The Golden State Warriors made a fair share of moves this offseason, and it’s hard to argue with any of them. The return of Andre Iguodala? Who could hate on that? Nemanja Bjelica? A proven quality stretch big who is a dream fit in the Dubs’ offense. Otto Porter Jr.? A low-risk addition that could be the steal of the offseason.
And even if you wanted the Warriors to trade their draft picks in a deal that never materialized, it’s hard to quibble with who they selected — especially after watching Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody at Summer League.
But many were waiting for the Dubs to sign a center. And as we watched the new additions sign — and as a result, the open roster spots dwindle — it became clear it wasn’t going to happen.
They didn’t add a veteran option like Robin Lopez or JaVale McGee. They didn’t reunite with Marquese Chriss. They didn’t draft a big man. There weren’t even rumors of anything happening.
And while they do still have a roster spot to play with, that spot seems destined to end up with either Mychal Mulder or Gary Payton II.
So they’ll move forward with just two centers: Kevon Looney and James Wiseman.
On paper that’s a touch scary.
Looney is a very strong player, but last year’s 19 minutes per game represented a career high, and he’s missed 56 games over the last two years to injury. Wiseman missed nearly half of his rookie season with injuries, has missed the entire offseason rehabbing, and graded out as one of the worst players in the NBA a year ago.
Not exactly inspiring confidence, am I?
But again: there wasn’t so much as a rumor of the Dubs adding a center in the offseason. Moving forward without a third center isn’t a side effect; it’s the design.
So why? Three main reasons, it seems.
Reason 1: Nemanja Bjelica
If we’re looking at things traditionally, Bjelica is a power forward. He’s 6’10” and not incredibly strong. He has a career blocked shots average of 0.4 per game, and he’s better at shooting threes than at rebounding.
But the Warriors are not a traditional team. Bjelica is every bit the center that, say, Marreese Speights was, only with a much better shot. The Dubs will sacrifice some rim protection playing him at the five, but they’ll more than make up for it with the floor spacing that he provides.
Reason 2: Small ball
The Warriors reminded themselves of how well they play small ball last year, with many of their best lineups featuring either Draymond Green or Juan Toscano-Anderson manning the middle. With JTA proving last year that he deserved not just a guaranteed contract, but an every day role as well, the Warriors will surely be quick to turn to small ball.
Porter helps here, as well. At 6’8” and with a 7’1” wingspan, plus a three-point shot that has gone in 40.2% of the time in his career, Porter is everything you want in a power forward next to a small ball center. Porter might play small forward in more traditional lineups, but he’s a dream four next to Green, Toscano-Anderson, or Bjelica.
The Warriors have been hesitant to commit to small ball in the past, as they haven’t wanted Green to take too much of a physical punishment. But with Toscano-Anderson proving to be an asset there, it seems we’ll see Golden State turn to that option with regularity.
Reason 3: Kevon Freaking Looney
Yes, Looney has some injury history. But that’s the only stain on a resume that is otherwise severely under-appreciated.
He’s good, and he’s been a constant on most of the Warriors best lineups. If he’s healthy, what role is there for a backup center? The Warriors would rather play Green, JTA, or Bjelica in that role, and probably would like to save a few minutes for Wiseman as well. They weren’t going to be able to tell a McGee type that there were 15-20 backup minutes to be had, and no one noteworthy was going to sign for a role that only exists if Looney gets injured.
Could this come back to bite them? Perhaps. But while they’re lacking in traditional centers, they don’t seem to be hurting for high quality options at the five.