Golden State Warriors: Who will start at small forward next season?

Golden State Warriors (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Golden State Warriors (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

The Golden State Warriors made numerous big additions this offseason, but their small forward position remains a glaring weakness on the roster.

By most standards, the Golden State Warriors put together a very respectable offseason.

Despite losing superstar Kevin Durant, former All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, and a whole heap of depth including longtime veterans Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, the Warriors made the best of their situation.

They went out and acquired rising All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell to pair with Stephen Curry in the backcourt while Klay Thompson recovers from his torn ACL. They managed to keep a key rotational player in Kevon Looney while signing an excellent depth center option in Willie Cauley-Stein.

All in all, given the cards that they were dealt, it’s fair to say that they came away as winners of the offseason.

However, their hard cap bind following the sign-and-trade for Russell meant that the team was on even tighter cap restrictions than before. This meant that their final few signings were essentially limited to minimum deals hurting their overall depth.

Ultimately, this has severely hurt the team at the small forward position.

While the Warriors will surely miss Durant, perhaps the most underrated loss in the offseason is that of Iguodala. Iguodala served as a defensive stopper and veteran leader of the team and was often the glue that held the Warriors together.

Both Durant and Iguodala are gone and the small forward position now has a glaring hole with no answer in sight.

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Of course, the expectation is that when Thompson comes back from injury, he will fill that role. The star shooting guard may be undersized for the role, but with Curry and Russell occupying the backcourt, a move is necessary for someone and he makes the most sense to change positions.

But who will fill that role while Thompson is out?

The Warriors options are few and far between but perhaps the most likely candidate is Alfonzo McKinnie.

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McKinnie is a great story having originally bounced around in semi-pro leagues internationally after originally going undrafted out of Green Bay. He finally got a chance with the Toronto Raptors back in the 2017-18 season but was released in July of that year.

But his big break came when he signed on with the Warriors last season where he would go on to play in 72 games making five starts as a key member of the team’s rotation.

Now, the 26-year-old could very well be slated to start come October.

Still, McKinnie has his limitations as a player. His shooting remains below-average for his position and the three-point promise that he showed at a point earlier in the season seemingly disappeared as the year went on.

On top of that, he remains a liability on defense, so much so that the Houston Rockets opted to target him in the postseason over known defensive liability Stephen Curry.

McKinnie isn’t a starting-caliber player, but he may just be the best option that the Warriors have.

Golden State also signed former Detroit Pistons wing Glenn Robinson III. Robinson has been a below-average player since entering the league as a second-round pick back in 2014 and looks to be more of a depth option than a viable starting candidate.

But on this Warriors squad, he should be given every chance to start this fall.

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Then there’s the oft-injured Alec Burks who is primarily a shooting guard but has played some small forward in the past. Burks struggled last season with the Sacramento Kings but is a proven scorer and could fight for some playing time at the wing.

The only other true small forward on the roster is Julian Washburn who the Warriors acquired in the Iguodala trade. Washburn will be on a two-way contract for the 2019-20 season but could see some minutes if times get really tough.

Perhaps even rookie second-round pick Eric Paschall could play some small forward but it would be a departure from his usual power forward position.

The Warriors have options, but none are ultimately all too intriguing. McKinnie represents the best bet to start in the short-term but even he will need to step up his game if he’s to start receiving 25 minutes per game.

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Head coach Steve Kerr will have his hands full this season as he attempts to mask the Warriors’ weaknesses and maximize the potential of their players.