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Detroit Pistons 2016-17 Season Preview

Basketball Insiders previews the 2016-17 season for the Detroit Pistons.

Basketball Insiders

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The Detroit Pistons ran roughshod over the Eastern Conference in the early to mid 2000s, but have been largely irrelevant in recent years. Detroit’s drama has ranged from poor free agency signings to constant head coach shuffling, which essentially throttled any forward momentum the franchise could occasionally muster.

But for the first time in nearly a decade, the Pistons will head into training camp under the pressure of heightened expectations. Detroit is coming off their lone winning season since the 2007-08 campaign, posting a 44-38 record and reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2009. While the team was ultimately swept in the first round of the playoffs at the hands of the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit’s brass is hoping the taste of success is enough to inspire the team’s young core to push even harder.

Rather than rest on their laurels, president of basketball operations and head coach Stan Van Gundy was extremely aggressive in free agency by bringing in intriguing veterans Ish Smith, Boban Marjanovic and Jon Leuer. The Pistons also locked up All-Star center Andre Drummond to a five-year max deal, following guard Reggie Jackson’s lucrative deal last summer.

Pistons owner Tom Gores has continued to publicly speak about returning the franchise back to prominence. If the old adage “put your money where your mouth is” proves to be true, then he has been passing with flying colors as of late. This unit has the potential to flirt with 50 victories and there’s no question that Van Gundy’s squad is making progress in Motown.

Basketball Insiders previews the Detroit Pistons’ 2016-17 season.

FIVE GUYS THINK

It’s hard not to love where the Detroit Pistons are after another successful offseason that brought in even more talent to a team that was already one of the better young groups in the league. Boban Marjanovic and Ish Smith were two of the more underrated acquisitions of the summer, but what really matters is another year of watching Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson grow together and having Tobias Harris for a full offseason and training camp to find his way with this core. The Pistons are deep, well-coached and primed for a breakout campaign. I have them ranked fourth in the Central here, but they shouldn’t end the season too far behind Chicago and Indiana, if at all. Those three teams could easily be separated by a small handful of games, though Detroit admittedly has a much higher ceiling than at least Chicago – both this season and beyond.

4th Place – Central Division

– Joel Brigham

I’m a huge Stan Van Gundy fan and believe he’s one of the best coaches in the NBA. I’ve felt this way for quite some time and my stance isn’t changing anytime soon. He’s terrific with Xs and Os and in-game adjustments. He knows how to motivate his players and instill a winning culture (which is why it’s relatively common to hear Van Gundy’s former players reminisce about the good old days when they suited up for him). Also, he has a ridiculous wealth of knowledge when it comes to the game’s history (down to even the most random, obscure things). All of this is to say that Detroit’s future is in extremely good hands with their president of basketball operations and head coach. Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson, Tobias Harris, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Henry Ellenson is an amazing young core, and Van Gundy is just the guy to maximize their potential. Last year, we saw this group get their first taste of the playoffs. If all goes as expected, it’ll be the first of many appearances for this squad.

3rd Place – Central Division

– Alex Kennedy

The Pistons returned to the playoffs last season after a six-year drought, driven by president of basketball operations and head coach Stan Van Gundy’s aggressive roster reshuffling since taking control. The Pistons will be an intriguing club this season because it’s always entertaining to watch how young teams deal with any sort of success. Will Detroit sit back and admire their work from last season and struggle out of the gate? Or will the Pistons ride their momentum from this past season and use it to catapult themselves higher into the Eastern Conference’s hierarchy? The team was extremely active this summer, locking in All-Star center Andre Drummond to a long-term deal and reinforcing their overall depth in free agency. Let’s see how this young core handles success.

