If you’ve lived in a cave the last few years, you have missed out on a great run by the Golden State Warriors. They have been in 4 straight NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, winning 3 of the 4 series. As the cherry on top, they swept the Cavs 4-0 in last year’s Finals. In short, they were dominant despite a near superhuman effort by LeBron James to keep his team in games. Golden State has become my favorite NBA team to watch over the past few seasons. Great shooting, timely gritty defense, and a self assured (cocky?) attitude that they’re just better than you makes them very entertaining to watch.
Once again in 2018-19 the Warriors are the odds on favorites to emerge from a very competitive Western Conference. They have an incredibly talented roster, particularly in their starting 5. It starts with 2x MVP and 5x All-NBA point guard Stephen Curry. He’s the stick that stirs their drink. Last season he missed nearly 6 weeks with a MCL sprain in his left knee. This shifted some added weight onto the other Warriors players, and they were ready to meet that challenge. In particular former Seattle Supersonic Kevin Durant filled the gap above and beyond the already fantastic level of play he was providing. Both Curry and Durant finished the regular season averaging 26.4 points per game. Durant upped it to 29 ppg in the playoffs and won his second consecutive Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award.
Following the NBA Finals, Durant turned down his player option on a $27.7 million player option and signed with Golden State for less money, allowing the Warriors to add another big name player in DeMarcus Cousins. While this is a boon for the Warriors short term, it has led to speculation that Durant may be keeping his options open to move south to LA to team up with LeBron James on the Lakers after this season.
The second pair of stars on Golden State’s roster would be Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Thompson remained his steady reliable self averaging 20 ppg in the regular season and 19.6 ppg in the playoffs. Green continued with his love it or hate it roll as the emotional leader for the team, as well as leading the team in rebounding and assists. When Kevin Durant was added to GSW, there was a lot of talk about where his points etc. would come from. As we have seen over the past two seasons, Green has been the one who has given some touches over to Durant. Green is not one to complain about that, and has continued his efforts at constant disruption of the opponent and intensity while he is on the floor. Green is widely regarded as one of the best and most versatile defenders in the NBA. Something interesting to keep track of for this upcoming season will be how much Green is called on to fill the Center role for GSW until DeMarcus Cousins is able to play again. What impact will that wear and tear have on him?
The big off-season news for the Warriors was the signing of DeMarcus Cousins. In theory this gives coach Steve Kerr the best roster he’s had yet. In theory. Cousins tore his left Achilles on January 26th in a game against the Houston Rockets. Within a few days he had surgery to repair that and has been hard at work rehabbing with a projected return somewhere in January 2019. Cousins has spoken extensively with Kobe Bryant who also went through a similar injury and return to the NBA. Cousins game is less predicated on explosive moves than Bryant’s was, so that should be in his favor for how it might impact his game. The potential concern is that Cousins is significantly bigger than Bryant physically, and historically the track record on lower leg/foot injuries on big men is very concerning. But by signing Cousins to $5.3 million for a 1 year deal, Golden State was able to hedge their bet a bit and have an advantage moving forward with Cousins if he returns to form.
Cousins was #2 in the NBA last season in technical fouls per game. GSW already had Green at #4 per game (#2 in total techs) and Durant at #13 per game (#6 total). It will be interesting to follow if and what impact this might have on the team. Will DMC’s total come down playing with a better roster? Will he and Green take the focus a bit off of each other and reduce both players totals? And how will Steve Kerr handle all of this?
Reports thus far are that Cousins has meshed very well with his new teammates. He mentioned last week “That just to put it out there, my favorite by far is Klay,” in responding about how he likes his new teammates. He also went out of his way to mention that he clicked right away with Green, which is likely the key player in that locker room he’ll need to get along with.
Golden State’s bench has changed significantly this off season, with the loss of a lot of NBA experience - particularly with the retirement of David West. Why does this matter? Curry, Durant and Iguodala missed sizable stretches. 4 straight years of playing in the finals is a lot of extra miles on bodies. Cousins will miss a large chunk to begin the season and will be slowly ramped up when he does return. Coach Steve Kerr will have a challenge in balancing minutes and maximizing productivity if he wants to reach the playoffs with anything remaining in the tank.
My prediction? Golden State comes up short to Houston in the Western Conference Finals. And I’m saying that without knowing where Jimmy Butler will land. But either way, I’ll be cheering for them as my adopted favorite team until the Sonics return!