June 16, 2018, 1:03 pm
The Warriors entered the season well equipped to defend their status as reigning NBA champions. In what some presumed would be a cakewalk season to the Finals again, the Warriors instead dealt with adversity in the form of injuries and uncharacteristically poor play at times. Ultimately, talent won out and the Warriors were able to roll with the punches and join the conversation of all-time great NBA dynasties with their third title in four years.
2017-2018 Record: 58-24
Following their second championship in three years, the reigning NBA Champion Warriors entered the 2017 offseason with an ever-growing target on their back. During the summer of 2017, every contender out West was engaging in a level of arms building, posturing and one-upmanship rivaling any offseason in recent memory, if not in the history of the Association. Chris Paul to the Rockets, Jimmy Butler to the Wolves, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to the Thunder. The narrative around each of these moves was not that it would make any individual team win, but rather if it would be enough to make the Warriors lose.
Meanwhile, the general demeanor in Warriors country could only be described as undaunted. Kevin Durant finally got his ring and a Finals MVP award to match, and Steph Curry cashed in with a much deserved five-year, $201M max deal and #ChinaKlay was living his best life. While the Warriors maintained course, there was a reasonable debate to be had about whether the Dubs could pull out yet another championship season. They atoned for fumbling away a Championship to the Cavaliers in 2016 by putting them away in a convincing 4-1 series. Maybe they would be complacent entering the 2018 campaign, and perhaps the fire wouldn’t quite be there following three consecutive appearances in the Finals.
The start of the 2017-2018 season for the Warriors only added fuel to the speculation around their ability to repeat in the face of rebuffed and eager challengers out West as they dropped two of their first three games to the Rockets and Grizzlies. The slow start didn’t last long as the Warriors assumed their normal position towards the top of the standings, but the team couldn’t seem to shake the narrative that something wasn’t quite right. Despite a pair of mid-season injuries to Steph Curry and Draymond Green, the Warriors eventually cruised into the All-Star Break with a 44-14 record, neck-and-neck with the Rockets’ 44-13.
Following the All-Star Break the Warriors were struck again in a major way by the injury bug when they lost Steph Curry (again), Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala for significant time. This batch of injuries proved to be too much, as the Warriors went 14-11 down the stretch – relinquishing control of the top seed in the West to the Rockets. The writing was on the wall. It felt inevitable that we would see one of the most anticipated Western Conference Finals matchups in recent memory between David and Goliath, and somehow David managed to feel like the favorite (they owned the season series 2-1 over the Warriors as well).
The series lived up to all of the hype. The Warriors came into Houston and owned the Rockets in their own building in Game 1, only to be followed up by an equally devastating counter-punch from the Rockets in Game 2. And so the series went, back and forth trading blow-for-blow until the Rockets went up 3-2 in the series following a nail-biter victory at home. The Warriors were injured and exposed; victory seemed possible, if not probable, for the Rockets; and then Chris Paul’s hamstring injury changed everything. Ultimately, the Warriors’ resiliency proved too much for the Rockets, as Houston squandered away not one, but two double-digit leads in the third quarters of Games 6 and 7.
Following an epic, and undoubtedly draining, Western Conference Finals the Warriors were off to the Finals now for a fourth consecutive matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors were by far the better team on paper, and have owned the Cavaliers in the playoffs for the most part (with the exception of 2016). However, there were questions around the team’s ongoing injury woes and some questions as to their ability to get up again following a gritty back-and-forth series with the Rockets. Of course, the Cavaliers also went to Game 7 against the Celtics out East, and LeBron had basically single-handedly carried the Cavs to this point, but at this point LeBron James must be given the benefit of the doubt whenever fatigue comes into question.
The series was not without controversy and intrigue. In Game 1, J.R. Smith ostensibly gave the game away to the Warriors when he apparently forgot the score in the final seconds of regulation. The officiating was called into question with the review and overturn of the critical charge call, and the questionable ejection of Tristan Thompson in overtime (though the game was already over at that point). The Cavaliers looked like they had life, and had a shot to shock the Warriors at home out of the gate. However, they never recaptured that spark as the Warriors went on to roll them in three subsequent games, coasting to a Finals sweep and a third championship in four years.
