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Jermaine Taylor Ready for NBA Comeback

After a year-long bootcamp, Jermaine Taylor is in terrific shape and determined to make an NBA comeback.

Alex Kennedy

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Mention the name Jermaine Taylor to an NBA player or coach, and two things will typically happen.

First, the person will rave about Taylor’s talent or work ethic. Even though he only played two seasons in the NBA, he made a very strong impression on the people who were around him on a daily basis. Here’s a sampling of what players and coaches said about Taylor when contacted by Basketball Insiders.

DeMarcus Cousins (played with Taylor in Sacramento): “Jermaine is an extremely athletic guard who plays hard no matter the circumstances. He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around – a true pro in all aspects. And I would say the best thing about him is he’s a great teammate, somebody guys always want to be around and appreciate having in the locker room.”

Courtney Lee (played with Taylor in Houston): “I had the chance to play with him in Houston, so I know he works extremely hard on his game. He’s a low-key guy who would [produce] without causing any problems on and off the court. Not to mention, he’s a good looker room guy who puts the team before himself.”

Garrett Temple (played with Taylor in Houston and Sacramento): “He’s always been a guy who just had a knack for putting the ball in the basket. His ability to score is something that can’t be taught. You either have it or you don’t, and he does.”

Francisco Garcia (played with Taylor in Sacramento): “He was a good teammate – very professional with a great work ethic. He has a natural-born talent and a good feel for the game. He can be a great asset to any team.”

Sacramento Kings assistant coach Elston Turner (coached Taylor in Houston): “When Jermaine came to us in Houston, he had just as much talent as any player at his position in the whole NBA! He had the ability to score from transition, ISOs and jumpers. He also was incredibly athletic; he had great tenacity and a will to win.”

Cleveland Cavaliers assistant coach Phil Handy (coached Taylor in Cleveland): “Jermaine was incredible when he was in Summer League and training camp with us. He’s just a tremendously hard worker. Whatever we asked of him, he did it with no questions asked. He was extremely professional every day and has a workmanlike attitude. Not even mentioning the physical attributes, he impressed me with his mentality and professionalism. The way he approached every day and the way he worked so hard every day, I gained a lot of respect for that kid while he was with us. He’s an NBA talent. For guys like him, sometimes it’s just about finding the right place and even having a little bit of luck. He’s a tremendous athlete, thrives in the open court, brings a lot of energy and he’s improved his jump-shot to the point where he can make open shots. I think everyone knows that he’s a tremendous athlete, but he’s a gifted scorer as well. If [given] the right opportunity, he can bring a lot of energy and athleticism to a team.”

Assistant coach T.R. Dunn (coached Taylor in Houston): “J.T. is a very hard-working, coachable young man. I had the opportunity to work with him on two separate occasions. He is, in my opinion, an athletic scorer who runs well in transition and has the ability to aggressively attack the rim off the bounce. Defensively, he is very competitive and not afraid of a challenge. Finally, he’s a good person and very professional about his career.”

Second, the person will usually ask the same question: Why isn’t he in the NBA right now? After the players and coaches finished talking about Taylor’s game, many wondered why he isn’t on a roster. The former teammates seem confused. The coaches wonder if they missed something and, since Taylor is only 29 years old, they ask when he’ll be back.

After spending the last year obsessively working on his game and making drastic life changes in an effort to maximize his potential, Taylor is confident he’ll be back on an NBA roster for the 2016-17 season.

“You have no idea how hungry I am right now,” Taylor told Basketball Insiders. “My whole life is designed around basketball. Between the time I wake up in the morning and the time I go to sleep at night, everything I do is about basketball. I changed my diet completely and started juicing. It’s why I endure intense workouts several times a day. It’s why I changed my sleep schedule. It’s why I’m starting yoga five times a week, deep-tissue massages three times a week and cryotherapy-chamber treatments three times per week. Hungry doesn’t begin to describe this. Starving doesn’t describe it either. There isn’t a word for what I’m feeling right now.”

