The Blazers begin their first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday. Portland played the Warriors in the second round of the 2016 NBA playoffs—a series they were relatively competitive in despite losing in five games. This year’s Golden State team, however, has some pretty dramatic roster differences from last year.
You probably wouldn’t expect a team coming off back-to-back NBA Finals appearances with regular season win totals of 73 and 67, respectively, to make drastic changes to its roster.
But that’s exactly what the Warriors did.
Only five players who averaged at least 10 minutes a game for Golden State in 2015-16 remain: starters Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, along with key reserves Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. Role players Ian Clark, James Michael McAdoo, and Anderson Varejao are also still with the team; there’s turnover everywhere else on the roster.
The change starts with Kevin Durant, who shocked fans lats offseason when he left Oklahoma City in unrestricted free agency. Golden State saw an opportunity to add one of the NBA’s five best players during the offseason and took it. In doing so, they had to release or not re-sign several key players from the 2016 NBA Finals runner-up squad.
Gone are starters Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut. Bench players Festus Ezeli and Leandro Barbosa—occasional contributors Marreese Speights and Brandon Rush—all found new NBA homes last offseason.
Besides Durant, the Warriors added centers Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee, power forward David West, rookie point guard Patrick McCaw, and small forward Matt Barnes, who they signed mid-season after Durant’s injury.
The changes give Golden State a starting five of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Zaza Pachulia. While their roster changes arguably hurt the Warriors’ depth and interior defense, replacing Harrison Barnes with Kevin Durant in their small ball “Death Lineup”—Curry, Thompson, Green, Iguodala, and now Durant—more than makes up for it.
Golden State and their revised roster still won 67 games this year and ended the season with a better point differential (11.6) than last year’s 73-win team (10.8).
In the second round of last year’s playoffs against the Warriors, the Blazers averaged 114.2 points per game on 42.4 percent shooting from the field and 42.8 percent shooting from deep. However, they gave up 118.6 points per game, allowing Golden State to shoot 47.7 percent from the floor and 41 percent from outside in five contests, losing 4-1.
Portland lost all four regular season matchups with the Warriors this year, scoring 105.5 points per game but giving up an average of 125 points. The Blazers held them to a reasonable 38.8 percent shooting from deep, but allowed 52.4 percent shooting from the field, while only making 36.7 percent of their own 3-pointers and 44.4 percent of their overall field goals.
Can the Blazers can turn their fortunes around against the revamped 2016-17 Golden State roster in this year’s playoffs? Can they repeat their offensive magic from the 2015-16 postseason while ratcheting up the defense a notch? Weigh in with your thoughts below!