If you alter the main ingredients in a delicious recipe will it taste the same?
Of course not.
The question becomes will it taste better or worse? The acquisition of succulent free agent Kevin Durant is being touted as the coup of the offseason and most would agree that adding such a talented ingredient to the Warriors roster makes them the team to beat in the Western Conference.
Yet, as Golden State officially begins the season, many unanswered questions remain. Namely, is the addition of Durant greater than or equal to the loss of starters Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut? Also, will the bench that head coach Steve Kerr relied so heavily upon last season still taste as good with so many new additions? In short, do the overhauled Warriors still have the recipe for success?
I have absolutely no doubt that adding KD to the mixture is a positive. As an incredibly talented player and an outstanding person, Durant has the potential to significantly enhance an already potent starting lineup. Sure, the fans will miss Bogut’s toughness and Barnes’ versatility, but superstars like Durant don’t come along often.
The fact that people would criticize his jump from Oklahoma City to Golden State still astounds me. Winning championships is what sports is all about and obviously Durant felt that joining the Warriors gave him the best possible chance to achieve his goal of becoming an NBA champion.
I believe Kevin will easily fit in with his new teammates and seamlessly mesh into Kerr’s offensive and defensive systems. If the exhibition games are any indication of what is to come, Durant will get more easy shots this season than ever before due to Golden State’s unselfish ways.
The game is going to become much more fun for him and he seems content to do whatever is necessary to win. If he doesn’t score, he will still contribute by rebounding, playing defense and finding his teammates for assists. If he needs to score, he can and will.
Regardless, at 6-foot-9, he has stat stuffing capabilities and versatility that make him almost impossible for any team to defend. Guard him with a big guy and he beats him easily from the perimeter. Guard him with a small man and he takes him into the post and abuses him. Double team him in the post and that leaves either Klay Thompson or Steph Curry open for 3-point shots or Draymond Green with a clear path to the offensive glass, where he excels.
Speaking of post play, one of my main questions involves the loss of Andrew Bogut.
Even though he averaged just 5.4 points per game last season, he did pull down 7 rebounds per game in only 22 minutes, while garnering 1.6 blocks per game. Most importantly, he provided a strong defensive presence inside with his size and strength and was an outstanding passer out of the post. He also knew how to set up in the proper place as a screener, helping to create multiple shot opportunities for Steph and Klay.
Hopefully, Zaza Pachulia will step in to adequately fill the role.
Last season’s “Big Three” of Curry, Thompson and Green now changes and becomes Curry, Thompson and Durant.
What happens to Draymond? There is only one ball and so many shots per game. I believe that Draymond’s willingness to accept a lesser role offensively will be crucial to the team’s success.
When I say offensively, I only mean shots taken and points scored. I believe that Green should step up his role as a passer and rebounder. He is the perfect guy to battle for defensive rebounds and then lead the break to the other end. I see his assists going up this season. Who wouldn’t want Durant, Thompson or Curry on the receiving end of a pass?
My biggest concern about this year’s team will be the bench.
Last year’s backup squad that included Leandro Barbosa, Marreese Speights and Festus Ezeli was superb, ranking as the third best in the league behind the Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs.
There were times when Kerr went to his second team in critical situations and left them in the game. Frequently, they held or increased the lead and more often than not they could be counted on to bring the team back from a deficit. With those three gone, will any of the holdover bench players or this season’s new arrivals have the same attitude and ability to support the stars like last year’s super subs did? Will they be the cohesive unit on offense and defense that can come in and provide a solid spark?
Fortunately, the two key reserves from last season — Andre Iguodala and Sean Livingston — remain, which will certainly provide a strong foundation for this season’s second squad. Their leadership is essential to assist the newcomers in understanding what is expected of them in this role.
I am looking forward to seeing how Coach Kerr utilizes the bench this season, especially which starters he decides to use to play significant minutes with the reserves. I wouldn’t be surprised if he chooses KD because of his ability to create his own shot and drive to the hoop. Plus, his size will cause serious problems for the opposing team defensively.
Finally, by revamping the roster, there is no guarantee that team chemistry will remain the same.
Sometimes egos collide or some players aren’t willing to accept their roles in order to provide the support necessary to win consistently.
There are many unanswered questions. Can the Warriors possibly duplicate their amazing team chemistry from last season? How will the new players buy in? Will the superstars be smart enough to put their egos aside and let “team” be bigger than “self?”
If the Dubs can do these things, I have no doubt that the new Warriors’ recipe will be delicious.
Championships always leave a sweet taste in your mouth.