The beginning of the NBA regular season is just over one week away. The Golden State Warriors are the defending champions not just because of their incredible starting lineup, but the depth they boast on their bench.
The returning cast of reserves looks similar to last season, with a couple key additions. Here is what the second unit is projected to look like.
He is the undisputed glue that not only consolidates the reserves but perhaps the entire squad. When Iguodala accepted Steve Kerr’s concept of him coming off the bench a couple years ago, it set in motion a culture of collective sacrifice and selflessness. A player of Iguodala’s stature is not often asked to exit a starting lineup. This guy was an All-Star, Olympian, and not too far removed from being a marquee player in this league. At the expense of some well-deserved exposure, Iguodala’s transformation into a 6th man extraordinaire will perhaps be able to prolong his career. Now well into his 30s, Iguodala doesn’t have the wear and tear other former stars have had to combat as they approach the twilight of their playing days. Lengthy playoff runs aside, the role has kept Iguodala relatively fresh. In fact, the Warriors were confident enough to reward the 2015 Finals MVP with a 3 year, $48 million deal this offseason. Iguodala’s skills as a defender and facilitator make him invaluable to this team. The small forward averaged 7.6 points per game, 4.0 rebounds per game, 3.4 assists per game, and 1.0 steals per game last season, with numbers eerily similar to the prior season. The Warriors can rest assured that Iguodala will bring veteran leadership and do a little bit of everything out on the court.
It’s miraculous that Livingston even played basketball at a high level after his horrific knee injury years ago. He never became the star that many projected he would become due to that setback, but being a critical piece for multiple championship teams is something most players can only aspire towards. Livingston is a matchup nightmare for opposing teams. As a 6’7’’ point guard, he usually towers over his defender. He can back them down, and pull up for a midrange jumper at will. On defense, his versatility is also a huge asset for the Warriors. He can defend three positions, and his basketball IQ is off the charts. Entering free agency this offseason, many expected Livingston to bolt for a larger payday, but the Warriors were able to retain him with a 3 year, $24 million deal. He averaged 5.1 points per game, 2.0 rebounds per game, and 1.8 assists per game last season. The lengthy Livingston will continue to serve as a crucial weapon that Kerr can deploy to cause fits for opposing teams.
He has his moments of sheer lunacy, but the talent has always been there. Last season, the Warriors boldly signed JaVale McGee, another player whose mental lapses evoked eye-rolls and facepalms. That signing was a gigantic success, and this team has proven to possess an engulfing culture of accountability and stability that any player can thrive under. Nobody has ever questioned Young’s ability as a scorer. He shot a career-best 40.4% on 3-pointers last season while starting another career-best 60 games for the Los Angeles Lakers. The Warriors signed him to a 1 year, $5.19 million deal this offseason to serve as an explosive scoring presence off the bench. This shooting guard can be inserted to provide a spark on offense, and will greatly benefit from playing alongside teammates who know it takes to win. Young averaged 13.2 points per game last season in 25.9 minutes. He would have ranked 5th on the Warriors last season in points per 48 minutes. They’ll utilize that scoring prowess.
After sacrificing so much money to sign with the San Antonio Spurs a couple seasons ago to try to fulfill the dream of winning an NBA championship, West finally got his elusive ring last season as a bruising presence off the bench for the Warriors. He correctly assessed that the Warriors were closer to a championship than the Spurs were, so he signed with them, and quickly became a crucial component of the second unit. Beyond just an intimidating aura, West is still a talented player at age 37. He’s a solid defender and rebounder and has a deadly jumper 16-20 ft. away from the hoop. His Defensive Rebound Percentage of 18.8 last season was very close to his 19.2 total that he accumulated over 8 seasons of his prime with the Hornets. He also shot a remarkable 51.0% on shots between 16 ft. and the 3-point line last season. That precision made the absence of Marresse Speights easier to digest for Warriors fans. West re-signed with the Warriors this past offseason for 1 year, $2.3 million. When push comes to shove, there are not many players more ferocious than this power forward.
The reclamation project was a resounding success. McGee essentially saved his career by serving as a high-flying rim protector and alley-oop finisher for the Warriors last season, after a career that was previously defined by inclusions on blooper reels. It was hard to take McGee’s crazy athleticism as seriously as it merited when all too often it was followed by an errant pass out of bounds to nobody or running the wrong way on the court. The Warriors had a simple message for him: block shots and finish easy baskets near the hoop. While sharing the court with transcendent teammates, it’s comforting to have the security of only having to focus on what comes most naturally to you. McGee might serve as the best example for the rest of the complimentary players in the NBA of what playing for this squad can do for your career. McGee has a wingspan of 7’6.5’’, which is combined with a freakish leaping ability to make McGee an elite shot blocker. He didn’t qualify based on time played for the Block Percentage title, but of those who did qualify, Rudy Gobert had the highest percentage at 6.4%. McGee registered a 7.1%. Let that sink in for a moment. Very few centers possess the raw explosiveness of McGee, and the anxiety from the last offseason that the Warriors would not have a reliable rim protector sounds laughable in hindsight.
Another new acquisition for the Warriors, Casspi signed a 1 year, $2.1 million contract this offseason. After being drafted by the Sacramento Kings in 2009, he became the first Israeli to play in the NBA. Casspi was involved in the blockbuster trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans from the Kings last season. However, Casspi would ultimately play just 1 game for the Pelicans, as he broke his right thumb in his Pelicans debut. It derailed what might have been a successful stint, as Casspi scored 12 points in that contest. Just five days after the trade, the Pelicans waived Casspi, after the initial diagnosis revealed he’d be sidelined 4-6 weeks. Nearly a month later, he was signed by the Minnesota Timberwolves. He played 13 games for them. For the entirety of the 2016-2017 season, he averaged 5.2 points per game in 36 games. The Warriors are hoping he can bring excellent perimeter shooting to the team. During his last two full seasons with the Kings, he shot 40.2% and 40.9% from 3-point range. The Warriors would love that production from a stretch-4 like Casspi.
When Jerry West issues a proclamation warning that teams around the league will regret passing on a player, people tend to perk up. McCaw had typical growing pains a rookie will likely experience upon entering the NBA, but it’s evident that he has an immense amount of potential. McCaw is a solid defender and really had an opportunity to grow as a player after Kevin Durant’s sprained MCL last season. McCaw was inserted into the starting lineup for much of Durant’s absence, and that can fairly be credited with allowing McCaw to get more comfortable with the team. There were multiple playoff games during the Warriors’ run to the championship where McCaw really shined, and it could be an indication of what’s to come. There were moments where McCaw looked hesitant to assert himself on offense last season, often passing up open perimeter jumpers to dish to a teammate. However, it’s not easy for a rookie to feel confident pulling the trigger while surrounded by teammates who’re proven to be elite NBA scorers. It will be fascinating to witness the strides McCaw makes next season. The future looks bright for this youthful shooting guard.