Some, like ESPN NBA analyst Bobby Marks, don’t think the Warriors will be a playoff team next year. Others see the Los Angeles Lakers as the team to beat in the West, especially after the franchise cleared enough cap space to add a third superstar to the two they already have in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Yet a quick look at Golden State’s offseason shows it would be silly to count the Warriors out of contending for another title in 2020.
Steph Curry, a two-time MVP and six-time all-NBA selection, and Draymond Green, the 2017 defensive player of the year and five-time all-defensive team selection, aren’t going anywhere. And after accounting for teammates and opponents faced those two ranked No. 2 and No. 5 at their positions, respectively, in 2018-19 according to ESPN’s real plus-minus metric.
Since Green was drafted in 2012, he and Curry have shared 10,837 minutes of court time during the regular season, outscoring opponents by 16 net points per 100 possessions. In the 2,054 minutes that Curry and Green were on the court without either Thompson or Durant, the Warriors outscored opponents by 11.9 net points per 100 possessions. To put that in perspective, the Milwaukee Bucks led the league in net rating last year after outscoring opponents by 8.6 net points per 100 possessions.
They will be joined by 23-year-old all-star D’Angelo Russell, acquired from the Brooklyn Nets in a sign-and-trade earlier this week. At first blush Russell’s fit with the team appears to be problematic — he is a ball-dominant guard who held the ball for over six seconds per possession in 2018-19, almost two seconds more per touch than Curry did for Golden State — but his ability to operate as a spot-up shooter (1.1 points per possession, 82nd percentile) is an asset if he can make the adjustment to playing more off the ball.
Plus, look for Russell and center Willie Cauley-Stein, who will reportedly sign “for something slightly above the minimum salary,” to give Coach Steve Kerr another pick-and-roll option when Curry and Green are on the bench. The Warriors used the pick-and-roll ballhandler and roll man play types on just 11 percent (league low) and 4 percent (second lowest) of their possessions, respectively, in 2018-19 but figure to ramp that up in the coming year.
Part of what appealed to the Warriors about Willie Cauley-Stein, I'm told, is his pick-and-roll ability. Personnel will force them to run more this upcoming season. WCS can operate up top with both Steph Curry and -- especially when Curry/Draymond sit -- D'Angelo Russell.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) July 2, 2019
Russell was able to create his own offense off the dribble in the pick and roll and get the ball to open teammates, especially those cutting (1.3 points per possessions) to the basket. Cauley-Stein, meanwhile, scored more than half the time (59 percent) as the roll man for the Sacramento Kings last season.
The Warriors also reached a deal to re-sign center Kevon Looney. In May, Kerr told NBC Sports that Looney was “one of our foundational pieces” after the 23-year-old scored 12 points and had 14 rebounds, one steal and one block in the team’s Game 4 win over the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals. Veteran small forward Glenn Robinson III will also suit up for Golden State. Robinson had an off year shooting behind the three-point line last season (29 percent), but he converted over 38 percent of his shots from behind the arc from 2014-15 to 2017-18, illustrating the talent is there.
Taking all the offseason moves into account and using a reasonable timeline for Thompson’s recovery, estimated to be between five and seven months, next year’s Warriors could be expected to outscore opponents by four or five points per 100 possessions, a mark good enough to put them among the top five teams in the West. Perhaps that doesn’t make them as strong of a surefire title contender as we have seen in year’s past, but it is certainly high enough that no one should dismiss their chances, either.