Grant Liffmann

Warriors brief: Game 4 of the NBA Finals may be last time fans see favorite role players

Warriors brief: Game 4 of the NBA Finals may be last time fans see favorite role players

You never want to expect a championship, but now that the Warriors have taken a 3-0 lead in the NBA Finals, it is hard to fathom them blowing a historically unbeaten lead. But if Friday's Game 4 is the final game of the series, it also may be the last time that Warriors fans may see some of their favorite role players in Warriors uniforms. 

By the Warriors' historic standards, the 2017-18 season was their version of tumultuous. They dealt with a rash of injuries, some inconsistent play, and overall apathy. The fire and desire to take on a challenging, long regular season was lacking, though justifiably. In order to bring a new fresh energy to the team next year, many expect the Warriors to do an overhaul of their bench. Here is how the roster may play out next season:

Under contract and not going anywhere:
Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Jordan Bell, Damian Jones, Quinn Cook

Not much needs to be said regarding Curry, Thompson and Draymond. They will be with the Warriors next season and contract extensions will be discussed for the latter two. Iguodala and Livingston are under contract and are still valuable to the Warriors both on the court and in the locker room. Any attempts to trade or dump their contracts most likely would only be a realistic option following next season. Jordan Bell and Damian Jones are expected to have much bigger roles next season, bringing a youthful energy and athleticism into the lineup. Quinn Cook will serve as Steph Curry's primary backup and fill a need off the bench that was lacking a majority of this season.

Free agents but expected to re-sign:
Kevin Durant, Patrick McCaw, Kevon Looney

Durant is not leaving the Warriors. You can ignore the hot takes that are floating around the news recently. He is very happy with the team and has no intentions on leaving. McCaw is a restricted free agent, and many thought that he would play so well that he would out-price himself from the Warriors' plans to match any offer made to him. Unfortunately, inconsistency and injuries ruined McCaw's season. It is very likely he does not receive an offer big enough that the Warriors would not match. The team before this season did not exercise Looney's option for next season, so therefore he will be an unrestricted free agent. Looney has had an unexpected large role with the team this year, playing the role of the finesse big man that could use his length and agility to switch and defend smaller wings and guards. What hurts Looney's potential pay day this offseason are question marks regarding his fit with other teams that aren't nearly as talented as the Warriors to make up for his shortcomings, and the fact there is significantly less salary cap space to go around this offseason. The Warriors can give Looney up to $2.2 million for next season, and while he may be able to land a little more money, it is doubtful he will find a team that will utilize him as much as his current squad. 

Veterans that are unlikely to return:
Nick Young, Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee

Warriors fans might be seeing these three for the last time in their home team's jerseys on Friday. Young never found the consistency with the Warriors and never fit into the role that the team had envisioned before the season. It is likely they use the money spent on Young to find a more athletic wing next season. Zaza Pachulia has fallen out of the rotation and probably will not return with the team, despite how well-liked he is. Perhaps he will eventually fit as a coach some day. McGee is the one that could possibly return, but it is still unlikely. He has played a role off and on these playoffs and throughout the season, and if he were willing to come back on the minimum again, perhaps the Warriors would be intrigued. But like last offseason, McGee searched for better offers only to finally land back with the Warriors. It is hard to see that situation panning out the same way again. 

Up to him:
David West

While West's role has diminished considerably these playoffs, he was perhaps the Warriors' fifth most important player the first half of the season. The Warriors would probably welcome back West's leadership and consistent play if he were willing to take the vet minimum again, though many believe the Warriors might seek a youth movement instead. As it stands, West is deciding between retiring and playing another season for the Warriors. He is very unlikely to sign elsewhere.

Game Result/Schedule
Game 1 Warriors 124, Cavs 114 (OT)
Game 2 Warriors 122, Cavs 103
Game 3 Warriors 110, Cavs 102
Game 4 Cleveland -- Friday, June 8 at 6pm
Game 5 Oakland -- Monday, June 11 at 6pm
Game 6 Cleveland -- Thursday, June 14 at 6pm
Game 7 Oakland -- Sunday, June 17 at 5pm

Warriors brief: Klay Thompson bouncing back this postseason

Warriors brief: Klay Thompson bouncing back this postseason

The Warriors are now in Cleveland awaiting the start of Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday, leading the series two games to none. Here are some notes regarding the team.

Klay Thompson is making you forget all about his substandard playoff performance last season.

It was just about a year ago that the Warriors were wrapping up a tremendous 16-1 playoff run to win the NBA title, but apart from Klay's consistently strong defense, he was not much of a factor. Through 17 games last postseason, Klay scored 15 points per game on 39.7 percent shooting (which was second-worst on the team) and 38.7 percent from deep. With Durant and Curry's great success, the Warriors were able to overcome Klay's cold streak and march to the title.

However, this postseason has been a completely different story. To begin with, Curry's injury hindered the Warriors at the start of the playoffs and thrust Klay into the scoring spotlight. He has not disappointed.

Even with the pain of a knee injury in the Western Conference Finals, and a pretty severe leg injury in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Klay has put up playoff totals of 20.7 points per game on 47 percent shooting overall and 43 percent from deep through 19 games. With his health recovering, expect more of the same from Klay Thompson.