******

Casual NBA fans may not remember Taylor all that well, as the 6’5 shooting guard only played 65 games in the league before heading overseas. Taylor first made a name for himself at the University of Central Florida, where he averaged 26.2 points (on 48 percent shooting) and 5.2 rebounds as a senior.

He was drafted with the 32nd pick in the 2009 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards and traded to the Houston Rockets shortly after. He spent his two years in the NBA with Rockets and then the Sacramento Kings.

In Sacramento, he played well enough to earn eight starts, in which he averaged 11.9 points and three rebounds while shooting 58 percent from the field and 35 percent from three-point range. Taylor played well when given significant minutes. In one game against the Dallas Mavericks, he filled the stat sheet with 17 points, five assists, three rebounds, four steals and a block while shooting 58.3 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range.

One week after that impressive outing against Dallas, he led the Kings to victory over the Orlando Magic – a game that meant a lot to him since he grew up less than an hour outside of Orlando and attended nearby UCF. He had a career-high 21 points (on 9-12 shooting from the field) and five rebounds, and the crowd cheered him on even as he helped the Kings defeat the Magic. He was one of the most electrifying scorers in the country while at UCF, and fans in the area still love him. With Taylor doing so well when given playing time, it seemed like NBA success was imminent.

But just as quickly as his career started to pick up momentum, it fizzled out. The Kings let him go after that lone season – days before the NBA lockout. This made it tough for him to find a team when the Collective Bargaining Agreement was eventually ratified, and he has been bouncing around a bit ever since. He averaged 24.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.5 steals for the Maine Red Claws of the NBA D-League. He had preseason stints with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers, but was a final cut before he saw regular-season action with either team.

After briefly flashing his talent and potential in the NBA, Taylor went overseas. He played in five countries (China, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Spain and Israel) over three years.

Then, Taylor disappeared from the basketball scene altogether over the last year. He didn’t play abroad. He didn’t surface in the D-League. He talked about joining a friend’s team in The Basketball Tournament (which allows anyone to assemble a team and compete for a $2 million prize), but ultimately backed out. The mystery surrounding Taylor over the last year is why people around the NBA wondered what Taylor is up to these days and where he plans to go from here.

******

When a professional basketball player takes one year off during what seems to be their physical prime, people wonder if they’re walking away from the game for good.

However, Taylor is far from done. His one-year hiatus wasn’t about taking a break from basketball. In fact, it was the exact opposite. He essentially put himself through a year-long boot camp to get himself into the best shape of his life, become more well-rounded as a player and, perhaps most importantly, stop coasting off of his natural talent.

In 2014, Taylor tore his ACL and had season-ending surgery. Eight months later, he was back on the court – suiting up in the D-League and eventually overseas. But because he was coming back from the injury, he didn’t put up the monster numbers people were used to seeing from him.

“When I came back in the 2014-15 season after my surgery, I averaged 13 points in the D-League and 17 points overseas, and people weren’t happy because they felt like I wasn’t the same,” Taylor said. “But it was tough, averaging those numbers eight months after surgery to repair my ACL as well as my meniscus. People didn’t know what it was like going through that or what it felt like. They just said, ‘Oh, he’s not the same player. He’s not as explosive. He’s not blowing past people and dunking.’ At that point, I decided I was going to take one year away from playing for a team so that I could get completely healthy and get in the best shape of my life.

“I changed everything. I feel like a different person. Over the last 10 months, I changed my routine. I wake up every morning at 8 a.m. and stretch and then I juice. I started the juicing, doing yoga, getting deep-tissue massages and doing cryotherapy-chamber treatments because I researched what stars like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade do to keep their body in top shape. I want to do everything I can to get better. Everything people have seen from me to this point was just because of my raw talent. I was just quicker and more athletic than my opponents. Now, I’m pushing myself and doing what’s necessary to take my game to the next level. The game has slowed down for me and I’m doing everything I can to maximize my potential. I can’t wait to get back in front of these NBA teams that saw me in the past because I’m a whole different player.”

