It’s well known that Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are two of the greatest shooters of all time. Kevin Durant is not far behind them. But despite their excellence at the top, the Warriors have struggled in recent years to find supplementary shooting to give their stars some breathing room.
Having a few shooters to hit open shots would do wonders for an already dangerous Golden State offense: it would give more space for the Warriors’ stars to attack the rim, punish double teams, and allow them to play at faster pace. But the Warriors’ bench unit was the least productive in the league at hitting threes last year, and it frustrates the way Steve Kerr wants to run his offense.
Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, and Patrick McCaw have regressed as shooters, all three well below league average. Shaun Livingston doesn’t shoot threes, and neither Jordan Bell nor Kevon Looney project to be floor spacers. Jacob Evans is just a rookie, and adjusting to the NBA three point line can be a challenge. Although the Warriors’ best role players can do a lot on both ends of the floor, no wonder shooting is a problem.
The Warriors brought in Omri Casspi and Nick Young to shoot the ball last year, and neither acquisition was a true success. Casspi refused to shoot threes, and was cut. Young shot well for the Warriors, but he was quite a liability defensively, often falling asleep off-ball and frequently out-of-shape.
Luckily, the Warriors found a gem in Quinn Cook during last season. Originally on a two-way contract with the Warriors, he was elevated to the regular roster late in the season, essentially replacing Casspi. With all four All-Stars missing time due to injury, Cook proved to be one of the Warriors’ best shotcreators. He hit an outstanding 44% of his threes during the regular season on decent volume. I don’t think he’ll continue that level of efficiency next season, but he’ll be counted on again this season for spacing and playmaking off the bench.
This offseason, the Warriors added two good shooters in DeMarcus Cousins and Jonas Jerebko. Jerebko will hopefully be what the Warriors tried to get out of Casspi: a versatile, smart player who can stretch the floor. Jerebko hit 41% of his threes last season, and if he can stay on the floor defensively, will be a valuable role player this season.
DeMarcus Cousins, the Warriors’ big free-agent acquisition this summer, is difficult to project in the Warriors’ plans because of his Achilles injury. However, I do expect Cousins to shoot well for the Warriors. He shot 35% from three last year with the Pelicans on high volume, and many of those were off-the-dribble or closely contested. With the Warriors, he should be able to get open looks much more easily.
So in Cook, Jerebko, and Cousins, the Warriors have some decent shooters to surround their stars, probably a better situation than last year. However, none of them are wings, which is probably the area of most need for the Warriors, and all three have questions about their ability to play playoff defense. If the Warriors face another elite opponent like Houston last year, they may fall into the same situation with little auxiliary shooting.
However, even if the Warriors don’t solve their outside shooting woes, they’ll be able to make their offense work with their strong playmaking, elite star talent, and elaborate screening schemes. At the very least, the Warriors have the luxury of an entire regular season to figure out which lineups work and which don’t.