Andre Iguodala's absence from the Warriors during these last six games cannot be overlooked.

Because the Warriors have four All-stars on the team, including a couple of MVP's, no one will pity the team for being down a man. But outside of the Bay Area, not many know how much Iguodala actually means to the team. Yes, he is the fifth piece in the famous "Hamptons 5," but he also is the most senior and fundamentally sound of the group.

So far in the playoffs, Iguodala is second on the team in assists-to-turnovers ratio. That's only behind David West, who does not play more than 10 minutes per game. Iguodala was third on the team in steals per game and fourth on the team in assists per game before his injury. If you exclude West's one make from deep last game, Iguodala is also third on the Warriors in three point percentage at 35.5 percent during the playoffs.

Do not forget that he is also the second-best defender on the team, and would have been the primary defender on LeBron James (as well as James Harden late last round).  He may come off the bench most of the time, but Andre Iguodala is anything but a simple role player on the Warriors. 

Game Result/Schedule
Game 1 Warriors 124, Cavs 114 (OT)
Game 2 Warriors 122, Cavs 103
Game 3 Cleveland -- Wednesday, June 6 at 6pm
Game 4 Cleveland -- Friday, June 8 at 6pm
Game 5 Oakland -- Monday, June 11 at 6pm
Game 6 Cleveland -- Thursday, June 14 at 6pm
Game 7 Oakland -- Sunday, June 17 at 5pm

Warriors brief: Why Steph Curry is the front-runner for Finals MVP so far

Warriors brief: Why Steph Curry is the front-runner for Finals MVP so far

The Warriors defeated the Cavaliers in Game 2 of the NBA Finals to take a commanding lead in the series, which is not out of the ordinary as the Warriors have started two wins to none against the Cavs in three of the four last Finals. Here are some notes regarding the series thus far:

-Steph Curry is the obvious choice for Finals MVP so far. Yes, it is only two games into the series, and as the Warriors know very well, anything can happen. But unless the Cavaliers were to come back and win the series, Curry has to be the odds-on-favorite. While he has had dominant moments in the Finals, his masterful play actually started at the end of the Western Conference Finals. Over the last three games (including Game 7 of the WCF) Curry is averaging 29.7 points per game on 45 percent shooting from the field, 49 percent shooting for deep (on a staggering 14 attempts per game) coupled with 9 assists and 7 rebounds. Curry has dished out 27 assists over the last three games, his highest mark since exactly a year ago, when he tore up the Cavs in the 2017 NBA Finals. Also this fun fact: Steph Curry has out-rebounded one of the Cavaliers' best rebounding big men, Tristan Thompson, in each of the Finals games thus far. If that sounds familiar, it is because last Finals, Curry had more boards than Thompson in three of the five games, and finished with more rebounds overall in the series. 

-Kevin Durant's statistics from Game 1 and 2 were eerily similar from afar. In both games he finished with 26 points and nine rebounds, and six assists in Game 1 compared to seven assists in Game 2. But despite those consistent totals, his overall performance in both games could not have been more different. After struggling with his shot throughout the first game of the series, going eight for 22 from the field and one for seven from deep, Durant turned in one of his most efficient shooting games of the season in Game 2. Durant finished 10 of 14 from the field, and two for three from long range. His overall field goal shooting percentage for the game was his personal best since he played the Suns back on February 12th, and it was also the first time Durant shot above 50 percent from deep in a game since March 6th. Most importantly however, it was Durant's defense and assertiveness on the boards that was the biggest difference in the two games. In Game 1 Durant struggled to stay in front of attacking Cavs players, had moments of confusion and miscommunication with his teammates, and struggled mightily to box-out on the glass. Game 2 was a complete 180-degree turnaround, as he made his presence felt at the rim, fought for rebounds by being strong and aggressive, and stayed active and decisive in defending his man. Rather than Game 1, this game was an eerily similar performance to his showing last postseason against the Cavs when he won Finals MVP. 

-After a lackluster series against Houston, the Warriors' role players have been much more productive so far in the Finals. Despite missing their best bench piece in Andre Iguodala, the 'Strength in Numbers' mantra has held strong against the Cavaliers. In Game 2, David West made his fourth shot from deep on the season (and first in over six months), JaVale McGee and Shaun Livingston combined to shoot 11 for 11 from the field, and the two have combined to miss only one shot in the series thus far (though it was quite a memorable one when JaVale ruined an easy dump/layup attempt) and finally Nick Young, who despite struggling badly with his shot in the last two games going one for nine, has now accounted for a combined plus/minus of +19 in 24 minutes on the court.

Game Result/Schedule
Game 1 Warriors 124, Cavs 114 (OT)
Game 2 Warriors 122, Cavs 103
Game 3 Cleveland -- Wednesday, June 6 at 6pm
Game 4 Cleveland -- Friday, June 8 at 6pm
Game 5 Oakland -- Monday, June 11 at 6pm
Game 6 Cleveland -- Thursday, June 14 at 6pm
Game 7 Oakland -- Sunday, June 17 at 5pm