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2018-19 Season Preview: Changes From Last Year
By Brian Witt
With Opening Night rapidly approaching, Golden State's complete roster is rounding into form.
With tipoff of the new season quickly approaching, final roster decisions will soon be made. Regardless of what unfolds in the coming days, the Dubs' Opening Night roster will bear a considerable resemblance to the one that won their second NBA Championship in as many years last season. However, while much of the core has remained intact, many of the supplementary roles on the roster will be filled by players either new to the organization, or ones Golden State is counting on to take the next step in their development.
Let's start with what's remained the same:
The Dubs still boast a tremendously enviable collection of talent, particularly in a starting lineup that features longtime Warriors Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Kevin Durant, the reigning two-time NBA Finals MVP, is back for his third year in blue and gold, and obviously the first two worked out rather well for both he and Golden State.
In addition to those four All-Stars from last season, Steve Kerr will have the luxury of turning to two longtime NBA veterans who have proven so dependable throughout his tenure as Head Coach of the Warriors in Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. With six championships and 28 collective NBA seasons between them, both Iguodala and Livingston will be tasked with steadying the second unit and serving as a mentoring influence for some of the younger players on the roster.
Who they'll be playing with on that second unit remains to be seen, but inevitably there will be some familiar faces on it. It appears likely that one of Kevon Looney, Damian Jones or Jordan Bell will play with the starters (at least to begin the season), leaving the remaining two to mix-and-match against opposing bigs. Additionally, Quinn Cook is expected to get minutes at the point after breaking through a year ago.
That, however, is the extent of what's been carried over from last season. Now, for what's new:
In case you haven't heard, the Dubs added a fifth All-Star from last season over the summer. You read that correctly. Fifth.
DeMarcus Cousins was the biggest offseason addition the Warriors made, in more ways than one. The 6'11", 270-pound center is coming off an Achilles injury, and while he's making considerable progress in his recovery, he's not expected to be available to play at the start of the season. When it does come time for him to take the court in a Warriors uniform though, look out. It's the first time in NBA history a team has had five All-Stars from the year before, and they're liable to produce some pretty incredible moments when playing together.
Speaking of big newcomers, the Dubs added another piece to their frontcourt rotation in the form of forward Jonas Jerebko, who signed with Golden State as a free agent back in July. "When the best team in the world calls, you answer," he remarked at his introductory presser. A nine-year NBA veteran, Jerebko played in 74 games for the Utah Jazz last season, over the course of which he shot an impressive 41.4 percent from three-point range. Golden State ranked dead last in the NBA last season with only 160 made three-pointers from reserves, and the Dubs are counting on Jerebko to help bring that number up.
And speaking of three-point shooting, Jacob Evans proved to be an adept perimeter shooter in his three years at the University of Cincinnati before being selected by the Warriors with the 28th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. While a 37.7% shooter from beyond the arc in college, Golden State was drawn to Evans for his versatility, particularly on the defensive end.
"Defensively he can play," said Bob Myers at Evans' post-Draft press conference. "He can guard the 1, 2, 3, he can switch screens — the modern kind of game that we're dealing with. It's not many players that can guard Western Conference point guards, Western Conference 2-guards, 3's. That's a skill right there."
The degree to which Evans can show off that versatility and pick up Golden State's offensive and defensive concepts will have a determining factor on how many minutes he gets in his rookie season. The good news is, he's got quite the group of veteran teammates to assist him through the ups and downs, and if for whatever reason there aren't adequate opportunities for him at the NBA level, Santa Cruz is just down the highway.
As one of the Warriors' two two-way players for the upcoming season, guard Damion Lee will be a fixture in both Golden State and Santa Cruz this year. Per NBA rules, two-way players are permitted to spend up to, but no more than 45 days over the course of the regular season with their NBA club, spending the remainder of the season in the G League. Lee, who is Curry's brother-in-law, played in 38 games for Santa Cruz last year before being called up to play the final 15 games of the NBA season with the Atlanta Hawks, including 11 starts.
So, all told, that's 13 of 15 possible NBA roster spots and one of two two-way spots currently filled, with less than a week to go until the start of the regular season. What does that mean, exactly? Well, simply put, Kerr and Myers will have some big decisions to make in the coming days.
There have been several players competing for one of those final spots throughout training camp. It’s also entirely possible the Warriors could bring in and sign a new player, so all options are on the table at this point. With Opening Night rapidly approaching, Golden State’s complete roster is rounding into form.