According to Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, his team is primed to be even better than they were a year before:
“The foundation is already there. I think we’ll be better this year. We’re deeper.”
Considering that the team is coming off of its second championship in three years, Kerr’s sentiment may be hard to believe.
But unlike last year, when these same Warriors entered training camp with nearly 50 percent of their roster overhauled, Golden State looks set up to make their coach’s words come to fruition by bringing back 11 players from their latest title run.
At Warriors media day Friday, Kerr mentioned the benefits of having almost an identical roster compared to last season entering camp:
“This year reminds me of two years ago with the continuity. Almost the exact roster coming back. Camp will be so much smoother this year than last year because of all the guys we had to incorporate last year and teach our system and our style and our culture. They know it.”
So, while Kerr reaps the benefits of having his key players return for a chance at repeating as NBA champions, the real work was done months ago by general manager Bob Myers and the rest of the Warriors brass.
Over the course of a shortened, three-month offseason, Myers was tasked with re-signing a slew of key components, including two of the game’s marquee players.
The list included Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, JaVale McGee, David West and Zaza Pachulia — all of whom proved their worth in one way or another during the 2016-17 regular season and playoffs.
Providing players a reason to stay was the easy part, but finding a way to fit each into the league’s lower-than-expected salary cap was like cramming a family of five into a two-door coupe.
Myers spoke about the challenges of getting the job done:
“Fortunately for us, a lot of the guys wanted to come back. Wanted to make another run at it and loved playing for Steve (Kerr )… But unrestricted free agency is close to a war. I could have been sitting up here today where we have a totally different team.”
Fortunately for Myers, the Warriors emerged from the smoke as winners of the “war,” but only thanks to a few breaks along the way.
On top of being able to sign Curry to a “super-max” deal worth $201 million over five years, the Warriors were able to re-sign back up point guard Shaun Livingston to a three-year deal worth $24 million, thus fortifying that position for at least as many seasons.
The real work came next as Myers and company embarked on an uphill battle to retain former NBA Finals MVP and Sixth Man of the Year candidate Andre Iguodala, who was courted by teams across the league.
One move leveled the playing field however, as freshly-crowned Finals MVP Kevin Durant decided to take $10 million less in order to make room for “Iggy.”
By settling for $53 million over two years, Durant freed up enough space for the Warriors to re-sign Iguodala and exercise his Bird rights in order to lighten the blow on the salary cap.
With a trio of one-year deals for the center-by-committee in McGee, Pachulia and West, the Warriors were back in action with much of the same team from the 2016-17 season, primed to be even more dominant than ever before.
Livingston commented on the wizardry performed by the Warriors front office to get the work done:
“To see what the team was able to do with these contract negotiations, allowing the team to have the ability to bring guys like myself and Andre (Iguodala) back, David West, JaVale, Zaza, it’s a special group. It starts from the top down.”
After all was said and done, the Warriors escaped with only $42 million in luxury tax dollars owed, a much lower price tag than expected entering the offseason.
Adding another distance sharpshooter in Nick Young, and a versatile big in Omri Casspi, the Warriors enter training camp on Saturday with minimal newcomers, something that Kerr expects to make his life easier moving forward:
“We’re only adding a couple of players. Having all of our vets — KD, Zaza (Pachulia), and David (West) — having all of those guys comfortable with what we’re doing already along with the core group that’s been here the last few years, I expect that we’ll be able to get right into camp and make progress right away.”