Taylor has been working out at UCF and former NBA player Pat Burke’s Training Facility in Orlando. He does morning and afternoon workouts, followed by pick-up games at night that include players like Courtney Lee from the New York Knicks and Toney Douglas from the New Orleans Pelicans as well as a number of overseas stars (such as former Ole Miss guard Chris Warren, for example).

Lee, who played with Taylor in Houston, has been really impressed with Taylor’s growth as a player.

“I think J.T. could bring a lot to a team,” Lee said. “He’s a scorer from inside and out. I’ve been watching him play lately [in Orlando] and he has extended his range past the NBA three-point line. He’s still athletic enough to get by his defender and play above the rim.”

Taylor is thrilled with the results he’s seen from his year off and believes it will lead to an NBA comeback.

“Right now, this is the best I’ve ever been,” Taylor said. “This is the best shape I’ve been and the best that my game has been, and I owe it all to this last year. I have taken my game to a level that nobody has seen before. I wanted to become a better all-around player and that’s what I am now after taking this year off. Not only is my athleticism back, I’ve worked hard to improve as a shooter, as a ball-handler and as a pro.”

Niall Berry, who is the Director of Coaching and Player Development at Pat Burke’s Training Facility, raves about the work that Taylor has put in over the last year.

“What he’s doing is above and beyond what most players do,” Coach Berry said. “I coached at the highest levels in Europe for a number of years and I’ve never seen anyone with his level of determination. He’s on another level. I knew he was trying to go really hard, so I tried to get some workout buddies in here with him. But the workout buddies never lasted. He went through three or four guys who each went through a couple weeks, but none of them could handle it. Usually after about a week, they would start to get flaky and stop showing up. But he’s still here, still going. He was trying to convince the other guys to stick with it, telling them that they could bring their game to another level, but I suppose some players have that intensity and mentality and some players don’t. I think that’s a big difference between an NBA player and someone who doesn’t belong in the league.”

While Taylor says that he feels better than ever, there’s actually solid evidence that he is in the best shape of his life.

“Pat Burke runs our facility and he played in the NBA with the Phoenix Suns, so he went to the Suns and was able to get some of Jermaine’s athletic results from when he was doing pre-draft workouts,” Coach Berry said. “When he was trying to enter the league out of college, he had a no-step vertical of 34 inches, which is pretty good. When he began working out here, he started with a 30-inch no-step vertical. Now, his most recent no-step was measured at 34.85 inches. I didn’t even realize he had increased it that much. That’s absolutely crazy, but that’s a testament to how hard he works. For that to be higher now than he was when he was entering the NBA blows me away. I didn’t even realize until we got these results. He has put in months and months of work. This didn’t happen overnight.”

In addition to working on his athleticism and conditioning, Taylor has been working hard to become an even better ball-handler and shooter. He has always had a knack for scoring the ball, but he wanted to ensure that these skills were in peak form should he get that NBA opportunity. When asked how he feels he would fit in today’s NBA, Taylor doesn’t hesitate to respond.

“I think I fit perfectly in today’s NBA because creating your own shot and playing in space have been huge parts of my game for my entire life,” Taylor said. “I’ve been a big-time scorer since fourth grade, when I first started playing. I’ve always been able to score the basketball and I’ve been asked to be a star for a lot of my teams. I always have the belief that I’m one of the best players on the court, even if there’s somebody like LeBron James out there with me. If LeBron is on the court, I’m going to make things hard on him and he’s going to work for every point. I want them to show me why they’re great. In my rookie year, I guarded Kobe Bryant and it was the same thing. Some people thought I’d back down, but I had my best game as a starter and he had his worst-scoring game of that whole season. I don’t back down from anyone.

“Because of that, plus the fact that I’m older and more mature now so I know how to go out there and fill a certain role for a team, I know I can contribute in today’s NBA. Since the last time I was in the league, the game has slowed down for me so much. I look back on my [old NBA game film] and I was out of control, always at 100 percent speed. Now, things have slowed down, my basketball IQ has improved and people have never seen my handles the way that they are right now. It’s like the ball is on a string for me now. Like I said before, everything before was just me using raw talent. My man would be guarding me and I’d just try to drive past him using my athleticism. Now, defenders have told me that I’m really unpredictable. Now, I can go through my legs, [hesitate], act like I’m going to shoot it and then go. The game has slowed down for me and my arsenal of moves is completely different.”

