Often overlooked with Golden State’s addition of Kevin Durant is the fact that the Warriors had to trade away Andrew Bogut and let Leandro Barbosa, Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Mo Speights walk in free agency. The Warriors did a fine job of replacing that depth by adding Zaza Pachulia and David West, plus they still have Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, so they still have a strong bench unit. But the one area that has Steve Kerr is worried about is Golden State’s team defense.
The Warriors are already expecting Durant to bring it on the defensive end but Kerr believes his team will go through some growing pains defensively. Especially when it comes to rim protection, an area that Bogut excelled at and was a crucial part of Golden State’s team defense.
“The thing that’s different will be a lack of rim protection,” Kerr told CSNBayArea.com. “We had great rim protection from Bogut and Ezeli, and both those guys are gone. Zaza’s a very good defender, but he’s more of a positional guy than a shot blocker.
“So there’s definitely adjustments we’ll have to make, even schematically. We’ll have some growing pains, especially on defense, as we try to make sure we get everything right and comfortable.”
Bogut’s absence in the middle may become glaring at times for the Warriors since, as Kerr points out, Pachulia is not a rim protector. He’s not even a strong shot blocker as Pachulia has averaged just 0.3 blocks in his lengthy NBA career. Overall, Pachulia is a fine player but defense is not his best aspect. The same can be said of West, who is a strong rebounder but lacks the height to be a rim protector.
CBS Sports’ Zach Harper broke down in his excellent rim protection post what the Warriors are losing with Bogut and what they are hoping Pachulia can deliver:
How they were last season: Andrew Bogut is awesome defending the rim. He’s big and strong so he doesn’t get knocked out of position by contact. He’s intelligent with the way he challenges shots, so his declining athleticism doesn’t become an issue. His timing is fantastic and it helps that he played with great defenders like Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and Klay Thompson. Bogut only played about 20 minutes per game but he challenged a lot of shots during those 20 minutes. He allowed just 45.2 percent at the rim (Synergy has him at a ridiculously low 35.2 percent) and he saved over two points per 36 minutes. He was yet another unbelievable weapon on a team that won 73 games and almost won the title.
How they project for this season: Bogut is gone. He was a casualty of the Durant signing, but the Warriors rebounded by getting Zaza Pachulia on a one-year deal. Remember Pachulia from the Mavs section as a big body who helped deter shots inside but didn’t do a great job once the shooter was around the basket? Could having those amazing defenders on the wings and Draymond Green helping him inside instead of Dirk Nowitzki turn Pachulia into an above average rim protector? The Warriors hope so.
As Harper points out, the Warriors do have Draymond Green, who frequently plays center in Golden State’s small ball lineups. Green is by no means a legitimate rim protector but he excels in team defensive schemes and is a good one-on-one defender. The Warriors could also possibly use Durant, who has an incredible, lengthy wing span as a rim protector in certain lineups.
But despite Golden State’s lack of rim protection, with Green and Klay Thompson, the Warriors have strong individual defenders and a strong defensive mind in assistant coach Ron Adams that will likely figure out what works best for the team. Like any other team, the Dubs have some kinks to work on, but overall they remain too talented to not figure things out.
Source: CBS Sports / Kerr expects Warriors to go through growing pains, especially on defense