I'm actually pretty pleased with the development of the Warriors' young guys and castoffs. I don't think its crazy to say that next year's bench could be better than any of the Warriors' benches in the KD era. I'm still not completely convinced the Warriors should trade Russell. I think his defense should improve over the course of the season and he has the wingspan to be a solid individual defender. His help defense needs improvement but I think that Russell hasn't been done any favors spending most of his playing time next to Poole and WCS in the starting lineup. Russell has been a pretty damn efficient scorer by EFG% and his improvement at getting to the line bodes well for his future.
I still think the Warriors desperately need someone to create buckets with Steph off of the floor and Russell has shown an ability to hit difficult shots against tough defenders. I don't believe the Bucks will consider trading Giannis until his contract runs out and even if they did, I don't think Russell + Green + Poole/Paschall + 2020 first gets it done. I'm also not sold on the premise of Covington + Teague/filler unless the Warriors use their first rounder to pick someone like RJ Hampton or Cole Anthony. There is an absolute need for a secondary ball handler that can carry the bench AND play next to Steph. I'm not convinced that a rookie guard will be as effective as Russell in that role and while Covington is absolutely a plus defender, he can't create his own shot. Unless you believe Paschall in a modified death lineup next to Steph/Klay/Dray/Covington could become this team's playoff ISO scorer, I think I'd rather have 3/4 potent scorers in Steph/Russell/Klay/Paschall for defenders to worry about come playoff time and not sacrifice this team's long term core.
I've enjoyed the Paschall experience so far, but unless his 3% shooting comes around, I don't see him as much more than a bench version of Corey Maggette, which isn't a terrible thing off of the bench, but I've found Paschall's game to be a lot harder to evaluate than I imagined. He's very clearly an effective interior scorer and should benefit from increased spacing next year, but I don't trust the form on his J, he's shown some severe tunnel vision -- which may just be a symptom of him being thrust into a primary scoring role -- and he's not much of a rebounder. I think that Paschall's defense and rebounding will be better next year simply because Kerr will demand a more expanded game out of him in a non-development year, but I don't see Paschall as a long-term starter unless he becomes 35% + three point shooter.
So with all that said, I am really excited by what the future holds for the young guys and castoffs that are leading this glorious tank! In a perfect world I'd like to keep all of Bowman, GRIII, Burks, Lee, Spellman, and Chriss, but I don't think that makes sense with the Warriors' roster construction. I haven't seen enough of Evans to really get a sense of how he has or has not improved this year and while I'm a little more optimistic about Poole than others, I doubt he'll be a part of Kerr's rotation next year unless his defense significantly improves.
I'm surprised rot realize I quite like Ky Bowman! He's a strong defender at his size and he seems to be able to play with equal effectiveness on and off-ball, which must make Kerr very happy. However, I don't think that Bowman will be on the team next year if any 2 of Russel, Burks, and Evans are still on the roster. Russell, Burks, and Evans all seem to be players that are most effective with the ball in their hands and assuming they all see some minutes together in bench line-ups, I think Kerr would rather have longer wings on the floor next to Russel, which means there's not really space for Bowman.
Unless Evans balls out this year, I'd rather have Burks on this team. Burks has shown an impressive ability to create his own shots, he hits open J's, he's a solid defender, and he'll be even better attacking closeouts and running end of shot-clock PNR's when some of Steph/Klay/Russell are playing. Whether or not he'll price himself out of the Warriors' price range is another question, but he's implied that he'd like to come back so who knows. GRIII seems to be growing a bit with every game. I get the sense that he's never been given this amount of freedom by any coach and it's been fun watching him expand his game attacking close outs and taking pull-up J's. His 3% has been solid this year and last year's poor percentage looks like an aberration, which bodes well for the type of looks he'd get next year subbing in with the starters at the 3 or playing in mixed bench line ups. Most importantly, he doesn't make a lot of mistakes, he's a solid offensive rebounder -- to the point I've forgotten all about McKinnie -- and he's a good enough defender that Kerr will trust him in high-leverage situations in the playoffs. He's a keeper in my eyes and all indications seem to be that he'd be thrilled to pick up his player option and play a role in a championship push.
We haven't seen a whole lot of Lee, but I'm higher on him than most; he's a legitimate NBA shooter, he can create for himself, and he's long enough to be a neutral defender. I don't think he's a 25 + minutes a game player in the playoffs, but he's a good microwave scorer and my scorching hot take about him is that the Warriors would have won a championship with him on the playoff roster rather than Jones last year. Eventually, I'd like Poole to take over his role, but until his shot comes around and his defense gets more up to snuff, he has a way to go. With all that said, I think he's actually rather skilled for his age as a ball-handler and his footwork off-ball. When his shot comes around -- and I think it will when the game slows down for him and his release tightens up a bit -- it will allow him a little more space to operate as a ball-handler. As he gets stronger and is able to take more contact in the paint I suspect he'll play his way into more FT attempts, but what intrigues me most about Poole is his passing! He's shown some impressive passing flair in traffic and I think in a few years, he'll be a fun combo guard secondary ball-handler that can heat up in a hurry and/or hit shooters on kickouts. I also highly doubt the Warriors' FO wants to give up on another prospect, which is another story altogether...
