departed for the New Orleans Pelicans. Additionally, Casspi’s length (6’9”) and decent defensive skills were expected to be boosts, traits that Clark lacked.
While Casspi did have spells of quality minutes, injuries and lack of consistent contribution proved to be his downfall. He was active off the ball, an excellent cutter, and was a shooting threat from the perimeter...or so he was in theory. He struggled all season long to find consistency in his shot, which resulted in his shooting confidence taking a nosedive. He would often find himself wide open on the perimeter, only to decide to put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket, or to kick the ball out to one of his teammates. This was clearly not the Casspi that was brimming with confidence against Curry in their duel.
When Casspi was asked why he wasn’t taking more 3-point shots, he alluded that it wasn’t simply a reason of lack of confidence, according to an article by Marc Stein of the New York Times.
“It’s a little bit more complicated than what people think,” Casspi said. “I had a lot of early success with cutting and moving without the ball within our flow and maybe got in love with it a little bit, but when something’s working and you play 12 minutes and you have 12 points, it’s hard to say, ‘Hey, let’s just shoot 3s.’”
“Forcing shots has never been my game. I talked to Steve about it several times, and he always said, ‘Keep playing the way you’re playing.’”
In 53 games for the Warriors, Casspi averaged 5.7 points on 58% shooting, with 3.8 rebounds and 1.0 assist in 14 minutes of playing time per game. Although he averaged 45.5% on threes, he took only 22 3-point attempts all season long, translating to 0.4 3-point attempts per game, far lower than what was expected of him. On a team that sorely needed 3-point shooting from the bench, it was simply unacceptable for him to suddenly become gun-shy.
Casspi had also been sidelined with a sprained right ankle, and missed his final ten games with the team. His value to the team up to that point had been his off-ball mobility and cutting, and sustaining an ankle injury virtually took that value away.
The Warriors had a tough decision to make as the playoffs were approaching. Their backcourt depth was lacking, with Curry being out with a sprained left MCL and Patrick McCaw sidelined with a spinal injury. Both were not expected to be back until at least the first round of the playoffs, perhaps even the start of the second round.
In their absence, Quinn Cook proved to be a solid backup guard for the Warriors, averaging 14.7 points on 50% shooting, 4.0 assists, and 3.5 rebounds in 32 minutes as a starter. It was clear to the Warriors that they would be choosing Cook to bolster their backcourt depth going into the playoffs.
The Warriors have waived Omri Casspi.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) April 8, 2018
And thus, on April 7, 2018, the Warriors waived Casspi, ending their relationship with a player who brought a mixed bag of results. Consistency going into the playoffs is a huge factor for a team gunning for their second straight title, and he had simply not proven to be consistent all year long.
Casspi will still get his championship ring, should he decide to accept it. Despite his up-and-down season, he still made sufficient contributions that helped the Warriors during their tough regular season grind.
But Warriors fans cannot help but wonder what might have been. What if the Casspi that went toe-to-toe with Stephen Curry was the Casspi the Warriors got? All of that is left to imagination, and in the end, it did not matter — the Warriors still got their championship.
Farewell, Omri. Warriors fans wish you luck at your new home with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Free agent forward Omri Casspi has agreed to a one-year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 1, 2018
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