Knowing his defense is going to suffer from their offseason changes, Steve Kerr is trying to create some offseason urgency by making it seem like his team will be dropping off in that particular aspect, not expanding on how much better they possibly got on offense.
Kerr is referring to Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli leaving the team, although Harrison Barnes, while not being a key defensive cog like Andre Iguodala, Bogut, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, is another player the Warriors will need to figure out how to replace. Defensively, yes? Kevin Durant should do a good job filling in for the need Barnes left on offense, and then some.
Isn’t Zaza Pachulia a good enough replacement to whatever it is that Bogut did? Probably not. Pachulia isn’t a defensive liability, but he doesn’t protect the rim as well as Bogut and Ezeli did. David West, another player who joined through the ring-chasing trend, is more of a positional defender like Pachulia, and not someone who deters players from attacking the rim. Green can fill that role, but that takes something else from the Warriors, who used Bogut sparingly in the NBA finals over the last two years, but during the regular season his rebounding, defense and presence overall has been quite influential.
There’s also Anderson Varejao on the team, but the Warriors won’t be getting anything too special from him in any kind of department. Some hustle here, some experience influence there, but Varejao is unlikely to be a key piece in this team’s run to another NBA finals, unless injuries occur. And like the last two Finals show us, as much as the Warriors hated to admit it when they won, and used it as an excuse when they lost, injuries make a huge difference when they happen in June.
Defensive adjustments between games aren’t that big of a thing during the regular season, but it’ll be interesting to see if teams start attacking Stephen Curry more often after the way he was exposed by both Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook during the playoffs.
It’s worth remembering that while there are a lot of great offensive point guards in the league, there aren’t many teams who partner LeBron James and Kevin Durant (when he was in OKC) to the point guards, which means it’s much more difficult to help Curry handle excellent scorers one on one. But as we’ve said in the season preview and on a couple of other occasions, the two big challenges for the Warriors this season will be making a smooth transition from their previous offensive scheme to one with Durant, who’ll obviously force some adjustments, and making sure that his arrival and the overall changes don’t hurt the team on defense too much.