2018-19 Season Preview: Golden State Warriors
NBA.com Global on Oct 15, 2018 02:07 PM
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant, from left, Draymond Green, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins poses for photos for the team's photographer during media day at the NBA basketball team's practice facility in Oakland, Calif., Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
By Shaun Powell, NBA.com
It’s becoming routine and fascinating at the same time. The Warriors won the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy for the second straight year and third time in four years by simply being better in all phases of the game than anyone else. Nobody matched Golden State for star power, as Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry were too much in the end. That said, the 2017-18 season wasn’t without challenges. The Warriors often looked sloppy and ... bored, maybe? Plus, Curry played only 51 games because of ankle issues, which means those haven’t gone away completely for him. In addition, the Rockets led Golden State 3-2 in the Western Conference finals before Chris Paul suffered a hamstring pull and Houston faltered. It wasn’t the only time in 2018 that Golden State would take advantage of another team’s injured star. Hello, DeMarcus Cousins.
It’s tricky to reload a team that can only absorb so many contracts, but the Warriors did it again after waving good-bye to JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia and David West ... While other teams were desperately trying to catch the Warriors, the champs distanced themselves from the hungry pack by getting Cousins. Is the 2018-19 title already in the bag? … From there, the Warriors made minor roster moves only because they had little choice, given the salary cap. … Kevin Durant re-signed and opted for another short-term deal but will look to break the bank next summer.
1. When Cousins could return remains an unknown. Cousins believes he’ll return before the holidays, but the Warriors rightfully are splashing cold water on those projections. Ideally, they’d love to keep him in the freezer until springtime and then have him use April to work his way into game shape. Either way, he’s a bonus.
2. Can Andre Iguodala can recapture some of the old magic? Plain and simple, he was mostly awful during the regular season (28.2 percent on 3-pointers), months after signing a three-year extension. Sure, maybe the Warriors don’t need him for seven months. And, if he’s solid throughout June, then who cares? Father Time paid Iguodala, 34, a nasty visit in 2017-18. Who knows if he can rev his game back up again.
3. Who’s the best player coming off the bench? Yes, this is a rather minor issue for a team with five All-Stars in the starting lineup (assuming Cousins returns to form, of course). Keep an eye on Jonas Jerebko, the latest veteran to join the Warriors on a minor contract. Jerebko, 31, is an athletic perimeter player and, therefore, a contrast to West and whatever lumbering center the Warriors trotted out in years past.
MAN ON THE SPOT
Cousins has had an awkward 2018. Eight months ago he was a perfect running mate with Anthony Davis in New Orleans, a one-two combo that seemed set for years. Then he injured his Achilles and it was a game-changer. The Pelicans, nor any other team, wanted to give him a multi-year contract. Cousins decided if he was going to only get a measly deal, he’d take it from the loaded Warriors. Obviously, he’s on a mission to regain his status in the league and also win a ring. Most likely he’s a rental in Golden State as the Warriors won’t be able to afford him if he turns back into a beast. But big men historically don’t recover well from Achilles injuries. All told, there are millions on the line here.
Stephen Curry | 26.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 6.1 apg
Two-time MVP played only 51 games thanks to recurring ankle issues. When fully healthy, he's one of the NBA's top five players.
Kevin Durant | 26.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 5.4 apg
Certified himself as an all-time great by lifting the Warriors in the playoffs and winning another Finals MVP.
Draymond Green | 11.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 7.3 apg
Saw a drop off in his offense due to shoddy 3-point shooting, but otherwise is an all-around staple for Golden State.
Klay Thompson | 20 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.5 apg
A contract year looms for Thompson, who complements Curry perfectly to form one of the league’s best backcourts.
Jordan Bell| 4.6 peg, 3.6 rpg, 1 bpg
A product of the Warriors’ player development remains a project big man who will keep the seat warm for Cousins.
DeMarcus Cousins | 25.2 ppg, 12.9 rpg, 5.4 apg
Warriors are hoping he's ready for the stretch run come late in 2018-19.
Andre Iguodala | 6.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.3 apg
Steady playoff performer and former Finals MVP slowed considerably during 2017-18 regular season.
Shaun Livingston | 5.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 2.0 apg
Reliable veteran is still carving out an important role on a contender.
THE BOTTOM LINE
What’s underrated about the Warriors’ epic run is the harmony that exists between Durant and Curry. Unless things are different behind closed doors, these two get along fabulously well and it shows on the floor. Because of that, the Warriors will be strong favorites to win again. It’s really about two former Kia MVP winners playing as one, and they’re still in their prime. Speaking of harmony, Curry, Thompson and Green have been together six seasons now -- which means you’d think Steve Kerr will make sure Cousins falls in line with the rest. Put the Warriors down for 58-24 as they’ll rest their main guys in April even if that means surrendering home court in the West to Houston (or someone else) again.
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