After coming off a dominant championship run in 2016, it became apparent that Steve Kerr’s hardest task this season was not necessarily to focus his team on the X’s and O’s, but rather to keep them motivated, stimulated and engaged throughout the regular season. More so than in past years, the Warriors appeared sloppy and uninterested at times throughout the regular season. There were games where it was clear the players were overlooking the contest in front of them, onto bigger and brighter stages that they were accustomed to in the playoffs. Kerr employed no shortage of gimmicks and tricks to keep players engaged when attention seemed to be lacking – including a controversial decision to let his players take over coaching duties in a blowout win over the Suns.
Regardless of the perception of Kerr’s gimmicks and mental plays to keep his superstars focused on the task at hand, the numbers backed up that a) they probably worked and, b) the Warriors are still really really good even when they are “bad.” The Warriors again led the league in scoring (113.5 points per game), made field goals (42.8 per game) team efficiency from the floor (50.3 percent) and offensive rating (112.3). They also led the league in blocks (7.5 per game), assist to turnover ratio (1.90) and posted the second best net rating (8.5).
Beyond the numbers, Kerr must be recognized for his ability to foster a strong locker room culture, and his masterful ability to balance the egos and varying personalities of his four superstars. It is too easy to assume that nearly anyone could replicate the dominance that the Warriors have enjoyed given the talent they have assembled, but Kerr truly deserves credit as a mastermind of rotations and scheme that truly unlocked the potential of the Warriors squad that we now enjoy today.
ADP: 5/2 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 5/5 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 3/2 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 68
2017-18 averages: 68 G | 34.2 MP | 26.4 PTS | 2.5 3PM | 6.8 REB | 5.4 AST | 0.7 STL | 1.8 BLK | 3.1 TOV | .516 FG% | .889 FT% |
The now two-time Finals MVP proved yet again why he remains one of the safest bets for a top selection in fantasy drafts as he ended the year as the second-most valuable player on a per-game basis. That marks the fourth time in five years that Durant has finished as either the number one or number two player in fantasy hoops in 9-cat formats.
Durant is as consistent as can be on a season-to-season basis, and his stat set doesn’t possess the gaps that other first round players have as he is historically a positive contributor in every category except turnovers. Despite the consistently elite production, it seems that every season Durant manages to slip on draft day as younger, flashier or more hyped players rise to the top of draft boards – evidenced by his ADP of five this year on ESPN. While Durant rarely fails to outperform his ADP, there may be some validity in fading him a bit on draft day if you look beyond per game value to total value. Durability can be a concern for Durant as he has missed an average of 15 games over the last three seasons due to a combination of injury and scheduled rest.
Injury concerns aside, Durant should enter next season as close to a sure thing as possible to turn in another top-5 fantasy performance. He is due for a new contract, and despite some fairly awkward public comments from Warriors GM Bob Myers regarding the status of those negotiations, it is almost impossible to see him landing anywhere but back with the Warriors. The Warriors cap situation does get more interesting if they max out Durant this offseason, but it is hard to see the composition of the team changing significantly enough to move him outside of “elite” territory on fantasy draft day.
ADP: 7/4 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 22/15 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 4/4 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 51
2017-18 averages: 51 G | 32.0 MP | 26.4 PTS | 4.2 3PM | 5.1 REB | 6.1 AST | 1.6 STL | 0.2 BLK | 3.0 TOV | .495 FG% | .921 FT% |
Following several seasons of nearly untarnished durability and production, Curry’s 2017 campaign is hard to describe as anything but bumpy. A combination of knee and ankle injuries kept him sidelined for 31 games, with his longest stretch of absences unfortunately coming at the peak of fantasy playoff season.
Injury woes aside, when Curry was healthy his per-game production matched what we have come to expect from the 30-year-old guard. He managed to increase his efficiency from the field compared to the previous season but his counting stats across the board held relatively steady with what we saw last season.
Similar to Durant, there aren’t any foreseeable personnel moves on the horizon for the Warriors that would really move the needle on Curry’s value next season. He is locked in to his role, and as long as he can stay healthy next season owners should expect another year of elite performance. There is the possibility that he may be undervalued on draft day due to his turbulent 2017 campaign. In which case owners should be ready to jump if he slides too far outside of the top-five.
ADP: 24/21 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 23/30 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 23/31 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 70
2017-18 averages: 70 G | 32.7 MP | 11.0 PTS | 1.1 3PM | 7.7 REB | 7.3 AST | 1.3 STL | 1.3 BLK | 2.9 TOV | .454 FG% | .775 FT% |
Green didn’t post an overwhelmingly disappointing year by any means, but it was a slightly down year as he finished outside of the top-25 for the first time since his sophomore campaign in 2013. We need not look further than his steal numbers to pinpoint the source of the decline.
