Don’t Underestimate the New-Look Warriors

Golden State’s dynasty might have ended at the hands of Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors, but even if the Warriors would have hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June, this was always going to be a critical summer for the Dubs.

They would either retain their star-powered core for the foreseeable future or be forced to make tough decisions, and the devastating injuries that then-impending free agents Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson suffered during Golden State’s latest NBA Finals run made it clear that the Warriors’ roster was about to undergo serious changes.

Once free agency hit, the Warriors secured Thompson on a five-year, $190 million deal and tried to do the same for KD. Golden State offered Durant a five-year maximum contract, even though he’s expected to miss the entirety of next season, but he chose to sign with the Nets, making Brooklyn one of the early free agency winners. On the bright side for Golden State, they were able to execute a sign-and-trade agreement that allowed them to get value back on Durant.

In the same sign-and-trade, the Dubs acquired All-Star D’Angelo Russell, who ended up inking a four-year, $117 million deal with the Warriors. It’s unclear whether Golden State will hold onto him long-term, but Russell helps keep the team afloat during Thompson’s absence.

Russell struggled early in his NBA career, but burst onto the scene last year with the Nets.

D’Angelo Russell Splits Points Assists Rebounds FG % 3-point %
First Three Seasons (2 in Los Angeles, 1 in Brooklyn) 14.3 4.6 3.6 40.9 34.4
2018-19 Season (Brooklyn) 21.1 7.0 3.9 43.4 36.9

 

In a full season as Brooklyn’s starting point guard, Russell took complete control of the Nets’ offense. His assist rate improved and his turnover percentage decreased, helping the Nets jump six points in points per game and two points in offensive rating. Russell also generated a career-high 1,322 points off assists last season.

His midrange game took a major leap with him hitting 50.4 percent of his attempts from 10-16 feet from the basket, according to basketball-reference.com. This helped him attack defenses off the dribble and create more efficient opportunities in pick-and-roll situations.

No one knows how Russell will fit with the Warriors, but his shooting ability allows Golden State to run an offense similar to the one that Warriors fans are accustomed to seeing. Russell’s overall efficiency should climb, and at 6-5, his size will allow him to impact passing lanes despite his overall struggles on the defensive end of the court.

Most importantly, Russell is a 23-year-old All-Star, and if the Warriors eventually decide to trade him — which now sounds likely according to The New York Times‘ Marc Stein — they’ll receive valuable assets that will soften the blow from the loss of players like Durant, Andre Iguodala and DeMarcus Cousins (if he doesn’t re-sign with Golden State).

And in an underrated move, Golden State retained center Kevon Looney on a three-year, $15 million deal. That’s a great price point for a player who gave the Warriors significant minutes while battling through injury down the stretch during the Finals. With Jordan Bell agreeing to a deal with the Timberwolves, it was important for Golden State to have a familiar center on board.

Moving forward, Looney’s play during the 2019 postseason gives Golden State reason to be optimistic. While he’s not expected to produce 20 points and 10 rebounds every game, he can consistently make an impact on the glass in the Warriors’ scheme.

Keep in mind that his playoff numbers slightly dropped due to Cousins’ return to the lineup.

Kevon Looney Splits Minutes Rebounds Defensive Rebound % Offensive Rebound %
2018-19 Regular Season 18.5 5.2 13.3 12.6
2018-19 Postseason 20.5 4.5 11.4 10.2

 

With the Warriors also adding Willie Cauley-Stein and Glenn Robinson in free agency, expect for Golden State to still be a contender in the post-Durant era. Russell will add offensive firepower as Thompson works to return from his injury, while Looney provides familiarity to a Golden State roster that’s preparing to navigate through a competitive regular season for the first time in half a decade.

It’s evident that Golden State is entering a new era in San Francisco, but the team’s central core remains intact from its Oakland days, which is why the Warriors’ championship window isn’t closing anytime soon.

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