Spellman and Chriss have ben my favorite players to watch this season, as weird as that sounds. I may be overly optimistic about their futures, but I think that between Looney/Spellman/Chriss and one more big body -- ideally more of a bruiser ala Baynes, Zaza, Kyle O''Quinn to soak up minutes against the brutish 5's -- the Warriors are pretty set at the center position. I understand the aesthetic appeal of a hyper-athletic lob toy like Wiseman, but rookie centers are very rarely effective defenders and beyond that centers are devalued come playoff time unless they can space the floor, play elite D or do both things at once. Marc Gasol is the last star center to have won a championship. Since the Kerr era, the starting 5's that won in the Finals were Draymond, Tristan Thompson, Zaza, Zaza, and Marc Gasol. I don't see the point in wasting a high draft pick on a rookie big that will take time to develop. I'd much rather get a wing that is playable as a rookie and can develop long term or trade the pick for a mid 20's wing ala Kelly Oubre Jr., which is to say a young guy with All-Star potential that can grow into a bigger role.
Looney's health concerns me, but I'm hoping this season can clarify how much his body can withstand starter's minutes long term and give him the opportunity to expand his offensive game. If Looney shows that he can credibly hit the 3, it'll open up his opportunity to attack closeouts and he's shown that he's surprisingly nimble and adept with the ball in his hands. We already know that he inhales rebounds and is an excellent defender, but if he can legitimately space the floor and stay healthy, I see no reason he shouldn't be our long term starting center. Unless Draymond's shot comes around -- and it seems increasingly unlikely it does -- the Warriors absolutely need spacing at the 5 and Looney has also been the Warriors' best defensive 5 for two playoff runs in a row. I think Looney's career could resemble something like Al Horford with a lesser scoring game; a reliable defender 1-5 that doesn't make mistakes, hits the boards hard, and hits enough threes to keep opponents honest.
What excites me about both Chriss and Spellman is that I think their skillsets compliment Green and Looney very well and while Paschall is the obvious back-up 4 long term, I think it's not unreasonable that the Warriors could survive playing some combos of Green/Looney, Green/Chriss, Green/Spellman, Looney/Chriss, Spellman/Chriss, Spellman/Looney. Spellman's rebounding and shooting ability should let him oscillate between 4/5 pretty well, especially if he keeps shedding weight and uses his shooting threat to get to the rim occasionally. What's impressed me most about Chriss is that he's an excellent passer for a big man. Of course, I'd prefer that the Warriors at full health put the ball in Steph's hands, Kerr likes his big men to facilitate and it's been oddly titillating to watch Chriss orchestrate the offense at the top of the key. He knows how to lead cutters into passes, he's got Bogut level creativity on the DHO's -- especially when he fakes the dribble and drops the ball behind him with one hand -- and I've noticed on several instances that he's points out to players where they should go on offense. Beyond that, Chriss is super athletic and has been a far more credible lob threat than WCS, and there's been game to game improvement on his defense. The rotations still need some work and he occasionally pulls a Jordan Bell on pump fakes, but I've been very impressed by the way he's starting to contest shots by maintaining verticality when players drive into his chest. I think Chriss would be equally effective initiating next to Steph/Klay as he would rim-running in second units with Russell. It's very easy for me to imagine subbing in for Looney in playing the final minutes of the first quarter and then playing the non-Steph minutes of the second quarter, but this all might be overly optimistic.
Lord knows what Smailagic will look like, but I find myself more and more upset that the Warriors have players who strike me as having more immediate impact and long-term potential than Smailagic/Poole/Evans on the roster that may have to kick rocks for the sake of seeing out the impact of the Lacob's draft picks. In an ideal world, Smailagic and Evans are shipped with the pick for a long term 3 or with Russell for the long 3 this team needs and the Warriors can pick up Iguodala and their bruiser 5 in FA next summer and use their pick for a combo guard
The way I see it there's two paths to this Warriors' roster next year.
Curry / Russell / Evans
Russell / Burks / GRIII / Poole
Klay / mid 20's wing or 1st rounder / Iguodala
Green / Paschall / Spellman
Looney / Chriss / Spellman / Bruiser FA
Curry / Bowman / Evans
Klay / Cole Anthony / GRIII
Mid 20's wing / Iguodala / Burks
Green / Paschall / Spellman
Looney / Chriss / Spellman / Bruiser FA