Warriors return deeper and deadlier in 2017

For the second time in three years, the Warriors return 12 players to a team that ran through the rest of the league en route to an NBA championship.

In an offseason filled with teams clamoring to make franchise-altering moves to compete with the defending champs, Golden State sat back, re-signed almost everyone, and actually got better with the roster moves they did make.

Replacing the 6-foot-3 Ian Clark with 6-foot-7 Nick Young only adds to the Warriors’ most prized attribute —versatility.

Young can not only play shooting guard, but with his length and body, he can easily slide over and guard small forwards as well. Combine that with his known scoring ability, and his over-40 percent stroke from deep last season, and the Warriors second unit just got a lot more dangerous.

Some have concerns about his wild style both on and off the court, though the culture the Warriors created has proven it can smooth out the rougher qualities of its players. It’s also beneficial for a team with such even-keeled personalities to have a player with some brashness both on and off the court.

The Warriors also signed yet another shooter in the offseason, Omri Casspi.

The hushed secret of the Warriors the last few years has been the lack of shooters not named Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson or Kevin Durant. When you take one of those players off the court, the floor gets a little less spaced, and the floor gets extra cramped when it’s occupied instead by Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green in the bench unit group.

But now, picture all those open Matt Barnes shots from last year going to Casspi — who shot 40.1 percent from deep over his last three seasons — and the floor gets a lot more spaced.

Someone who isn’t going to add much shooting is their last addition, rookie Jordan Bell. But what Bell lacks in a shooting stroke, he adds in athleticism and defense.

The rook has been thrown onto the court during the preseason flanked by most of the Warriors’ All-Stars, and he’s shone almost as bright. While he’s averaged just 7.9 minutes per game in the preseason and his stats aren’t thrilling, he just looks like he belongs on the court.

He’s outplayed all of the other young bigs so far, and it hasn’t really been close. Damian Jones may end up getting the first shot at consistent minutes, but it may just be a matter of time before Bell passes him in the center rotation and even eats into some of JaVale McGee’s minutes.

Better floor spacing and athleticism for the Warriors — especially in that bench unit — means more leads not only kept, but expanded. Which is bad news for every team who doesn’t have the depth the Warriors do.

And that may be the entire league, considering that this may be the deepest team the franchise has had in recent memory.

All of this new depth is on top of what could be two MVP-level performances this year from Curry and Durant. Steve Kerr had a whole year to learn how to integrate Durant and in turn Durant had a whole year to learn Kerr’s system.

The last time the Warriors had a year to learn with almost zero roster turnover, the railed off a record 73 wins and Curry was a unanimous MVP — and this time, they have Durant too.

Good luck rest of the NBA.


Curtis Uemura is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @CUemura on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.