Despite a decline in scoring output and rebound numbers playing next to Kevin Durant for the first time in the 2016 season, Green was able to buoy his fantasy value with a significant bump in steals. This season, the depressed scoring and rebound numbers remained; however, he went from averaging 2.0 steals per game in 2016 to 1.3 per game in the 2017 campaign. Also, like many of his teammates, Green dealt with a string of minor injuries throughout the season which kept him sidelined for 12 games in total.
Even if Jordan Bell starts to feature a prominent role in the Warriors’ rotation, Green’s energy on the defensive end makes him an indispensable asset on the court for the Warriors, so owners can largely expect more of the same from him next season. However, it may be best to expect production on the defensive end more akin to the 1.3 steals per game we saw this season than the 2.0 steals per game in 2016, making him more suited for a third-round pick.
ADP: 26/28 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 41/33 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 44/39 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 73
2017-18 averages: 73 G | 34.3 MP | 20.0 PTS | 3.1 3PM | 3.8 REB | 2.5 AST | 0.8 STL | 0.5 BLK | 1.7 TOV | .488 FG% | .837 FT% |
For a second straight season, Thompson wasn’t able to deliver on his near second-round ADP. Unlike last season, however, where his scoring, usage and 3-point production remained consistent with the pre-KD era, his numbers this season do paint a slightly more concerning picture about his role in the offense moving forward.
Thompson’s scoring numbers (20.0 points per game) and usage (23.9 percent) were both the lowest that he has posted since the 2013 season, while his 3-point production (3.1 per game) remains elite but is down from previous seasons and is becoming an increasingly marginalized category to target early in drafts in a more three-heavy NBA.
There are talks of a contract extension for Klay this offseason prior to him hitting the market as an unrestricted free agent next offseason, so there is no reason to think that he will be playing anywhere but with the Warriors for the foreseeable future. He still should be a safe bet to turn in early-to-mid round production next season on increased efficiency in the current iteration of the Warriors, but his days as a second-round asset may be numbered if the counting stats aren’t there.
ADP: 100/133 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 204/191 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 204/197 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 64
2017-18 averages: 64 G | 25.4 MP | 6.0 PTS | 0.5 3PM | 3.8 REB | 3.3 AST | 0.8 STL | 0.6 BLK | 1.0 TOV | .463 FG% | .632 FT% |
This season marked a significant decline for Iguodala in both per-game and total value. He missed 18 games on the season due to a combination of knee injury and scheduled rest games down the finishing stretch and his production when healthy didn’t give owners much other than a smattering of boards, assists and defensive numbers.
Iggy is 34 years old and still has two years left of his three-year, $48M deal. A lot of what he does for the Warriors doesn’t show up in the box score, so his role as a mid-20 minute per night player should be safe next season as long as he can stay healthy, but it is hard to see him providing much more than back end standard league value.
ADP: 140/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 227/193 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 205/180 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 57
2017-18 averages: 57 G | 14.2 MP | 4.6 PTS | 0.0 3PM | 3.6 REB | 1.8 AST | 0.6 STL | 1.0 BLK | 0.9 TOV | .627 FG% | .682 FT% |
Bell showed flashes of fantasy brilliance in his rookie season with the Warriors, but a combination of injury woes and inconsistent utilization ultimately limited his appeal outside of deep league and streaming situations. The young big man posted impressive per-minute defensive stat production, averaging 1.0 blocks and 0.6 steals in only 14 minutes of action per game. His offensive skillset is still a work in progress, but the Warriors won’t need that much from him on that end beyond finishing easy looks at the rim on pick-and-roll opportunities.
JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia, David West and Kevon Looney all played ahead of Bell at points in the season, but none of the aforementioned players are on the books for the Dubs in the 2018 season. It is likely that at least one the expiring big man contracts is re-signed on a team friendly deal, but Bell should still see an increase in minutes next season as he continues to develop. Given his fantasy friendly per-minute production on the defensive end, Bell has a chance at ending next season inside the top-150 even in a limited role off the bench. Consider him a high-upside late-round flier on draft day next year.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 152/129 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 179/156 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 73
2017-18 averages: 73 G | 13.7 MP | 6.8 PTS | 0.0 3PM | 3.3 REB | 1.9 AST | 0.6 STL | 1.0 BLK | 1.1 TOV | .571 FG% | .759 FT% |
It didn’t take even 14 minutes per game for a 37-year-old David West to end up ranked just outside of the top-150 on a per game basis. Almost all of his fantasy value came from blocks and hyper-efficient low-volume shooting. That certainly has value, but it is hard to consider West anything more than a deep league source of blocks or streaming option in standard leagues. West enters the offseason an unrestricted free agent, and whether he returns to the Warriors depends in large part on how much confidence the coaching staff and front office has with Jordan Bell. He could also choose to retire. Regardless of where he lands, West probably won’t turn many heads as a fantasy asset next season outside of deep leagues.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 265/250 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 311/284 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 66
2017-18 averages: 66 G | 13.8 MP | 4.0 PTS | 0.0 3PM | 3.3 REB | 0.6 AST | 0.5 STL | 0.8 BLK | 0.5 TOV | .583 FG% | .545 FT% |
Looney did not feature in the rotation nearly at all until Draymond Green went down in mid-March; However, down the final stretch of the fantasy season Looney was a difference-maker for owners quick enough to grab him off the wire in the playoffs. In the final month of play, Looney averaged 1.7 blocks and 1.2 steals in 23 minutes per game.
Looney enters the offseason an NBA champion, and an unrestricted free agent. The 22-year old flashed some upside; perhaps enough upside to garner a larger offer than the Warriors can realistically match as their books start to look ugly when considering extensions for Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. If he lands in a more talent-starved situation, he could be worth a late round flier on the hope of fringe top-100 production, but it is probably more likely that he won’t offer much next season outside of streaming utility.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 307/296 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 227/211 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 33
2017-18 averages: 33 G | 22.4 MP | 9.5 PTS | 1.4 3PM | 2.5 REB | 2.7 AST | 0.4 STL | 0.0 BLK | 1.0 TOV | .484 FG% | .880 FT% |
The Warriors signed Quinn Cook on a two-way deal towards the end of the 2017 offseason. He spent a majority of the season toiling away in the G-League, but a late season injury to Steph Curry opened up an opportunity for the 25-year-old guard. Cook did not fail to seize the opportunity, and turned in some absolutely scorching hot shooting performances. In a 17 game stretch filling in for Curry, Cook turned in top-70 fantasy value and averaged 15.6 points on 50-percent shooting with 2.2 triples, 3.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 0.7 steals in 34 minutes per game. The late season outburst was enough to earn Cook a two-year guaranteed contract with the Warriors.
As the Warriors entered the playoffs and Steph Curry returned to the starting lineup, Cook began to fade back into relative obscurity. His near 50-percent shooting over that stretch was due for some regression. Though Cook still managed to shoot a decently efficient 45 percent from the field in the playoffs. Cook had a great run, and may have won a few owners a championship with his late season heroics, but Cook isn’t likely to register on the standard league radar next season as long as the Warriors are healthy.
The Doctor’s Orders
At this point, it is not outlandish to claim that the Warriors’ have currently assembled the greatest collection of NBA talent to ever play on one team. Even when they are down, injured and weary, they still appear to be nigh unbeatable. At this point, it seems likely that it won’t be the Rockets, Spurs, Wolves or any team out West that will dethrone the Warriors – it is more likely to end up being money.
Money is the elephant in the room for the Warriors, but Curry’s max deal last offseason is starting to bring the team’s uncomfortable financial situation out into the open. Kevin Durant is now set to get a max contract, after taking a haircut on a team friendly deal the past two seasons. Simply put, the front office needs to get Klay Thompson and Draymond Green on board with a team-friendly extension this offseason to avoid an untenable financial situation. If either Thompson or Green decline their extensions and decide to test free agency next offseason, it seems unlikely that the Warriors would be able to match their market value on the open market.
Moving beyond the team’s big four, the Warriors’ contract situation for its bench players is not much prettier. Nick Young, Zaza Pachulia, David West, JaVale McGee and Kevon Looney are all set to be free agents this offseason. The Warriors don’t have much of a financial avenue to bring on free agent talent to replace the outgoing reserve players, so developing young players still on rookie deals to become meaningful cogs in the rotation will be a key to success. The Warriors have had success landing talent with late draft picks (Draymond Green, Jordan Bell), so hitting again in this year’s draft will be imperative to the team’s financial solvency moving forward.
Still, even with the very real financial concerns the team will face, it is hard to see this team doing anything but win for as long as the core remains intact. The front office has some challenging puzzle pieces to put together, but simply staying the course should be the goal for the Warriors.