Having witnessed all of the work that Taylor has put in and watched his transformation firsthand, Berry is campaigning for the 29-year-old to get another look in the NBA.

“I think he’s definitely good enough,” Coach Berry said. “When you have the scoring ability that Jermaine has, he would be an asset to any team. Me, personally, I am very confident that he can help an NBA team, but I’m not aware of all of the politics that go on so I can’t comment from that point of view. But from a talent and work ethic and scoring point of view, there’s no question he can help a team. He has been in the league before and with where he’s at physically now, he’s at a level I haven’t seen in many other athletes that I’ve worked with. I’ve seen what he can do and how hard he works and how coachable he is. I’m an Irish coach who introduced him to some new things, and he’s absolutely open to everything. If he’s part of an NBA team, he’s going to be extremely coachable and eager to learn, and that’s what every coach wants. I also loved what I saw from him when he was working out with the other players. He brings people together and leads and pushes everyone around him, so he’s great to have in the locker room too. I just think there’s too many positives here, so if he gets that opportunity I can’t envision him not helping an NBA team.”

Taylor’s basketball journey hasn’t gone exactly according to plan, but he’s grateful for every stop and the valuable lessons he took from each.

“I feel like I matured a lot and it felt like I grew five years in these last two years with all of the experiences that I had,” he said. “I know who I am now. Before, I started questioning myself when things weren’t going my way. But taking this year off allowed me to look back on my life and think, ‘Look at what you’ve done.’ To come from where I came from – the background I have, growing up without a father and everything I’ve been through – I’m not supposed to be where I am. But I made it here. It put everything in perspective and made me realize that what I’m doing now – working for this – is nothing for me. With what I’ve been through, I can do this. I know who I am now and I have more confidence.

“I’ve grown so much because I don’t take anything for granted now. When I was in the league, everything was happening so fast that I didn’t enjoy the moment and take it in. I want to yell at that kid, ‘Your dream came true! You’re in the NBA!’ It wasn’t until I went overseas and didn’t have that lifestyle anymore that I started appreciating it so much more. It also made me respect the guys who go bounce around year after year after year chasing their dream. I started respecting them so much more, because I know how hard it is to be thousands of miles away from everything you know. You don’t know anyone, the language is different, you’re out of your comfort zone. What I’ve learned the most is just to appreciate everything. And the same goes for my overseas experiences, because the things I experienced there turned me in to who I am now. Had I not gone overseas and had those experiences, I’m not the same person today. It changed my game and certain parts of my skill set too.”

Taylor hired a new agent, Daniel Hazan, who has talked with a number of teams about setting up a workout for Taylor to put his new-look game on display. Taylor is salivating at the opportunity to get in front of NBA talent-evaluators and show what he can do.

“I’m excited about that,” Taylor said with a smile. “I’m open to doing workouts for these NBA teams. The way I look at it, it’s like nobody has seen me play before because my game is so different now. I want to show how my game has evolved. I’m ready.”

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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New Orleans Pelicans and Cliff Alexander Agree To Deal

Michael Scotto

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The New Orleans Pelicans and free agent forward Cliff Alexander have agreed to a one-year, non-guaranteed deal, a league source told Basketball Insiders.

The addition of Alexander will give New Orleans 20 players heading into training camp.

Alexander spent last season playing 40 combined games with the Erie Bayhawks and Long Island Nets in the G-League, where he averaged 15.8 points and 8.9 rebounds in 27.3 minutes per game. Alexander also shot 52 percent from the field and blocked one shot per game.

The 21-year-old forward was a McDonald’s All-American and won MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic in 2014 before attending Kansas University. Alexander played 28 games as a Jayhawk and averaged 7.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 17.6 minutes per game before declaring for the draft.

