Golden State Warriors: Can Alfonzo McKinnie develop into a viable starter?

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

Golden State Warriors small forward Alfonzo McKinnie is in-line for an increased role this season. But can he develop into a viable starter for the team?

The Golden State Warriors signed Alfonzo McKinnie last year as a projected preseason invite with little chance of making the active roster.

But after a strong summer showing and the situation with Patrick McCaw, McKinnie managed to earn a roster spot as the last man coming off the bench. But the Chicago native soon found himself playing regular rotational minutes and even did so down the stretch in the playoffs.

Now, with the departures of Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala this offseason, McKinnie will be called upon as a starter.

It’s been an incredibly unlikely path that has gotten McKinnie to this point in his career. After going undrafted back in 2015, the Green Bay product signed on to play basketball in Luxembourg before moving over to Mexico and playing ball there.

Then in 2016, McKinnie opted to pay $175 for a tryout with the Windy City Bulls of the G-League — a decision that would land him a roster spot and lead to his future NBA success.

McKinnie would play all of that season down in the G-League before receiving an actual contract offer from the Toronto Raptors ahead of the 2017 season. Incredibly, McKinnie would make the final roster and play sparingly, mostly receiving playing time down in the G-League again.

Unfortunately, the Raptors would waive McKinnie nearly a year to the day of signing him but he would receive another opportunity with the Warriors prior to the start of last season.

The 26-year-old would quickly fight his way into the rotation following an impressive performance coming off the bench in a late-October matchup with his hometown Chicago Bulls. That game would showcase the two primary areas where McKinnie shines: corner threes and rebounding.

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If McKinnie is to have success in a starting role this season, he’s going to need to maximize the areas of strength in his game. On the offensive side of the floor, McKinnie shot 43.2% from the left corner three last season which was among the best on the team.

However, his shooting inconsistencies were apparent and really held him and the team back as he came off the bench in the playoffs.

At the same time, what’s never been a cause for inconsistency has been his effort and hustle. Few play as hard as McKinnie does every time he steps on to the court and that effort translates into some superb rebounding rates for his position.

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Despite averaging just 13.9 minutes, McKinnie still averaged 3.4 rebounds and 1.1 offensive rebounds per game. If those numbers were translated to “Per 36” averages, they would be among the best on the team.

McKinnie’s hustle on both the offensive and defensive side of the floor make him endearing to both his teammates and fans alike. But he will have to grow more comfortable on the defensive end of the floor if he is going to be a viable starter this season.

While the hustle was there, McKinnie would too often struggle with switches and would come away playing subpar team defense. He has the athletic profile to match-up with players both bigger and smaller than him, but from here it’s all about learning the complexities of NBA defense.

Fortunately, he will be playing alongside one of the premier defenders in the NBA in Draymond Green who will hopefully show him a thing or two.

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On top of that, McKinnie’s shooting must become more consistent. Despite looking like a regular corner-three specialist at times, McKinnie finished the season shooting just 35.6% from long range and his 31.3% from three in the playoffs was even worse.

Consistency will be the key to a successful year for McKinnie this season — both on offense and on defense.

It’s clear that McKinnie has the potential to be a viable starter in the short-term while Klay Thompson recovers from his torn ACL.

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But it remains to be seen if he could put it all together.