Alfonzo McKinnie faces stiff competition for Warriors' starting wing job

Alfonzo McKinnie faces stiff competition for Warriors' starting wing job

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

Earlier this week we examined the choices for the starting center position, now it is time to look at the starting wing spot. 

To recap, with so much roster turnover this summer and largely a new cast of characters, the Warriors will have plenty of question marks and unknowns heading into the season. One of the major decisions that Steve Kerr and the coaching staff will have to strategize, is who should start on Opening Night at Chase Center if the current roster (sans Klay Thompson) is healthy. 

The holdovers in the starting lineup from last season -- Steph Curry and Draymond Green -- will be obvious locks yet again, and unless there is a dramatic twist, newly acquired D'Angelo Russell will slide into the starting shooting guard spot. It's pretty much a given that Willie Cauley-Stein or Kevon Looney will start at center after the departure of Damian Jones and DeMarcus Cousins. That leaves the wing position vacated by Kevin Durant up for grabs. 

There are plenty of choices to capture the starting gig, but looking closely there seems to be a four-man race as of now between Alfonzo McKinnie, Alec Burks, Glenn Robinson III and Eric Paschall. 

McKinnie is the only one of that bunch that was on the team last season, and had some very strong stretches early on for the Warriors. At 6-foot-8, Zo has great length and athleticism at the wing position, which helps him make up for some of his own deficiencies on defense. 

McKinnie's great strength is his elite rebounding ability for the wing position, especially on the offensive end. He attacks the ball at the highest point and seemingly is always involved in every rebound while on the court. 

This unique ability can make him useful in the starting lineup. However, McKinnie's effectiveness will be greatly judged by his ability to make an open corner three-point shot. With all the attention that Curry, Russell, Green (and eventually Thompson) demand, it is essential for the small forward to be able to make open shots from deep. If he can improve his shooting, as well as his overall defensive awareness, McKinnie may be the favorite to land the starting role.

When it comes to wing scoring, Burks is easily the top option. He is a bucket-getter, constantly attacking the defense. He is a career 36 percent three-point shooter, so the Warriors would be happy to have opponents let him get open looks. Defensively, he has the size to compete against smaller wing players, but the results on that end have been inconsistent up to this point in his career.

If he can become a reliable defender, he may force himself into the starting lineup.  In the meantime, he seems like the perfect sixth-man type, for instant offense off the bench. 

The Warriors are hoping that last season for Robinson III was an aberration, and they will get the player from the prior three seasons that played strong defense and averaged 39 percent shooting from deep. Robinson III is as athletic as anyone on the Warriors roster, if you need proof, make sure to check out his highlight reel from the Slam Dunk Contest. When healthy, he can be a prototypical "three and D" player that the Warriors sorely need. Steve Kerr may want to see him play off the bench before making him a starter, but he has the tools to earn that opening gig. 

The dark horse candidate to steal the starting wing spot is the second-round rookie Eric Paschall. Standing at 6'7 with tremendous leaping ability, Paschall has the physical attributes to be an effective wing.

[RELATED: Warriors profile: Willie Cauley-Stein looking forward to fresh start]

Unlike many rookies, Paschall also comes into the league seasoned with tons of college experience playing on the big stage for four years. It is unknown how his good collegiate defense and overall offensive game will translate to the NBA, but like the other wing options, his ability to stretch the floor will be a key factor in his development.  

It would be unlike Kerr to start a rookie right off the bat, but a young player with his experience might be able to handle the pressure of playing with the stars. In fact, if he can overcome the tentativeness that plagued Pat McCaw, Damian Jones and Jacob Evans in their first years, he might fit in perfectly with that group. 

Warriors' Steve Kerr says trade rumors don't affect D'Angelo Russell

Warriors' Steve Kerr says trade rumors don't affect D'Angelo Russell

D'Angelo Russell is rapidly approaching a date some NBA observers have circled since the Warriors acquired him this summer.

Golden State can trade Russell as soon as Sunday, Dec. 15, and the 23-year-old has been the source of trade speculation during his time in the Bay Area. The Athletic's Jon Krawczynski reported Wednesday, citing sources that the Minnesota Timberwolves "remain interested in Russell" and that the guard "seems to be realistic in understanding that he may not be long for the Warriors once Steph Curry and Klay Thompson return to full health."

Russell is averaging a career-high 22.4 points per game this season to go with 6.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds, serving as the top offensive option in the absence of his All-Star teammates. He knew he wouldn't play much with Thompson this season as he recovers from a torn ACL, but Curry's broken hand threw a wrench into the Warriors' -- and thus Russell's -- prospects this season. Warriors coach Steve Kerr praised how Russell has handled the rumors surrounding him. 

"Money doesn't buy peace of mind," Kerr said Friday morning (H/T San Francisco Chronicle's Connor Letourneau). "It doesn't buy a sense of belonging, a sense of, 'Alright, this is my team.' If there's speculation that you're going to be traded all the time, I don't care how much money you make, I don't care who you are. That's tough. That's no fun to deal with, and this season has been nowhere close to what D'Angelo thought it would be when he first signed with us.

"There's no Steph. We're struggling to win games. He's had his own injuries, and we're throwing all kinds of different lineups out there based on the other injuries we've faced." 

Russell has played in just 15 of the Warriors' 27 games this season, playing on a team that looks far more like the Los Angeles Lakers of his first two seasons than the playoff-contending Brooklyn Nets a year ago -- let alone the reigning Western Conference champion Warriors. 

[RELATED: How Warriors' Chriss earning chance to start at center]

Kerr, who entered this season with the highest winning percentage in NBA history (.785), is as aware of Golden State's dramatically different reality as anyone. He said it has only brought out the best in Russell. 

"So given all that, he's played really well, and he's been a great teammate and he's doing everything he needs to do to solidify his position here," Kerr continued. "But this is the NBA here, and we never know what's coming, what's happening. So, it's a difficult position to be in in general, but for him in particular it's strange set of circumstances and he's handling it really well." 

Whether or not the Warriors trade Russell, it's clear Kerr holds him in high regard.

Watch Warriors' Ky Bowman dominate for Santa Cruz in G League debut

Watch Warriors' Ky Bowman dominate for Santa Cruz in G League debut

Warriors two-way guard Ky Bowman made his G League debut Friday night in Santa Cruz.

He dominated the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario. 

The Boston College product could have scored 40 points if he really wanted to, but he picked his spots and made sure his teammates were getting good looks.

After shootaround in Utah on Friday, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was asked what Bowman can work on while he's with the Sea Dubs.

"He's got a really aggressive mindset -- which I like -- but there are still circumstances and situations where he needs to think more pass," Kerr said. "And more strategic, rather than just score, score, score."

Bowman clearly listened to the eight-time NBA champion.

[RELATEDWhy Dubs might be very active before, after trade deadline]

Also, "Sky Bowman" was on full display.

The 22-year-old will be back in action Sunday afternoon as Santa Cruz faces the Northern Arizona Suns. Watch the game at 2:00 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.

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