After going undrafted, Alexander played in eight games for Portland during the 2015-16 season and received a 10-day contract from the Brooklyn Nets in April.

For more information on the salary cap and roster situation for the New Orleans Pelicans, click here.

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Atlanta Hawks and John Jenkins Agree To Deal

Michael Scotto

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The Atlanta Hawks and free agent guard John Jenkins have agreed to a training camp deal, a league source told Basketball Insiders.

The addition of Jenkins will give Atlanta 20 players heading into training camp.

Jenkins drew interest from several other teams, including the Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks.

The 26-year-old guard began his career in Atlanta after the Hawks selected him 23rd overall out of Vanderbilt in the 2012 draft. For his career, Jenkins has averaged 5.1 points in 12.8 minutes per game while shooting 45 percent from the field overall and 36 percent from beyond the arc.

For more information on Atlanta’s salary cap and roster situation, click here.

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NBA

Golden State Warriors 2017-18 Season Preview

The Golden State Warriors remain the cream of the NBA crop, even after several franchises went all in this offseason. Can anyone really beat the Warriors in a seven-game series? We look at the Warriors in this final NBA season preview.

Basketball Insiders

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After losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2015-16 NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors were highly favored to win the 2016-17 championship with the offseason addition of Kevin Durant. In the Warriors’ third straight Finals match up with Cavaliers, Golden State, with plenty of help from Durant, over-matched Cleveland in last season’s NBA Finals. This year, with Durant taking a pay cut, the team did a masterful job of bringing back just about all of the key players from last year’s championship run. Now the team is primed to wreak havoc on the league once again.

FIVE GUYS THINK…

It’s almost comical at this point how the best team in basketball keeps getting better.

After adding Kevin Durant last summer, and then completely decimating the entire NBA, including LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, all the Golden State Warriors did was go out and add two players in Omri Casspi and Nick Young who almost perfectly fit their brand of “you’re not out-shooting us” basketball.

The powers of the NBA all shuffled around their rosters this season in hopes of trying to assemble some type of “anti-Warriors” remedy, and when it’s all said and done, those moves will be all for naught. Expect Golden State to ride their legendary roster to another NBA title.

1st place – Pacific Division

– Dennis Chambers

What do you need me to say about the Warriors that you don’t already know? Two of the best five players in the league are on the roster, as well as arguably the top defensive player in the league and a cast of reserves that fit perfectly with the superstars running the show. Even JaVale McGee is shooting three pointers now. The Warriors are unstoppable and in some ways even better than the team that won a championship a few months ago. It’s going to be a long season for every other team in the league. They’re all playing for second place.

1st Place – Pacific Division

– Joel Brigham

The road to the NBA Finals obviously goes through Oakland, especially after the club managed to re-sign JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia, Andre Iguodala, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. Nick Young will give the team some additional firepower, but they probably don’t even need it.

So long as these guys stay healthy, they’ll probably find their way to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals, and with the Clippers having lost Chris Paul, the Warriors should have a relatively easy time winning the Pacific Division for the fourth straight year.

I’m usually longer-winded than that, but I’m not sure much else needs to be said about the Warriors.

1st place – Pacific Division

– Moke Hamilton

At this point, what’s really left to say? The Warriors had arguably the best basketball team ever assembled last season, and that was while dealing with minor role concerns and dealing with Kevin Durant’s midseason injury. Then they went out and improved this offseason, adding the likes of Omri Casspi and Nick Young as perfect end-of-roster pieces. Combine that with what most would expect will be even better fit and chemistry across the roster this season, and the Warriors stand head and shoulders above the rest of the league even with several squads making big power moves to try and bridge the gap. Anything but a third title in four years will fail to do justice to the incredible, historical talent on this roster.

1st Place – Pacific Division

– Ben Dowsett

The best team in the NBA went out and retained key players and signed Omri Casspi and Nick Young to round out the roster. As has been the case for several years now, the Warriors enter the upcoming season with the most overall talent, improved chemistry, good health and every ingredient necessary to win an NBA championship. Several other contenders pulled off some impressive moves to try and bridge the gap between themselves and the Warriors, but Golden State still holds the advantage against every other team in the league. So long as the Warriors are playing up to their potential, or anywhere near it, the other contenders are out of luck. Unless the Warriors face some serious injuries this upcoming season or some internal discord, we should expect them to win their third championship in four seasons.

