Putting the finishing touches on the NBA’s latest “Super Team" while completing a massive bench overhaul to make room for Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors managed to keep veteran center Anderson Varejao by reportedly coming to terms with the Brazilian on a one-year deal, according to ESPN.
Signed by Golden State late last season after the Cleveland Cavaliers traded him to Portland to avoid a higher luxury tax bill, Varejao doesn’t make up for the major bench exodus the Warriors have experienced but he does provide some much needed depth at center.
All told the Warriors were forced to cut ties five players in order to sign Durant. They traded center Andrew Bogut and allowed forward Harrison Barnes to sign with Dallas, while Marreese Speights signed with the Clippers earlier this week, and Festus Ezili landed in Portland. Guard Brandon Rush headed to Minnesota, and guard Leandro Barbosa remains a free agent.
Varejao’s return, on top of the signing of center Zaza Pachulia and drafting Damian Jones, should be one of the last few moves Golden State makes in the offseason. The Warriors now have 14 players on the roster and while Varejao’s pay for next season is presently unknown, it will increase a payroll that’s currently over the cap at $97.2 million.
The 33-year-old Varejao averaged only 2.6 points and 2.3 rebounds in 8.5 minutes over 22 games for the Warriors last season, and those numbers were cut in half during his 17 playoff appearances. But over 12 seasons Varejao does have valuable postseason experience and could spell projected starting center Pachulia from time to time while showing the rookie Jones the finer points of post defense.
And now, with general manager Bob Myers having mostly rounded out the rest of the roster, the real question is: How exactly can a four-time scoring champion in Durant fit with a proven championship squad that already features two-time MVP Stephen Curry, as well as lights-out shooter Klay Thompson and versatile forward Draymond Green.
Advanced statistics suggest Durant and his new teammates’ transition may be relatively seamless.
Many have panned Durant’s decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder, including former Thunder teammate James Harden who said, “There’s only one basketball.”
Harden’s technically right by implying that distributing the ball could be a major issue for the Warriors, except their stars have already bought into head coach Steve Kerr’s ball-movement heavy system and so did Durant while he was with the Thunder.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, 51.8 percent of Durant’s two-point field goals were assisted and so were a whopping 64 percent of his threes last season alone. Altogether, 55 percent of Durant’s 28.2 points per game involved at least one teammate.
Last season wasn’t an outlier for Durant, either. In the 2014-15 season 51.1 percent of his twos were assisted and 65.6 percent of his threes were as well.
In fact, the numbers also show that Durant tends to score more on his own when he’s asked to be the primary scorer on almost every possession and to play heavy minutes, a problem he won’t have with the Warriors.
Durant’s led the NBA in minutes played three times in his career (2009-10, 2011-12, and 2013-14) and in those years his twos were never assisted more than 47.1 percent of the time.
Golden State led the league with 28.9 assists per game last season, and with Durant more than willing to move the ball that shouldn’t change.
Current 2016-17 Warrors Roster
Projected Starting Lineup
PG Stephen Curry
SG Klay Thompson
SF Kevin Durant
PF Draymond Green
C Zaza Pachulia
PG Shaun Livingston
SG Andre Iguodala
SG Patrick McCaw
SG Ian Clark
SF Kevon Looney
SF James McAdoo
PF David West
C Damian Jones
C Anderson Varejao