The Golden State Warriors are the defending NBA champions and led by a strong core of veteran leadership. It’s the perfect opportunity for young players to bide their time and absorb invaluable information from teammates who’ve proven they know what it takes to win at the highest level.
Patrick McCaw is in an enviable situation. After a rookie season that featured both glimpses of brilliance along with understandable struggles, he will get more opportunities to grow as a player within a championship system.
There was a great amount of intrigue attached to the former UNLV Runnin’ Rebel almost instantly after joining the Warriors.
He was drafted 38th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks but was traded on draft night to the Warriors for cash considerations.
Without a pick in that second round, the Warriors were lurking on the periphery and ready to pounce on any prospect they envisioned playing a crucial role in the direction of their team.
Jerry West immediately sent waves of excitement throughout the fanbase when declaring that teams around the league would regret passing on McCaw (and somewhat indirectly implying the Bucks were foolish for giving him up).
McCaw shined during his Summer League performances, and hype was slowly building behind this kid that “The Logo” had already heaped so much praise upon.
West is one of the most prestigious talent evaluators in league history. An endorsement from him will always raise eyebrows around the basketball world.
McCaw certainly possesses a magnetic quality, and a viewer’s eyes are drawn to him the moment he steps onto the court.
Whether this is due more to his skill or appearance is debatable, but his unique ascetic adds to an already engrossing package.
He’s listed at 6’7’’, but the fade he rocked for part of the season probably added a couple inches. Combine that with both a distinctive headband and unusually high shorts to his rail-thin 185 LBS. frame and you’ve got a player who evokes smiles even before making a crucial defensive stop.
The defensive ability was immediately on display. His quickness and length combined with a tenacity to excel, and he ultimately carved out a niche for himself. He played in 71 games and averaged 15.1 minutes per game.
Growing Pains in His Rookie Season
Despite the positives, there were struggles along the way. It was perhaps appropriate that he was drafted by the Bucks because there were multiple occurrences last season where he looked like a dear in the headlights, particularly on offense.
It’s difficult for any new player to fit in on a team, especially a rookie that is joining a squad that had won 73 games the previous season and added Kevin Durant to an already elite roster.
A player must judiciously determine when to assert himself, and when to defer for the betterment of the team. That type of cohesion is always a work in progress, and McCaw often appeared unsure of what his role in the offense was.
There were many times last season when he seemed hesitant to leave his mark. When sharing the court with multiple stars, it’s understandable.
The ball would find its way to McCaw, and either indecision or a lack of confidence on his part impeded the quick ball movement the Warriors predicate their offense on.
Being a ball-stopper in such a high-octane offense is never a good look, and there were even times when McCaw would pause only to pass up an open jumper and feed one of his more explosive teammates. It would both disrupt the rhythm of the offense and force the team to create another scoring opportunity.
It’s a tough position for McCaw because one could certainly argue that him refusing to take an open shot allowed for a more natural scorer to create an even better scoring chance. McCaw shot just 22.2% on field goals between 16 ft. and the 3-point line, and 33.3% on 3-point field goals.
The numbers indicate that a shot by someone like Durant, Stephen Curry, or Klay Thompson is a better way to end an offensive possession, but McCaw isn’t going to evolve as a shooter unless he takes an open shot given to him.
There's a big difference between forcing a poor shot attempt and taking a rhythm jumper that was created through facilitation.
McCaw Poised for Another Season of Improvement
The occasional struggles of a young player trying to coexist with a star-studded cast should not overshadow the positive attributes McCaw brings to the team.
The Warriors signed Nick Young this offseason to replace Ian Clark, presumably envisioning Young as an instant-offense shooting guard off the bench.
Young will be the second-string shooting guard behind Thompson, which might actually cut into the minutes McCaw gets next season.
Steve Kerr has formidable weapons to deploy at that position. Young can be sent in for offense, while McCaw can be utilized more for defense.
The Young signing will allow McCaw to continue developing his offensive game, without much of a burden being placed on him to deliver points off the bench.
The playoffs last season showcased the poise that McCaw had cultivated after a regular season which had forced him into the starting lineup for most of the games that Durant missed with his MCL sprain during March and April.
He made his presence felt in game 3 of the first round against the Portland Trailblazers, scoring 11 points, grabbing 5 rebounds, dishing out 5 assists, and swiping 3 steals in the victory.
In the game 2 victory of the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, he scored 18 points while racking up 5 assists and 3 steals.
Combine those performances with the clutch baskets he scored during the clinching fifth game of the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers and it illustrates the bright future McCaw has in this league.
The Warriors look especially shrewd in acquiring him on the 2016 draft night, and another season of learning the ins and outs of the game from a brilliant coaching staff and talented players will only aid in his growth. McCaw looks like he can be the gem that West envisioned almost immediately after the Warriors acquired him.