Keep or Cut? Part 1: Ky, Juan, Mychal, Damion, Marquese
An abrupt season ending player review for an abrupt season end
Given NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s announcement of a hiatus that “will last at least 30 days,“ that brings a fittingly weird end to the Golden State Warriors 2019-2020 season. It was a season of highs and lows… ok, mostly lows.
Rather than dive into the post mortem of what went wrong, let’s skip ahead and discuss what some of the decisions facing the team moving forward.
Since there’s no actual sports of any kind to cover, I’m splitting this series up into two separate articles: this one on the marginal players, and then a follow up article focused on the deeper roster-building uses of the various contract vehicles Golden State will have available when they resume activity.
Who are we talking about?
For simplicity’s sake, we are going to ignore a few of the more marginal players.
[Warning, all sorts of author conjecture incoming]
Though the league has frozen all roster movements and contract timers, the NBA’s 30-day hiatus extends through the end of the season. I have no official confirmation, but my guess is that when/if the league returns, they would roll right into some sort of playoffs.
So that means that Chasson Randle is as good as gone. The other player that this leaves in the lurch is Dragan Bender. Bender has done just enough to remain intriguing, but falling short of the production needed to really make the team sit up and take notice. In particular, his low three-point shooting percentage and slow feet on defense have knocked his appeal down enough to where the team was unlikely to offer any extended contract. Bender is still one of the available “stretch fives” out on the market, so it’s not totally out of the question that the team will call him back in for preseason camp next year - but for the purposes of this exercise, we are assuming he’s out.
So that leaves the following players, returning to training camp with partially guaranteed deals:
Bowman was 9th on the team this year with just north of 1,000 minutes logged. He started 12 of the 45 games he appeared in, averaging 7.4 points, 2.9 assists, 2.7 rebounds, and one steal per game (in about 22 minutes). He was one of the more reliable bench players this season, stepping into the starting role when called upon, and always providing hustle energy and some decent defensive chops off the bench.
Unfortunately, at just 6’1” and not an elite outside shooter, his position with the team is far from set in stone. Bowman shot just 31% from three-point range; his TS% is 16th on the team - right around Draymond Green’s off shooting year.
Bowman ended the season before he could work his way back from injury, but will certainly be available whenever games resume.
Toscano-Anderson has a slightly stronger case for making the team long-term. He plays a position of need (although it would be hard to argue that the Warriors and their NBA-worst 15-50 season don’t have needs at every position) and offers something that Golden State desperately needs: defense.
Though defensive metrics are a bit tricky, Toscano-Anderson rates highly across the board. According to Cleaning the Glass, he’s above average to elite level in every major statistical category they track. Though he fouls at a relatively high rate, his block and steal percentages are well above average (71%, and 85%, respectively).
ESPN’s Real Plus Minus puts him with the 27th best Defensive RPM out of all qualifying players.
Though he’s averaged less than two attempts per game, Toscano-Anderson hit nearly 35% of his three-pointers - though this should be taken with a grain of salt given his small sample size of just 23 shots.
With a low risk contract, and a team in dire need of defenders, I would guess that Toscano-Anderson will make the 2020-21 Warriors roster.
Mulder stormed on the scene late, appearing in just seven games (starting in three of those). But the man who was named after Klay Thomson’s dad and came up into the NBA after getting recognized for leading the G League in three pointers made seems to belong with the Warriors.
This is going to be a difficult prediction, because his shooting has been so spotty. Here’s his entire career statistical data set, from Basketball Reference:
The fact the Mulder ends the season with something close to a 30% accuracy from beyond the arc is heavily weighted by those cold shooting nights (0-5 to open his NBA career, and then 0-7 to close it). The Warriors are likely intrigued enough to keep him around.
Shooting off the bench is a long term need for Golden State, and one that they surely wouldn’t mind some insurance on.
Damion Lee and Marquese Chriss
I’m going to bundle these two together since both players would seem to be in a similar position. Both Lee and Chriss have been extremely valuable to Golden State this year; and both have earned their grudging nods of acceptance from a Warriors franchise that has few roster spots available, and less money to fill them. Nonetheless, both of these players have positioned themselves into a role with the team next season.
The only caveat here is that these players are both on partially guaranteed deals for a reason - if Golden State can improve at the position, they will do so, even if it leaves two desirable players in the lurch.
Next up, the big questions
Part 2 will be along shortly. In it, we will look at the Warriors big offseason: who should the team target with their available tools, and which players fit into the team’s long-term plans?