2nd Place – Central Division

– Lang Greene

It’s not every day that you see a team opt to pay a fringe All-Star talent to walk away. Stan Van Gundy did that and, since then, the results have been impossible to argue with. Since taking over in Detroit in May 2014, Van Gundy has outdone most of what Joe Dumars did in term of roster assembly. Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings and Greg Monroe were among those who were shown the door, and now, the team appears to be on the right path led by Reggie Jackson, Tobias Harris and Andre Drummond. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a player I have fallen in love with as well, so I really like the pieces that the franchise is building around. My only concern is that sometimes, when we see a glimpse of potential, we begin to expect too much, too quickly. Look no further than the New Orleans Pelicans and Washington Wizards. In other words, just because the Pistons won 44 games last year doesn’t mean they’re going to win 50 this year. The conference around them has gotten tougher and I expect the Pacers to rise up as the second-best team in the Central. After the Cavaliers and Pacers, though, I think the Pistons will be right there. They’re a rising, middle-of-the-pack team in the East, and I am happy for Van Gundy and for the fans of the proud franchise.

3rd Place – Central Division

— Moke Hamilton

Stan Van Gundy has rebuilt the Pistons over the last few years, with an emphasis on young talent headed by Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond. How the Pistons do this upcoming season will largely depend on internal development since none of their offseason additions are necessarily game-changers. Jon Leuer, Boban Marjanovic, Ray McCallum and Ish Smith are all capable of filling a role and contributing, but this team’s success will be determined by players like Jackson, Drummond, Harris, Caldwell-Pope, Stanley Johnson and Marcus Morris. Van Gundy is a top-notch head coach, so I expect this team to be more comfortable playing his system as the season goes along. Assuming that happens, I think the Pistons take a significant step forward.

2nd Place – Central Division

–  Jesse Blancarte

TOP OF THE LIST

Top Offensive Player: Reggie Jackson

When Jackson was a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, most balked at the notion that the former Boston College standout could be the primary offensive option on a playoff team. But Jackson had a strong belief in his skill set and became rather vocal in his desire to be a full-time starter. That wasn’t happening in Oklahoma City with All-Star guard Russell Westbrook in the mix, which is understandable, but he hasn’t disappointed since arriving to Detroit. Last season, the guard averaged 18.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists in 79 appearances. Jackson has now improved his scoring every season he’s been in the league and the 2016-17 campaign may see him break the 20-points-per-game barrier for the first time.

Top Defensive Player: Andre Drummond

Drummond isn’t the strongest one-on-one defender and his shot blocking production isn’t elite, but the first-time All-Star led the Pistons in defensive rating and defensive box score plus-minus last season. Plus, Drummond led the league in rebounding (14.8 boards per game) this past season, which led to the Pistons allowing the least amount of offensive rebounds to opposing units in 2016.

Top Playmaker: Ish Smith

The natural instinct would be to deem starting point guard Reggie Jackson as the team’s top playmaker, but dig a bit deeper and you’ll find that  newcomer Ish Smith may be the better dime dropper in a very tight decision. Smith finished sixth in assist percentage (37) among players who appeared in at least 50 games last season, showing a knack for keeping teammates involved (Jackson finished 11th, LeBron James 14th). Smith will be entrusted to keep the offense flowing for the team’s second unit and it wouldn’t shock if Van Gundy plays him beside Jackson at times in order to allow the team’s leading scorer to go to work.

Top Clutch Player: Reggie Jackson

While Drummond is the team’s best overall player, there were times last season when Van Gundy kept the big fella on the bench during pivotal situations late in games. When the game gets tight or the team needs a quality offensive possession, the ball will undoubtedly be in the hands of Jackson and he will be entrusted to get the job done.

The Unheralded Player: Marcus Morris

Morris served as one of Van Gundy’s workhorses last season, averaging a whopping 36 minutes per game, finishing fifth in the league in minutes played. The former University of Kansas standout averaged career-highs in points (14.1), rebounds (5.1) and assists (2.5). Morris proved to be one of the better glue guys in the league last season, but his minutes may be in for a decline with second-year forward Stanley Johnson looking to take on a bigger role and the further integration of swingman Tobias Harris.

