Warriors chase for Durant not over until bench is built

The addition of Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors has several consequences, both negative and positive.

The most impactful one, though, is the sheer exhaustion that other teams will need to deal with, along with the Dubs’ reserve unit. That’s what will make or break the addition.

Andrew Bogut was dealt to Dallas. Harrison Barnes figures to join him after excepting an offer sheet that the Warriors will be unable to match. And if Festus Ezeli is offered a hefty contract — a likely scenario, though not guaranteed — the Dubs could be starting rookie center Damian Jones on opening night.

There’s extended minutes for Durant at center after tip, but Golden State was banking on the ability to collect a deep bench for underwhelming salaries in the same way they attracted Durant — by looking like perennial contenders for the duration of a maximum length contract. Rumors circulated that old-timer Dirk Nowitzki was a possibility. Same for Pau Gasol. Now, neither appear to be overwhelmingly destined for Oracle Arena.

Three primary bench assets, Leandro Barbosa, Marreese Speights and Brandon Rush, are hitting the market and there’s almost no chance all three return.

And little chance any of them suit up for the Warriors this season. That means continuity is out the window for the second team, which was an equalizer when the starting five struggled last season.

Golden State will get their guys. There’s a lot of guys in the NBA who are talented, older, and looking to win a championship.

The Warriors, with or without Durant, presented the best opportunity to win a title in the long-term. The Heat succeeded in building a deep rotation behind LeBron James and company, and the Bulls managed the same with Michael Jordan. Same with the Lakers since the salary cap began, and any other Finals favorite since.

Players that fit the Warriors system, though, aren’t as plentiful as guys hoping to win a title.

That’s general manager Bob Myers’ biggest hurdle, something that was prepared for, and something the team has assuredly created a big board for, just like the draft. But selling the right players, especially with so many huge contracts being dolled out to relatively unproven players in recent days, could be too difficult to do.

A few players that once wore a navy blue jersey with a lightning bolt could be returning.

Yes. I am going to mention David Lee as one.

He’s got the chemistry, and though he’s in his waning years as a professional basketball player, he’s suitable at least for a bench role.

Zaza Pachulia too. Myers is in an enviable position, but building a bench that can keep the starters fresh, could prove to be as difficult as competing in a seven-game series.

Golden State’s front office has one major task: build a bench with the youth to heal quickly, ability to not lose leads in a flash, and play selflessly enough to work with Steve Kerr‘s system, yet be selfish enough to shoot aggressively when the Dubs are behind.

Then, of course, there’s pick and rolls, cutting and splashing, smashing the boards. That kind of thing.

The addition of Durant will lose its sheen if a bench is not built. And the bench, so far, is without anyone not named Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.