A popular claim by many around the general NBA last season was that the Golden State Warriors bench could be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference.
While that won’t ever have a chance to actually be proven, the team clearly is the most deep in the league. They have depth at every position and players that can give energy, scoring, defense, and leadership when entering the game to give the starters a breather.
Several teams in the league lose tons of production right off the bat when they have to use their substitutes; the Warriors don’t have that problem.
Sure, there is no Steph Curry or Draymond Green off the bench, but each of them are high-caliber players in their own right and difficult to be replaced.
The Warriors bench keeps them in games and at times, can bring them out of slumps. Here’s a closer look at the best bench in the NBA.
Like Brandon Rush, Livingston has had to go through his tough luck of injuries during his NBA career. Everyone knows about his gruesome injury with the Clippers. He hasn’t been the player that he was hyped up to be in high school, but he’s done much better than anyone expected post-injury.
Livingston played in 78 games with the Warriors and had a remarkable season. The Warriors finally found a legitimate back-up point guard that played behind Curry well. He continues to provide the Warriors with stellar defense and can set-up others off the bench. He might just be the most undervalued player on the team.
Steve Kerr said he was most happy about Livingston getting a ring last season. Knowing the journey that he’s gone through to get to where he is today, many have felt the same way.
Iguodala would be starting for over half of the teams in the NBA today but has taken on a different task to give the Warriors a chance at even more success. I wouldn’t call his role smaller, by any means. He is one of the most valuable role players in the league and an NBA Finals MVP.
He is the best perimeter defender on the team. He is the best playmaker on the team behind Steph Curry and the most trust-worthy with the ball in his hands off the bench next to Shaun Livingston.
The Warriors pay Iguodala tons of money, but he proved that he’s worth every cent of it in June and continues to excel in Steve Kerr’s offensive system. If 6th Man of the Year voting didn’t go by who scores the most points when they’re out there, Iguodala would have won last year. He should be among the favorites this season.
The long-time journeyman might have been a fan favorite in Phoenix, but has solidified a role with the Warriors. Barbosa is the energetic player every team wants. He is also the veteran leader that most teams need off the bench. In most ways, he can be both for Golden State, which is why he is a valuable part of the bench.
He doesn’t bring much defensively, but plays the passing lanes well at times and can score in bunches. His jumper isn’t the prettiest, but it’s been effective.
Everyone on the team loves Barbosa. From his signature “we gonna be shampionship” line to barely being able to get back into the United States after going to Brazil in the offseason, Barbosa helps keep the team’s chemistry strong. His familiarity with Steve Kerr has really helped himself get comfortable with the Dubs.
Like Barbosa, Dubs fans either love Mo Buckets or hate him. It really depends on the night. Some games, he looks like the best scorer on the floor. In others, he doesn’t show up. Speights doesn’t do too much outside of score. Like Steph Curry said in his MVP speech, Speights might be the biggest two-guard in the league.
We haven’t witnessed it yet this season, but Speights will go on a scoring rampage in one game or another. It will likely happen in a game when both Curry and Klay Thompson can’t find the basket.
Everyone credits Curry for his remarkable shot against the New Orleans Pelicans in Game 3 of the first round of the postseason last year. Many fail to forget that it was Speights who got the offensive rebound after Curry missed his first shot to give him a second chance to make the iconic play.
He could potentially be the best center on the team now, Ezeli gives the Warriors athleticism they haven’t seen at the center position in years. He started playing basketball late in his life and doesn’t have the offensive fundamentals to score the ball down low, but he protects the rim among the best in the league and crashes the boards.
Ezeli went through a series of injuries to begin his career, but has finally been able to stay healthy and has found rhythm on the court to be a top 10-15 center in the league one day.
He doesn’t have the IQ or passing ability Andrew Bogut brings to the game, but his effort is higher and he seems to play very well with either the starters or the second group of guys. The Warriors will offer him a lot of money this summer to stick around and be the center of the future given Bogut’s health and age.
The 30-year-old veteran hasn’t been able to play over 60 games in a season since 2011-12. New-age Warrior fans see him as a bench warmer on the championship squad, but he was a real solid player prior to his troublesome knee injuries.
Rush has played 34 minutes through five games. He doesn’t look like he’ll be cracking the rotation soon, but he’s on pace to play more than he did last year. Another big reason why he might not be playing much at the moment is that Steve Kerr isn’t coaching the team. Kerr praised Rush all summer; he can take the chance having Rush in the game in designed lineups. Luke Walton is under tons of pressure and has to stick with who he has seen play well in actual games.
Rush should be getting more minutes when Kerr is back. I expect him to be in the rotation more so in the latter half of the season, especially if the Warriors lock up homecourt early and starters play less. Rush is in much better shape than he has been within the past few years and will partake in NBA games with more minutes, soon.
He’s shown durability as Thompson played the most games in Sacramento Kings franchise history and has proven that he’s a stand-up guy. He got traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in the offseason then was quickly sent back to Northern California to suit up for the Warriors.
Some see him as the David Lee replacement. Although they play the same positive and have similar heights, they play opposite. Thompson is a good rebounder and plays well on the defensive end while Lee is primarily a scorer who doesn’t offer much defense.
Thompson hasn’t cracked the regular rotation yet, but that also could be because Steve Kerr is not on the sidelines and Luke Walton wants to go with what he knows can produce in the Warriors system already.
James Michael McAdoo
At one point last season, some fans called James Michael McAdoo the best North Carolina product on the team despite Harrison Barnes on the roster. Simply put: McAdoo was seeing success and Barnes was struggling.
Barnes is obviously the better player, but McAdoo can ball. He has shown glimpses of promise during his stints off the bench and can be a key player off the bench for many teams in the league.
He plays mainly when the game is already out of hand, but the Warriors love his potential and see him in their future plans.
Clark is the unknown player of this group. He made the team as the 15th man, beating the likes of Ben Gordon, Xavier Henry, and more.
He can score and shoot, but hasn’t had the opportunity yet to prove it at this level for the Warriors. He’ll likely spend some time with the Santa Cruz Warriors and get minor minutes with Golden State as the season winds down.