Top New Addition: Boban Marjanovic

The Pistons signed Marjanovic to a three-year, $21 million deal early in free agency and the San Antonio Spurs opted not to match the offer for the restricted free agent. During Marjanovic’s lone season with the Spurs, the 7’3 center averaged 5.5 points and 3.6 rebounds on 60 percent shooting – quickly becoming a fan favorite in the process. Those numbers don’t immediately grab your attention, but his per-36-minute averages of 21 points and 13.7 rebounds should make everyone curious about what the big guy could potentially do with extended minutes.

– Lang Greene

WHO WE LIKE

  1. Stan Van Gundy

The arrival of Van Gundy signaled the dawn of a new era in Detroit and the executive/coach hasn’t disappointed, leading to the club back to the playoffs in year two of his reign. Van Gundy hired a strong staff of assistant coaches to implement his system and philosophy, and the talent he’s acquired during his short tenure has been impressive. The Pistons, at Van Gundy’s direction, are slowly building a team that will eventually compete for Eastern Conference supremacy. Key word: eventually.

  1. Tobias Harris

The Pistons acquired Harris at last season’s trade deadline from the Orlando Magic in exchange for veterans Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings. The Magic subsequently traded Ilyasova to Oklahoma City and allowed Jennings to walk in free agency to New York. But Harris will be a focal point of Detroit’s retooling project and he averaged 16.6 points on 48 percent shooting in 27 appearances with the Pistons last year. With a full training camp, Harris should be ready for an even larger role in Detroit’s talented rotation.

  1. Henry Ellenson

It remains to be seen if Ellenson can crack Detroit’s nightly rotation as a rookie, but the Pistons were able to get solid value with the No. 18 pick of the draft in the former Marquette University standout. During his lone collegiate season, Ellenson averaged 17 points and 9.7 rebounds on 45 percent shooting from the floor. At 6’11, Ellenson possesses the ability to put the ball on the floor and has range on his jumper out to the NBA three-point line, making him one of this year’s most intriguing rookies.

  1. Duo of Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson

Drummond emerged as an All-Star last season and was named to the All-NBA Third Team after playing at a very high level. The team locked Drummond into a new five-year deal this summer and the center’s free agency process was devoid of any real drama. Jackson’s growth in his first full season as a starting floor general was promising. Now, the question is can Jackson follow Drummond’s footsteps and enter the All-Star discussion? Either way, the Pistons are anchored by their talented duo and with both guys just scratching the surface of their potential, good times are ahead in Detroit.

– Lang Greene

SALARY CAP 101

The Pistons went under the NBA’s $94.1 million salary cap to sign players like Ish Smith, Jon Leuer and Boban Marjanovic before re-signing Andre Drummond to a five-year, $127.2 million deal. While the team still has its $2.9 million Room Exception, Detroit is well over the cap with 14 guaranteed players. Lorenzo Brown, Ray McCallum and Trey Freeman (reportedly) will fight for the one remaining roster spot.

Looking ahead, the Pistons do not project to have spending power next summer, under a projected $102 million cap. That assumes the team takes Stanley Johnson’s rookie-scale option before November. The team also has until the end of October to extend Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and/or Reggie Bullock.

– Eric Pincus

STRENGTHS

Led by Drummond, the Pistons ranked second in the league in rebounding last season, pulling down 46.3 boards per contest. The team features plenty of wing guys who are capable of pulling down five or more rebounds on any given night such as Harris, Johnson and Morris. The addition of Marjanovic and Leuer add even more guys cable of cleaning the glass next season.

– Lang Greene

WEAKNESSES

Three-point shooting and ball distribution are two areas of weakness for the Pistons heading into the season. Detroit shot just 34.5 percent from long range last year, which put them in the bottom third of the league. The Pistons also ranked near the bottom of the league in assists (27th). The addition of Smith will help the team’s playmaking ability, but long-range marksmanship is still an area that needs to improve.

– Lang Greene

THE BURNING QUESTION

How will the Detroit Pistons handle success?

