Last year, the Golden State Warriors revolved around Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. But what made them the best regular-season team in NBA history was their bench and their role players.
Many of those players are no longer on Golden State, which, of course, signed Kevin Durant in the offseason. But at 20-3, the Warriors – and their bench – haven’t missed a beat.
“What’s great about their bench this year is Steve Kerr can keep Kevin Durant or Klay Thompson in – or both – with the bench and give them some more scoring punch,” former Warrior and current CSN Bay Area analyst Kelenna Azubuike said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “The bench players actually like how they’re coming on right now.”
The Golden State bench combined for 34 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and two blocks in a 106-99 road win over the Jazz on Thursday. David West had four points and three assists, JaVale McGee had six points and three rebounds, Ian Clark had six points and Patrick McCaw had 10.
“David West has been playing well,” Azubuike said. “He had a really nice first half. He had three assists in the first half that were really great. He’s a good passer. His mid-range jumper, that 15-17-footer, has become something he can rely on. He’s hitting that. JaVale McGee had another nice little stint tonight. They love throwing him lobs. He’s been great for them being a rim protector on the other end and running the floor and using his length and his athleticism and you got to give him that lob respect. Ian Clark has been playing well. Pat McCaw had his career high tonight. So I just think it’s about them getting used to their roles and really coming into their own, which I think they are. They’ve been getting better and better, and like I said, it always helps when you can have Klay Thompson or Kevin Durant or both of them on the floor with the bench to give them more of a scoring punch and to help them out there.”
While Thompson’s 60-point night was the best individual performance in the league this season, Durant remains one of the best all-around players in the world. He is averaging 26.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.4 steals.
Growing pains? Not one bit.
“I really haven’t (seen any),” Azubuike said. “He looks really comfortable to me. He looks like he’s having a ton of fun. You always see him celebrating with his teammates and smiling. He rolls out of bed and gets 20 points. That’s nothing for him. It’s almost surprising when he’s below 20, which hasn’t happened very much this season. He’s such a great scorer. The thing I’ve been impressed with most is his passing and his shot-blocking on the defensive end. He’s a really good shot-blocker, and he’s one of the biggest reasons the Warriors are leading the league in shot blocks because he protects the rim in different ways. You lose Andrew Bogut, but you get a shot-blocker in Kevin Durant who’s quick, who’s probably the same height.”
Bogut is listed at 7-0, while Durant is listed at 6-9. Durant’s listing, however, might not be entirely accurate.
“He said he’s 6-9,” Azubuike said. “We say he’s 6-foot-13 because he doesn’t like to be called a 7-footer. So he’s long and he’s fast and he can chase you down and block shots that way, come over to help and blocks shots. He’s shown a lot of discipline in the defensive end, and I think that’s why he’s fit in so well – because he thinks the same way the Warriors do. He’s been great on that end and offensively he’s a willing passer. So he fits right into the way the Warriors want to play. It’s a perfect marriage.”