The Golden State Warriors have been the envy of the NBA the last five years. After a horrible 2020 season, the Warriors need to address a few issues before they can expect to be the talk of the league once again.
The big picture: With the Warriors offseason beginning at its earliest in five years, what does the team need to address in the offseason?
The Warriors’ defense needs work
Since winning the their first championship in 40 years in 2015, the Warriors have been steadily declining in defensive rating. Defensive rating is defined as the amount of points a team allows per 100 possessions. In 2015, the Warriors ranked 1st in the league while in 2019, they ranked 13th.
Typically, teams that win the NBA championship are top-five in both offensive and defensive rating. The Warriors have been able to win championships even with subpar defense because of how strong their offense is – they were top-five in offensive rating the last five years.
Now, with Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant gone and with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green injured for extended periods of time, the Warriors’ defense was bad.
- In 2020, the Warriors ranked 26th in defensive rating.
- The Warriors net rating – how well they performed – was -8.6, worst in the league.
- They allowed opponents to shoot 47% – eighth-worst – from the field and almost 39% from 3-point land, worst in the league.
That said, these stats have to be taken with a grain of salt considering the Warriors lineup consisted of rookies and unproven players. As Thompson and Green returns and Andrew Wiggins is integrated into their defensive schemes, expect the Warriors to be in the top half of the league, at the very least.
Filling out Golden State’s roster
As it stands, the Warriors have 13 players signed. Of those 13, eight are guaranteed and the rest are partially guaranteed. It’s highly unlikely that some of the players with partially-guaranteed contracts will make it to the main roster next year.
That in mind, the Warriors need to add depth behind Wiggins at small forward. Currently, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damion Lee back up Wiggins, if the Warriors keep him. However, those two are 6-foot-6 and are more fit to be shooting guards than small forwards.
Here are five unrestricted free agent small forwards the Warriors can focus on:
- Danilo Gallinari: An oft-injured player, Gallinari has the size (6-foot-10) to play three positions. Not the best defender, he is a fantastic shooter if he can stay on the floor.
- Evan Turner: The former second overall pick back in 2010, he’s not a shooter but he does everything decent. At 6-foot-7, he has the size to be an adequate defender.
- Moe Harkless: A lengthy defender, Harkless needs to improve his shooting. He’s the prototypical back-up small forward.
- Jae Crowder: Crowder is the type of player the Warriors need. A hard-nosed defender, his ability to hit timely 3-pointers is valuable.
- Josh Jackson: Only 23, the former fourth overall pick makes for an interesting addition. A good defensive player, his shooting needs to improve across the board
Though Thompson has the size to play small forward, that isn’t his natural position. Add the fact that he’s coming off an ACL injury, it makes sense for him to stay as the shooting guard, regardless whether he starts or comes off the bench.
Free agent big men the Warriors can pursue
Apart from often-sidelined Kevon Looney, the Warriors don’t have a true center on the squad. Green and Marquese Chriss can play center and Eric Paschall and Alen Smailagic are on the team. But, the former two can only play center in spot minutes and the latter two are too inexperienced for extended minutes, especially since Looney figures to be a rotational piece.
Here are five centers the Warriors could add in 2020:
- Hassan Whiteside: At 31, Whiteside could help the Warriors tremendously on defense. His effort and focus can be questionable at times, though, and he probably won’t be looking for anything less than semi-max contract.
- Bismack Biyombo: A former lottery pick, Biyombo is an incredibly athletic center. Undersized, Biyombo uses his athleticism on defense and is best used in spurts.
- Tristan Thompson: A frequent double-double machine, Thompson’s defensive versatility made him invaluable against the Warriors in 2016. He’s a rim-runner and pick-and-roller on offense.
- Marc Gasol: The 35-year-old Gasol is showing signs of slowing down. That said, the 2019 champion is still an effective defensive player and can shoot at a decent clip.
- Alex Len: Another former lottery pick, Len has the size (7-foot) to be an effective defender. At 27, Len is improving his 3-point shooting, something that can help in Golden State.
An important thing to note with the players listed, they can play two positions. Whichever player the Warriors are able to sign, it should give head coach Steve Kerr the flexibility to tinker with a variety of lineups depending on the matchups.
The bottom line: The Warriors don’t have to make major changes
Overall, the Warriors defense is what needs the most work. With Stephen Curry and Thompson coming back from injury, Green being an offensive liability and Wiggins needing to improve his shot selection, the Warriors need to have a competent defensive makeup. There’s no doubt that Thompson and Green are All-Defensive caliber players, but Curry was never the best defender and Wiggins’ defensive focus tends to wander.
If the Warriors get any of the aforementioned players, the Warriors know they have solid rotational players that can either shoot, defend or both. In a 3-point-heavy league, being able to defend the 3-point line and shoot behind said line is key and acquiring any of those players can undoubtably help Golden State.
In all, the Warriors don’t have to completely overhaul the roster or change their defensive philosophies. Instead, adding a few pieces here and there can vault the Warriors up the standings.