The Pistons experienced some success last season by securing a playoff berth, which has heightened expectations and put pressure on this unit. The franchise won’t have the cloak of anonymity this season, as opposing teams around the league will take the club a bit more seriously. But success isn’t guaranteed moving forward. Plenty of teams over the years have seemingly experienced a breakthrough season only to crash back to earth with a resounding thud the following campaign.  Success has a way of corrupting and when teams start reading their own press clippings, disaster typically follows shortly thereafter. But the Pistons have assembled a mostly blue-collar bunch that takes pride in rolling up their sleeves to grind out victories. If the team is truly ready to take the next step in their development and avoid the trappings of success, there’s no reason why an Eastern Conference Semifinals trip shouldn’t be considered an achievable goal.

– Lang Greene

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NBA Daily: Three Teams Treading Water In The West

While the Clippers have surged into the playoff picture, the Blazers, Nuggets and Pelicans are barely staying afloat out West.

Buddy Grizzard

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While the L.A. Clippers have surged into the Western Conference playoff picture on the crest of a six-game win streak, the Trail Blazers, Nuggets and Pelicans are stumbling toward the All-Star break with records around .500 over their last 10 games.

All four teams are within a game of each other and hovering around the playoff cut line. For teams that are treading water, the second half of the season will be a struggle for consistency in a brutal playoff race that promises to leave a good team on the outside looking in.

Although Richard Jefferson is winding down a storied career and barely playing for the Nuggets, he often takes the role of elder statesman in media scrums. After the Nuggets became the latest victim of the red-hot Clippers Wednesday, Jefferson said they should not be underestimated.

“They’ve been a playoff team for many, many years,” said Jefferson. “They’ve dealt with some injuries but, for the most part, I think they’re going to be in the hunt for the playoffs just like we are.”

Jefferson was also asked about the Nuggets’ late-game execution and pointed to the team’s overall youth with major addition Paul Millsap missing extended time due to injury.

“We’re getting to a spot of being a little bit more consistent in those moments,” said Jefferson. “But ultimately, I think guys are still learning. Most of the guys that are in these positions are in these positions for the first time. I think we’ll continue getting better as the season goes on.”

Meanwhile, the Pelicans experienced its own setback Wednesday in a loss to an Atlanta Hawks team that’s tied for the second-worst record in the league. For now, the Pelicans hold the seventh seed. It will be up to the continuing evolution of the Anthony Davis-DeMarcus Cousins pairing to keep New Orleans trending in the right direction.

“For us, we’re two guys who can shoot the ball, handle it, pass,” said Davis after the loss in Atlanta. “We’ve got a lot of guys around us who are capable of making plays. I think we compliment each other. There’s still some stuff we still want to get better at as a unit.”

Davis went into further detail about what makes the rare pairing of two elite big men work.

“Cuz is always spacing the floor,” said Davis. “One guy’s inside, the other one’s outside. We set screens for each other, throw lobs for each other. So it’s tough for bigs to try to play that. When we set a pin-down for myself or DeMarcus, most four or fives are not used to that.”

Davis came into the game with 30 or more points in three straight games and seven of the previous 10—he’s been on a massive roll. However, that streak came to an end as Davis hit only two of eight shots for eight points. Hawks rookie John Collins scored 18 while dealing with the issues Davis described.

“You’ve got A.D. on the one hand and then you’ve got Boogie on the other hand,” said Collins. “[They’re] some of the best bigs in the league, very skilled guys, obviously a handful to deal with.”

Hawks shooting guard Kent Bazemore led Atlanta with 20 points and hit the final shot in the waning moments to secure the victory. Bazemore is a player the Pelicans could conceivably pursue at the trade deadline to address wing issues.

Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers are dealing with questions of whether a team built around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum can become competitive with the West’s upper echelon. Marc Stein of the New York Times went so far as to predict that Portland’s backcourt could be broken up this year.

“No one’s suggesting it’ll happen before the Feb. 8 trade deadline,” Stein wrote. “But Portland’s latest so-so season threatens to be the impetus that finally pushes the longtime Blazers owner Paul Allen in a new direction.”

