The euphoria felt by Warriors fans with the signing of Kevin Durant was accompanied by at least a modicum of anxiety. Yes, adding Durant is an epic move. But, but . . . what about . . .
What about the bench?
Warriors coach Steve Kerr shares some of this trepidation – but only with a specific area, as centers Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli are gone. Zaza Pachulia was signed to help fill this considerable void.
“The thing that’s different will be a lack of rim protection,” Kerr told CSNBayArea.com. “We had great rim protection from Bogut and Ezeli, and both those guys are gone. Zaza’s a very good defender, but he’s more of a positional guy than a shot blocker.
“So there’s definitely adjustments we’ll have to make, even schematically. We’ll have some growing pains, especially on defense, as we try to make sure we get everything right and comfortable.”
Other than that, though, Kerr is ready to roll. The coach that coined the phrase “Strength In Numbers,” to acknowledge the team’s depth, does not seem greatly concerned about his reserves.
“I think we’ll still have a very good bench,” Kerr said.
The previous bench crew, also known as The Dubstitutes, were led by Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston and often found ways to maintain leads and sometimes even grow them. They got offensive punch from sweet-shooting big man Marreese Speights, who led the reserves in scoring, and quicksilver guard Leandro Barbosa, who was capable of supplying a flurry of buckets in a short span of time.
Speights and Barbosa are gone. So is Ezeli, the big man who was second among reserve scorers. That trio combined for an average of 20.5 points per game last season, numbers that dropped to 15.2 with shortened minutes in the playoffs.
When the Warriors open training camp later this month, Kerr and his assistants will be tasked with finding new combinations.
“The three main guys off the bench are Iguodala, Livingston and (newly acquired forward) David West; that’s pretty good,” Kerr said. “There’s no doubt we’ll miss LB’s speed. We’ll miss Mo’s shooting. We’ll miss Festus’ rim protection. No doubt we’ll miss all of that.
“But we’ve replaced those guys with some pretty good players.”
With four All-Stars, each capable of providing offense, Kerr can more comfortably stagger his substitutions. We may have seen the last of the five-man second unit he often rode for a few minutes each game. If all five starters are on the bench next season, it’s probably the fourth quarter of a blowout.
The starting lineup will feature Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson at guards, Draymond Green and Durant at forwards, and Pachulia at center. With Ezeli gone to Portland, the only other centers on the roster are veteran Anderson Varejao and rookie Damian Jones, who is recovering from pectoral surgery and probably won’t be ready for the Oct. 25 season opener, much less the start of training camp.
The key men behind Iguodala, Livingston and West, for now, are Ian Clark, James Michael McAdoo, Kevon Looney and rookie wing Patrick McCaw.
“We like Patrick McCaw quite a bit; I think he can help right away,” Kerr said of the 6-foot-6 guard-forward selected after the Warriors bought their way into the second round of the draft in June.
“This will be a much different training camp than it was a year ago, when we had virtually the entire team back. We were just picking up where we left off. Now we have to really implement some new things and we’re going to have to help half the roster get acclimated to the way we play and our style and culture every day.”