1st Place – Pacific Division

– Jesse Blancarte

TOP OF THE LIST

Top Offensive Player: Stephen Curry/Kevin Durant

Don’t knock me for not clearly choosing a single player here. The individual excellence of both Stephen Curry and Durant cannot be stated enough. While Curry’s statistics did take a bit of a step back from the year prior, he still led the way for the Warriors last season. Last year, Curry led the team in points per game (by a slim margin), three-pointers made, assists and usage percentage. Keep in mind, Durant was excellent but Curry still commanded the offense for the most part. However, Durant was right on Curry’s heels and in the playoffs actually slightly surpassed Curry in points per game. In addition, Durant remains as tough to cover one-on-one as anyone in the league. Regardless, both players are unbelievable individual talents and would easily be the top offensive player on just about any other team.

Top Defensive Player: Draymond Green

For the foreseeable future, Draymond Green has this category on lockdown for the Warriors. Green uses a combination of length, strength, timing and sneaky athleticism to smother his opponents. Green’s versatility allows him to guard a range of positions in the post and switch to guard guards and forwards on the wing effectively as well. His versatility is the lynchpin of the Warrior’s vaunted death line up that uses Green at center and brings Iguodala off the bench to close games. Last year’s Defensive Player of the Year race came down to Green and Utah center Rudy Gobert. In the end, Green’s versatility as well as his ability to guard the rim effectively made him the top choice in voters’ minds. Expect Green to be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year this upcoming season as well.

Top Playmaker: Stephen Curry

When the Warriors added Durant to the roster, many wondered, even for a team as unselfish as the Warriors, how would Stephen Curry and Durant manage to share the ball? That question was answered when Curry took a step back and allowed Durant’s individual offensive brilliance to shine. Curry’s points per game dropped (30.1 to 25.3) as did his usage percentage (32.0 to 29.2). Curry’s individual excellence continued regardless as he remained the Warriors’ top distributor (followed closely by Draymond Green). In addition, Curry garners so much attention that his simple presence on the court creates more room for teammates to operate. Curry’s ability to pull up from virtually anywhere on the court and willingness to make the extra pass to teammates makes him a nightmare to cover and the Warriors’ top playmaker.

Top Clutch Player: Kevin Durant/Stephen Curry

Once again, you could give this award to either of the Warrior’s two best offensive players. Curry dominates most of the advanced statistics when breaking down clutch play, defined as the last minutes of a game within 5 point or less, per nba.com. However, based on Durant’s size, length and ability to get off a shot in isolation, he makes for an excellent clutch player in just about any situation. Either is an extraordinary option and their play in crunch time continues to be critical to their championship fortunes.

The Unheralded Player: Klay Thompson

Klay Thompson is a phenomenal talent who does a number of things well. He’s an unbelievable three-point shooter and defends elite point guards to alleviate the pressure on Curry. For a team with two elite offensive players, having Thompson as your third option on offense is just unfair to the rest of the league. Thompson lights up the league with his ability to hit outside shots without needing to dominate the ball. Don’t just count on Thompson to score as he takes pride in his defense and his ability to lockdown on defense.

Best New Addition: Omri Casspi

Overall, the Warriors have had an unbelievable stretch of luck when it comes to injuries, which will hopefully rub off on Omri Casspi this season. With his length, versatility and the ability to stretch the floor, he can slide into either forward spot. His addition strengthens the team’s ability to survive the grind of the regular season and lessen the minutes of the starters. Casspi fills a lot of needs for several teams that are looking to challenge the Warriors, so simply keeping him away from those teams is an added benefit to his signing.