This is the time of year when NBA teams take stock and have to decide if they are properly constructed or need to look at changes. With the Pelicans, Trail Blazers and Nuggets barely keeping pace in the playoff race, few other teams will be more heavily scrutinized — internally as well as externally — as the trade deadline approaches.

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NBA Daily: Things To Watch Heading Into Trade Season

Two of our experts identify four teams and four players to keep an eye on during trade season.

Basketball Insiders

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With memories of DeMarcus Cousins being told that he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans during his postgame availability at last season’s All-Star game, the NBA moved the trade deadline up.

This season, the deadline falls on February 8, and all there has been a lot of discussion leading into next month’s deadline.

We asked Moke Hamilton and Lang Greene to weigh in on some items to keep an eye on over the next three weeks.

Nikola Mirotic and Derrick Favors

This year’s trade deadline will probably lack big names getting moved, but teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets are within sniffing distance of a playoff berth for the first time in years. It will be interesting to see if their respective front offices swing for the fences to achieve the goal.

There are three ways to improve a roster or prepare for the future in the NBA. The methods are free agency, trade and the annual draft. Trade deadline deals are risky. There are a lot of deals each season which involve players on the verge of hitting the free agent market. Teams acquiring these take the risk that they’re only “renting” those guys until the season concludes.

At the end of the day, though, the two biggest names we may see moved are Nikola Mirotic and Derrick Favors.

Mirotic has been plagued by inconsistency throughout his career, but the fourth-year forward is by far having his best season as a professional despite his minutes remaining flat. On a per 36 minute basis, Mirotic is averaging 25.1 points and 9.9 rebounds.

Mirotic and teammate Bobby Portis made headlines before the season for their fight, which led plenty of missed time for the forward. Mirotic’s name has been mentioned on the block ever since this incident, but it’s clear the Bulls have integrated him back into their rotation fully. Still, the team is believed to simply be waiting for the right time and trade partner and that Mirotic’s days in Chicago are numbered.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Bulls plan to be patient in fielding calls for Mirotic, while the player has deflected all talks to his representatives.

“I didn’t talk to [the Bulls’ front office recently],” he said. “Probably my agents are talking, so I don’t know so far what’s going on, but I know my name is going to be out there. I’m doing my job, and I’m sure they’re doing their job, and we’re both going to do what’s best for the team.”

Mirotic has a no-trade clause built into his contract and would have to waive it prior to completing any deal, unless the Bulls were to guarantee the team option on the final year of his contract for 2018-19. Don’t count on that, though.

With respect to Favors, he battled injuries the past two seasons but has remained relatively healthy to begin this campaign. The forward is shooting a career high from the field, but according to the Salt Lake Tribune, the Utah Jazz have dangled him in trade talks since the beginning of the season.

Favors was one of the central parts of the Deron Williams trade years ago, but could be expendable because of the emergence of center Rudy Gobert in the Jazz’s frontcourt. The forward is on the books for $12.5 million this season and was most recently linked to the aforementioned Mirotic in trade talks between Utah and Chicago.

– Lang Greene

DeAndre Jordan and Paul George

Heading into deadline season, there’s not much out there to suggest that we’ll see any superstar-caliber players moved. With the likes of Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving among the players that switched teams over the summer, it seems that most NBA teams that have difference-makers on their rosters are in construction mode—they’re trying to compete with the Cavs or the Warriors.

The two superstar players who merit some discussion, though, are DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan.

With respect to Jordan, the Clippers find themselves in a very peculiar situation. With Chris Paul having defected to the Houston Rockets, it’s easy to conclude that the Clippers are no longer a true contender. Still, they’ve played so well over the past few weeks (including scoring a victory over Paul and his Rockets) that it seems a difficult proposition to proactively pull the plug.

