Biggest storyline to monitor during Training Camp?
Jordan Ramirez: The Warriors front-court is a serious concern. Management is putting a lot of faith into Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Mo Speights and (gulp) Ognjen Kuzmic. With no moves made to bolster their line this off-season, their health is extremely important to the success of this team. With Andrew Bogut playing, this team is exponentially better than they are without him. He provides a defensive presence that can’t be replicated and an offensive mind that the Warriors need. Bogut and Ezeli are both coming off injuries, so a healthy camp from both would certainly be welcome.
Sam Esfandiari: The Small Forward position. Kerr has insinuated he’s open to starting Harrison Barnes and using Andre Iguodala as a 6th man. Personally, I don’t get it. Iguodala was the catalyst to he Warriors going from a league average defense to a top 5 defense. Iguodala is the teams’ best ball-handling wing, and a key in pushing the ball in transition. And most importantly, Barnes is off of a poor season, where he showed no signs he deserved to start. Perhaps it’s just a tool meant to motivate Iguodala and Barnes, but if Kerr does actually start Barnes, it’ll be interesting to see how Iguodala responses. He is a former all star, Olympian, and current first team all defensive team player. I can’t imagine he’ll be happy giving up his starting spot to a player who fell out of the rotation in the playoffs.
Danny Leroux: Who Draymond Green plays with. With Shaun Livingston out, we will not be able to figure out the guard rotation until everyone is at full strength during the regular season. We saw a ton of the #FullSquad last season but against many opponents replacing David Lee with Draymond could pose more problems and improve spacing on offense. While Lee is a good player, Lee’s lack of faith in his jumper meant Golden State had too much time with two players in the paint which clogged driving lanes and helped stagnate the offense.
In addition, both Draymond and Harrison Barnes played substantially better offensively with Curry on the court last season and even though Bob Myers substantially upgraded the backup PG spot with Livingston, the five man units will matter a ton on this Warriors team.
Who will be the back-up Center ?
Jordan Ramirez: Festus Ezeli should be the backup center, but there’s no telling how long he’ll last or how many minutes he can play. He’s still a huge question mark, even if we know what he can provide on both ends of the floor. We simply haven’t seen Ezeli play in years, and for a team that has championship aspirations, that is a problem. If healthy, Ezeli can easily slide into the backup center role and continue his once promising young career. If he can’t sustain his health, Kuzmic, Mo Speights and possibly Draymond Green will have to fill the void with some mixing and matching by new coach Steve Kerr. Not a problem the Warriors need to have.
Sam Esfandiari:Going to go with a wild card, David Lee. Festus Ezeli and Mo Speights will see spot minutes, but Kerr will realize sooner or later, his best option without Bogut is to go small. The Warriors have a plethora of wings and a shortage of healthy big men. Draymond Green and David Lee was one of the most productive front court combo’s the Warriors had last year. In the 72 minutes it was used v. the Clippers in the playoffs, it was a positive plus/minus. Lee isn’t a rim protector, but with Green next to him and a plethora of good defensive wings (Iguodala, Livingston, Thompson, Green etc.) the Warriors can mask Lee’s short comings for stretches at C. Especially v. back up units.
Danny Leroux: Festus Ezeli whenever he is healthy. Festus did a nice job shouldering a heavy load his rookie season with Bogut’s injuries and would be even better suited to playing less minutes at a high level while picking up the slack when Bogut gets into foul trouble.
To me, the bigger question is how Coach Kerr should handle the Center minutes when one of Bogut and Ezeli cannot play. Without Jermaine O’Neal, I would like to see Bob Myers and the front office fight for another true Center because using either Lee or Speights in that spot would substantially change the defense. Ekpe Udoh would have been great but some team will let a fringe shot blocker go in the next four weeks and the Warriors should be ready to pounce.
Should Harrison Barnes replace Andre Iguodala in the starting lineup?
Jordan Ramirez: No, but I like what Steve Kerr is doing when he says that the spot is up for grabs. I see it as a motivational tactic from the new head coach, trying to instill confidence in a struggling young player. It wasn’t long ago when Barnes was playing well as the stretch-4 against the Denver Nuggets in the playoffs, and add on Steve Kerr’s new, triangle-based offensive system and you have the recipe for a comeback season from the former Tar Heel. He wasn’t put in positions to succeed last season, essentially being turned into a spot-up shooter (Iguodala as well) with limited movement and maximum one-on-one situations. He can come back from these struggles, but not in the form of a starting nod.
Sam Esfandiari: Absolutely not. Beyond the above stated reasons, Barnes doesn’t do a single thing better than Iguodala except maybe shoot. Kerr has mentioned he wants to push the ball in transition via the wings, Iguodala is the Warriors best wing ball-handler. Kerr has stated he wants to keep elite defense, Iguodala is the teams best wing defender. Kerr has stated he wants the ball out of Steph’s hands more, Iguodala is the best passing wing. There is no reason to bench him for Harrison Barnes based on the play we’ve seen. If Barnes has rapidly improved over the summer, and out performs Iguodala in preseason, by all means start him. But to just hand Barnes the starting position because he struggled off the bench? Seems like a slippery slope and a way to lose your team early.
Danny Leroux: Absolutely not. Iguodala was a great player last season and provides even more value when Stephen Curry can anchor the offense because it requires Andre to do less scoring while still functioning as a useful ball mover and open shot maker. Iguodala and Bogut playing together makes it so much easier on everyone else defensively and would have made it workable to have flawed but offensively potent Power Forwards on the court- imagine if they could have book-ended a certain former Timberwolf who will remain nameless…
Harrison Barnes should get minutes with Curry but those should come from David Lee (who does not need Curry on the court to score) and Klay Thompson if Kerr is more comfortable with Curry defending opposing PG’s than his predecessor.