How Warriors' NBA free agency additions will compel offensive changes


SACRAMENTO — Significant changes are coming to the Warriors next season, and they won’t be limited to the roster and coaching staff.

There also will be adjustments to their offense.

After practically patenting the continuous movement of the ball and the players — always hoping to achieve a stated goal of at least 30 assists per game — the Warriors will be integrating more pick-and-roll action than they have at any time under coach Steve Kerr.

This doesn’t mean they will abandon the identity that has served them so well over the past five seasons. Stephen Curry -- who ranks second, behind teammate Klay Thompson, in NBA miles run since Kerr took over -- will continue to scamper about the court and relocate in search of a good shot.

But more consistent usage of pick-and-roll offense is the logical outcome of opening the season without the likes of Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and, in all likelihood, Shaun Livingston. All three veterans had a full grasp of the desired concept, as well as the skill and court awareness to execute it.

When the Warriors make their debut in Chase Center this fall, they will do so with a dramatically different roster surrounding mainstays Curry and Draymond Green.

Though new Warriors D’Angelo Russell (acquired via sign-and-trade) and Willie Cauley-Stein (free-agent agreement), might be wise and have the ability to feel the game, it can’t be expected that they’d simply slide into roles vacated by players who have been in the NBA for at least 12 seasons. More to the point, asking both players to would be coaching sin insofar it would minimize their respective strengths.

Russell and Cauley-Stein are expected to play significant roles, and they’re built for the pick-and-roll, so there is no reason they can’t run it effectively as teammates.

Russell averaged 62 pick-and-roll plays per 100 possessions last season, per Second Spectrum. Only two players, Charlotte’s Tony Parker and Atlanta’s Trae Young, had a higher rate. Leaning on that method, Russell became a first-time All-Star at age 22.

He’s now 23, on his third NBA team and on the verge of signing a contract that will average more than $29 million over the next four seasons. Put another way, he’s young and wealthy, and needs to continue his development.

Cauley-Stein, who turns 26 in August, is at his most effective when utilized in the pick-and-roll. He’s a full 7-feet, a solid screener, a very good athlete and ideal as a lob-catcher. For the record, he also handles well and shoots decently enough to hit the occasional midrange jumper.

Think of it this way: Cauley-Stein has the offensive ability to provide everything the Warriors got from JaVale McGee and more. The Warriors, however, believe Cauley-Stein still has untapped upside.

As is, there were many occasions last season when Cauley-Stein and Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox destroyed opponents with pick-and-roll actions. The same could happen with Russell, especially if the floor is properly spaced.

Understand, Kerr and his staff know how they want to play. We’ve seen it for five seasons. But they’ve always had multiple reliable shooting threats, historically good shooters.

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With Durant gone and Thompson not expected back until February or March, Curry likely will enter next season as the only proven credible threat from deep. Curry and Green reminded everyone in the playoffs that, when unleashed, they are a devastating pick-and-roll combo.

There will be more pick-and-roll with the 2019-20 Warriors because their roster will dictate it. It’s a matter of a smart coaching staff adapting to its personnel.

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