Still, though, as written in this past Sunday’s column, it’s time for the Clippers to trade Jordan, mainly because a team that is heading toward a rebuild can’t afford to lose a player of his caliber for nothing, and that’s quite possible unless the Clippers fork over a max contract to Jordan this summer. The proposition wouldn’t be wise, particularly because it could cost the Clippers a first round pick in one of the upcoming drafts.

He’s definitely a player that should be watched.

Paul George, on the other hand, doesn’t appear likely to be headed out of Oklahoma City. The team is reportedly committed to keeping him for the duration of the season, with the hope being that the Thunder will get their act together and win a round or two in the playoffs. With the team still hovering around .500, it seems a long shot.

There are some, however, that believe that the Thunder should at least see what might be available to them in exchange for George, especially with the team trading Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for him. That’s especially true with Oladipo closing in on what certainly appears to be his first All-Star selection.

– Moke Hamilton

Dallas Mavericks Are Open For Business

The Dallas Mavericks are in a clear rebuild and the prospect of making the playoffs is more dream than reality this season, but the team does have some things going for it.

The Mavs have roughly $13 million in cap space, which puts them in a prime spot to acquire talent at the deadline without giving up any of their players in return. In fact, Mark Cuban went on the record and said exactly that.

“I would say we are looking to use our cap space actively,” Cuban told the Dallas Morning News earlier this week. “We will take back salary to get picks or guys we think can play.”

The Mavericks have the second-lowest payroll in the league, but Cuban has been known to spend money to acquire relevant talent. The team hasn’t had much success in in attracting free agents in recent years, and with the Hall of Fame career of Dirk Nowitzki coming to an end, the team is undoubtedly looking to retool.

– Lang Greene

Cavs and Lakers Each Likely To Do Something

It’s a poorly kept secret that the Los Angeles Lakers have had their sights set on acquiring a superstar or two this coming summer. With Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins and LeBron James among those who could hit the market in July, the Lakers have quite a bit of incentive to try to rid themselves of the contracts of Luol Deng and Jordan Clarkson.

Where things get interesting for the Lakers is with the emergence of several of their young players this season. Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Kyle Kuzma and to a lesser extent Josh Hart have each given the team impressive minutes this season. If the Lakers feel they have a real shot at signing James and, say, DeMarcus Cousins, it may be enough for them to package Deng and/or Clarkson with one of their promising young players and perhaps a future draft pick.

It’s certainly something I’d keep my eyes on.

And speaking of future draft picks, with the Cavs not taking their standing in the Eastern Conference for granted, one can only wonder the extent to which the Nets’ first round pick this coming season is burning a hole in their pockets. Aside from the Nets pick, though, the Cavs do own their own first round pick, which could be enough for them to pry the likes of a player like Mirotic or Favors from their current team.

There has also been some conjecture revolving around the availability of Tristan Thompson, with one interesting scenario having the Cavs and Clippers at least contemplating a trade involving Thompson and Jordan.

The Cavs and Lakers each have too much at stake to not do something.

– Moke Hamilton

Only 21 Days To Go…

With the trade deadline exactly three weeks from today, talks will certainly heat up.

For now, though, the Mavs, Cavs and Lakers appear to be the teams most involved in conversations, with Nikola Mirotic, Derrick Favors and DeAndre Jordan among those most likely to be dealt.

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Young Glad To Reunite With McGee, Embracing Chance With Warriors

Spencer Davies chats with JaVale McGee and Nick Young about the sharpshooter’s first year with the Warriors.

Spencer Davies

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You never forget where you started.

As first-round draft picks with only a year apart between them, Nick Young and JaVale McGee began their respective careers in our nation’s capital with the Washington Wizards.

That’s where a bond began. Despite a tumultuous four-year stay with an organization that never sniffed the playoffs and finished dead last in the Central Division three times in the span, the two remained close friends.

Almost a decade later, “Swaggy P” and “Pierre” are reunited. Only this time, it’s with the NBA’s defending champion Golden State Warriors.

“Just shows,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “We’ve both been in this league for a long time and people didn’t think we was gonna make it this far and that’s a blessing. We’ll continue to do it and prove people wrong. From the bottom to the top, you know what I’m sayin’?”