– James Blancarte

WHO WE LIKE

1. Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr continues to be the perfect coach for this team. He helps to keep the players focused on their individual roles within the larger team structure and has so far prevented major dissension and discord. Kerr took the team that Mark Jackson previously coached and helped to transform the team into champions. Credit is deserved for his part in successfully orchestrating the move of former All-Star Iguodala to a bench role and meshing Durant’s individual brilliance with the Warriors’ pre-existing, pass-happy offense. Kerr has missed significant time due to his botched spinal surgery, but if he can manage his health, count on Kerr to keep the Warriors a well-oiled machine.

2. Nick Young

Nick Young is a player that has had an up-and-down career. Credit Young for carving out a relatively successful career as a journeyman three-point shooting wing. Keeping Young focused and unlocking his full range of talents has been difficult for many organizations. The Warriors are up next and will give the 11th year pro an opportunity to do what he does best — knocking down three-pointers. As a career 37.6 percentage three-point shooter, Young will have a chance to get more open looks from distance than he has previously in his career. Like JaVale McGee, Young will also have a chance to transform his reputation if he proves to be a disciplined, effective contributor to a championship team.

3. Jordan Bell

What’s the perfect piece for a rebuilding team in need of young talent to build around? Jordan Bell, selected with the 38th pick in this year’s draft), is just that sort of player. The Warriors acquired the pick from the Chicago Bulls for cash consideration. The Bulls loss is the Warriors gain as hopes are high for the young talent from the University of Oregon. The Warriors will take their time with the 6-foot-9 forward and hope that he will build on and develop his defensive talents and one day be a reliable contributor for Golden State.

4. Shaun Livingston

Shaun Livingston is many years removed from the knee injury that nearly ended his professional career. While Livingston has played for nine teams in his career, he continues to be loyal to the Warriors, the team with which he has experienced the most success post-injury. Livingston continues to do whatever the team requires as he slides into either guard slot when needed and provides reliable production from the bench. Opposing backup point guards often get caught being posted up by the lengthy 6-foot-7 guard. Count Livingston as another essential cog who will do whatever it takes to help the Warriors win at all costs.

– James Blancarte

SALARY CAP 101

The Warriors are a major spender at $135.4 million in guaranteed salary, resulting in at least $32 million in luxury taxes. Golden State used its Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception to sign Nick Young at $5.2 million for a season. Having re-signed on one-year deals, Zaza Pachulia, David West and JaVale McGee can block any trades.

Before November, the Warriors need to decide on 2018-19 team options for Kevon Looney and Damian Jones. Next summer, Kevin Durant can opt out again but now the team has his Early Bird Rights and the ability to give him a raise in the $35 million range. The Warriors seem willing to pay for a winner but for how long as luxury taxes grow progressively as the team gradually becomes a repeat offender?

– Eric Pincus

STRENGTHS

This team continues to have everything you could want in a modern NBA team. An electric point guard who is nearly unstoppable, a 3-and-D wing with a killer three-point shot, an unstoppable one-on-one player who can score from anywhere, a dominant and flexible defensive forward who can play center and a defensive wing who is a great glue guy. That’s just the five players that are normally used to close out games. The rest of the roster has a number of key contributors ready to do whatever the team needs. Oh, and they also have a great coach to keep everyone on the same page. With all the pieces a team could want, expect the Warriors to again push a possible record-breaking pace in the regular season on their way to the playoffs and likely the Finals.

– James Blancarte

WEAKNESSES

The easiest answer here is none. Eventually the injury bug might hit the Warriors but for now they have everything they could want to continue their excellent play. Perhaps some players may lose a sense of urgency in the regular season after breaking records and dominating the last few seasons, though that seems unlikely. On paper, this team is not afflicted by any major weaknesses.

– James Blancarte

THE BURNING QUESTION

Can anyone stop the Warriors?

Other teams continue to make moves to get better. On September 23, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded agreed to terms on a deal to acquire Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks. With that move, count the Thunder, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics and the Cavaliers as the biggest potential obstacles in the Warriors’ path to repeat. One of these teams may beat them, but the Warriors are the heavy favorites and the team most likely to win the championship next year.

– James Blancarte

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