The Golden State Warriors head into the 2019-20 NBA season with a lot of questions surrounding the team. Kevin Durant left for Brooklyn, Klay Thompson will be rehabbing a torn ACL, and there is uncertainty at the center position. All that is to say that the Warriors famed Death Lineup could look a lot different this season. Let’s review the key pieces of the lineup and determine who we think is the best choice to man that fifth spot.
Warriors’ trade for D’Angelo Russell
The Brooklyn Nets knew they were landing Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, so the team orchestrated a three-way deal to send the All-Star guard to the Bay area. D’Angelo Russell is quietly becoming the player he was projected to be coming out of Ohio State, and he will give the Warriors’ offense a much-needed jolt when Stephen Curry takes a breather.
Seeing how he and Curry get along on the court will be the key to the Warriors success this season.
Klay Thompson’s Injury
When Klay Thompson went down with a torn ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, Warriors fans held their breath. Thompson is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, and he is a lights out shooter. He can score in bunches, and it’s not rare to see him score 15-20 points in a single quarter.
The team is hoping he will be back by late March/early April before the start of the playoffs, to give him time to work back into the rotation. If he isn’t back by then, he may not return until a later playoff round.
Death Lineup core
When constructed, the Death Lineup will consist of Stephen Curry, Russell, Thompson (when healthy), and Draymond Green. Curry is the obvious choice to run the point guard position as a two-time MVP, but we wonder how the lineup will look with Thompson and Russell together.
Thompson could slot in at the small forward position standing at 6’7, but would he be able to withstand four to five minutes against LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard without much help behind him?
Draymond is still one of the NBA’s best defenders, but having him go up against centers with a height advantage could be costly on both ends of the floor.
Who will be the fifth player?
Three guards and talented swingman Draymond Green will head up the Death Lineup, but the Warriors need a fifth player to take the floor. So who are the best options to join Curry, Thompson, Russell, and Green?
The first is Kevon Looney. He is one of the most respected players on the team. He has the defensive awareness to play the center position, but he can also use his agility to attack slower centers.
The next option could be third-year man Alfonzo McKinnie, who will see a lot more playing time this season. His per 36 minute stat line churns out 12 points and nine rebounds per game. Those aren’t jaw-dropping numbers, but they don’t have to be. He would be an excellent choice and would cause mismatch problems at either the three or four spots.
In the end, we think the Warriors will go with Looney in the fourth quarter, with McKinnie seeing more action earlier in the game.
How will the Warriors do this season?
With Klay Thompson on the shelf until the end of the regular season, we think the Warriors won’t finish as the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the Western Conference this season. The team is still good enough to secure a top-four seed, and it could reach 45-50 wins while making the Western Conference Finals.
However, another deep playoff run won’t come easy. The Clippers with Kahwi Leonard, Anthony Davis and the Lakers, Rockets, and Jazz retooled their rosters, and Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers won’t be pushovers, either.