McGee agrees wholeheartedly. Winning his first title with the Warriors last summer, he’s learned quite a few things about the healthy climate within the organization that Young, at first, was surprised by.

“It’s definitely a different environment,” McGee told Basketball Insiders. “Even when he came here, he asked certain questions of stuff he could and couldn’t do just because the environment that we used to be in was real restrictive of things that really didn’t have to do with basketball.

“Here it’s a player’s team, so they do a really good job of catering to us.”

In regards to his on-court fit with Golden State, McGee feels that Young has adjusted accordingly throughout the season.

“I feel like he’s fit in well,” McGee told Basketball Insiders. “Definitely got his conditioning right and he’s pretty good getting in the system, figuring out the screen system that we have here, so he’s doing a pretty good job.”

Though he hasn’t played as much as he’s used to, Young is truly enjoying his transition with the Warriors. He says it’s been the most fun he’s had in his career.

“Just being in the winning circle,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “Being around good teammates, good people and just competing for a championship man. We fightin’ for something big. It’s my first time being a part of something like this.”

As for what’s stood out to him about Steve Kerr’s system, it’s been the unselfishness from everybody on the roster, coaches and players alike.

“They embrace me good,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “That’s the one thing I like is a good team, good teammates. Pretty much just everybody knowing their roles. Nobody’s bringing negative energies to the locker room and it’s just a good vibe.”

Once asked about who the best shooter on the team is, Young went with Kerr as his answer. He told Basketball Insiders that he’s “still going with Steve,” but probably anybody else would have to give Stephen Curry the nod.

Curry’s been playing out of his mind this year. Kevin Durant’s done the same. There have been multiple times where one or the other has been out due to rest or, most recently, nagging injuries. It’s allowed for others to step in and get some extra minutes, and Young’s been the beneficiary of that multiple times.

So with Curry in and Durant out or vice versa, how would he compare and contrast the periods?

“It’s a different game,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “Of course, different styles. Both of ‘em draw so much attention that leaves guys like me open, but when one of ‘em’s out we’ve still got enough depth to keep up with anybody.”

Recently after Curry scored 45 points in three quarters against the Los Angeles Clippers and didn’t even play in the fourth, Young was baffled. His only explanation for the outburst was that he was from another planet.

And yes, Young believes Curry’s “got a shot,” as does Durant, when it comes to the MVP conversation because of where the Warriors are at this point of the season.

The belief goes both ways. Just as Young is ecstatic watching his teammates succeed, so are they for him. McGee recalls his friend’s debut for Golden State at Oracle Arena on opening night.

It was a night of celebration for the Bay Area, as the crowd cheered during the pre-game championship ceremony to commemorate the team. Young ended up dropping 23 points on 8-for-9 from the field in his first game for the Dubs. The Houston Rockets spoiled the party with a win, but the moment was special for the two.

“I was excited,” McGee told Basketball Insiders. “I always get excited when he’s out there scoring and doing his thing. I’m always happy for him. That’s my friend, long-time friend, and it was dope that he could be out here.”

Though you wouldn’t know it by his performance, Young had butterflies in his stomach before it all started.

“Ah man it was unbelievable,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “I was nervous. I didn’t know what was gonna happen. First time playing for the Warriors opening night. Had my family there. It was ring night, so I didn’t think I was gonna play that much, but I got an opportunity and I just took advantage.”

Since that game, Young hasn’t eclipsed the 20-point mark. But to his defense, that first game was his season-high in minutes thus far. Kerr understands the depth of his team makes it difficult for him to get consistent playing time, but he’s taken it in stride and been a good teammate.

But we all know how he shoots the rock when he finds a groove. So how many games like the opener does he have in store for us?

“I don’t know,” Young told Basketball Insiders with a laugh. “I just gotta get hot, so it could be any night.”

And whenever that night comes, expect to see him smiling as he drains those buckets.

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