The Golden State Warriors are going for third straight NBA Finals appearance and second NBA title in three years. For the Dubs to reach their goal, they need to tweak a flawed roster.
Golden State owns the league’s best record and has the highest point differential. The Warriors are extremely potent on the offensive end, leading the league in scoring, field goal percentage, effective shooting percentage, true shooting percentage and assists. Golden State has the three highest scoring games this season and has doled out 30 assists in 22 games.
The Warriors have arguably the best starting lineup. Point guard Steph Curry and small forward Kevin Durant are among the top-five players at their respective positions. Klay Thompson is a top-15 shooting guard, and Draymond Green is a top-10 power forward. Then there is starting center Zaza Pachulia.
Pachulia is having his worst season since 2011-12. He is averaging just 4.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists a game in 17.8 minutes of action. The 32-year-old ranks 38th among all centers in the league in Player Efficiency Ratings, 19th in true shooting percentage (.584), and 24th in rebound rate (27.7).
Pachulia is a good defender, but he is not a shot-blocker. He is rated as the fifth best center in ESPN’s Defense Real-Plus Minus rating, but opponents are shooting 53.8 percent from the field, including 62.2 percent from six feet and closer.
It is kind of unfair to single Pachulia out as he has shown that he is an adequate starting center over his career. And the truth is his stats per 40 minutes are relatively in line with those stats throughout his career per Basketball-Reference. Plus, the 32-year-old is shooting a career-high 52.5 percent from the field, and the Warriors are more effective when he is on the court.
The problem is that Pachulia does not fit Golden State’s uptempo style, and as a result, he plays less than 20 minutes a game. Backup center JaVale McGee is kind of in the same boat as Pachulia as he doesn’t fit the Dubs style. McGee is more athletic and a better rebounder along with a better rim protector than Pachulia. However, he is a disaster on the offensive end. Thus, he is not able to be on the floor more than 20 minutes a game, which affects the continuity.
McGee has played well this season and is a great finisher at the rim. But that pretty much sums up his offensive capabilities. The 28-year-old is averaging 5.6 points a game and 2.5 rebounds while shooting 61.9 percent from the field in just 8.3 minutes of action. In two starts, McGee has averaged 13.0 points and 3.5 caroms in 16 minutes. He is eighth in the league in PER, and 42nd in Defensive Real Plus-Minus, although he is holding opponents to 54 percent shooting from within six feet.
The Warriors also have used Anderson Varejao, Damian Jones, David West, Kevon Looney, James Michael McAdoo and Green at center. Varejao doesn’t provide much more than hustle and rebounding. Jones is young and raw. Green is a capable center in a small lineup, but he is just six-foot-seven and gets eaten up by the top centers in the league. West, Looney, and McAdoo are undersized for the position as well.
So, what can the Dubs do to improve the position? Expectations are that there will be a number of veterans made available prior to the trade deadline. One of the most intriguing names for the Dubs is Tyson Chandler of the Phoenix Suns. Fox Sports 1’s Colin Coward Radio Show mentioned Chandler as a player that has been linked to the team.
Chandler would be a perfect fit with the Warriors as he is a physical defender who brings some rim protection. The 34-year-old is not the athlete or defender that he once was, although he would be able to give the Dubs’ 25 minutes at center. He is also still a fabulous rebounder. Chandler is averaging 7.6 points and 11.3 rebounds while shooting 68.1 percent from the field in 25 contests this season.
In order for the Warriors to obtain Chandler, the Dubs would likely have to surrender a first-round draft pick as well as one of their youngsters (Ian Clark, Patrick McGraw, McAdoo, Looney) and possibly any number of their expiring contracts (West, Pachulia, Varejao, McGee, etc.).
Another interesting possibility would be re-obtaining Andrew Bogut. The Dallas Morning News recently suggested that the Mavs should look to trade Bogut for a first round pick.
Golden State is obviously very familiar with the seven-foot Aussie as he spent the previous four seasons with the organization. The Dubs traded the 32-year-old to the Mavs to make room for Kevin Durant. He has been bothered by a knee injury this year.
Bogut is averaging 3.5 points a game and 9.9 rebounds in 18 games. He is averaging 47.6 percent the field and is ranked second in defensive real plus-minus percentage.
Center is not the only weakness of the Warriors as they also need to tweak their bench as well. Golden State will more than likely make a move prior to the deadline; let’s see if they can make a big splash.
[Featured Image by Sue Ogrocki/ AP Image]