Golden State Warriors: Why the team will regret waiving Alfonzo McKinnie

Golden State Warriors Alfonzo McKinnie (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Golden State Warriors Alfonzo McKinnie (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

Alfonzo McKinnie was recently waived by the Golden State Warriors to make room for Marquese Chriss. McKinnie was a valuable player though who’ll be missed.

The signing of Marquese Chriss may have proved too tempting to turn down for the Golden State Warriors’ front office, especially given the injuries their big men have suffered in the run-up to the season. Unfortunately, signing Chriss made waiving Alfonzo McKinnie an inevitability.

Kevon Looney suffered a hamstring injury but recent reports are suggesting the Warriors are hopeful that he will be fit to play in their season opener.

Willie Cauley-Stein suffered a foot sprain about a month ago and is expected to return by November at the earliest. Alen Smailagic suffered a rolled ankle during practice at the beginning of the month, and he is still ruled out indefinitely.

So Chriss will be a helpful addition, at least for the start of the season. He is a talented player that the Warriors will look to help him reach his potential. However, at what cost?

The signing of D’Angelo Russell put the Warriors right at the hard cap in terms of salary. This meant they couldn’t waive just any player. They needed to free up a roster spot, but also enough money to pay out another minimum contract.

So their choices were significantly narrowed. Alfonzo McKinnie’s contract was not guaranteed, meaning that if they waive him, they do not have to pay out the remainder of his contract, meaning it won’t count towards their salary bill.

This would not have been the case for most other players on the roster so McKinnie, unfortunately, got the ax.

The Warriors Need Defenders on the Wings

This offseason, the Warriors roster underwent huge turnover, especially on the wing. The wings they lost were Kevin Durant (trade), Andre Iguodala (trade), Shaun Livingston (retired), and Klay Thompson (injury).

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All four of those players were major parts of the Warriors’ defensive identity. Losing any one of them would have left a noticeable hole, but losing all of them at the same time has left a chasm.

Alfonzo McKinnie was the only wing that remained from last season’s roster. He was the only player on the current roster that had the chance to learn from the great wing defenders from the Warriors championship teams.

He played 72 games last season, so he would have received a significant amount of coaching and advice from players like Iguodala and Livingston on how to defend the wings.

Defensively, last season Alfonzo McKinnie was a valuable player for the Warriors. His defensive player impact plus-minus (DPIPM) was -0.3. This is just below average for the league (0), but well above average for substitutes (-2.3).

DPIPM is a measure of how good the player is at defending overall. It takes into account lots of different box score statistics and churns them out into one number which estimates how good that player is at defending compared to all the other players in the league.

As well as stats, it’s clear to see from his film that he is a capable defender.

His hustle to get to every single rotation, in the above play, is what wins Golden State the ball back. Not only is it great energy and enthusiasm, but McKinnie also shows intelligence to know where to go.

It also shows that he knows exactly what the Warriors want from him.

McKinnie Knew the System

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As previously mentioned in the defense section, McKinnie was already accustomed to the way Golden State ran everything. This applies to the offense as well as defense.

Whilst McKinnie’s offensive stats won’t blow you away — 4.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, in just under 14 minutes per game — his game had the look of a great role player for that Warriors team specifically.

He can shoot the ball well, averaging 35.6% from three-point range last season. Also, watching McKinnie’s tape, you notice that he truly understood his role and was always willing to make the extra pass.

He was great at being a perimeter guy but was also great at cutting from the weak side to the basket for the dunk or layup in a very similar way to Iguodala and Livingston.

In terms of detailed statistics, McKinnie’s OPIPM (the offensive version of DPIPM) was -1.3. This seems quite a low number, but it’s to be expected given the little amount of work McKinnie was asked to do on the offensive end.

Where Will He Land Now?

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McKinnie has done more than enough to prove to general managers around the league that he is an NBA-calibre player. In fact, he was immediately scooped up off waivers by the Cleveland Cavaliers just following his departure from Golden State.

He is a role player with high-level experience on a championship-contending team. He will be someone that all the title-contenders want and should have gone after. The Cavaliers are fortunate to have him on their roster — even if their championship aspirations aren’t exactly high.

If the Los Angeles Lakers can’t get Iguodala then they could’ve certainly looked to McKinnie. The Brooklyn Nets would have definitely benefited from a player of his quality.

The Houston Rockets seem to be the perfect fit for a player like McKinnie. He could have been the replacement for Trevor Ariza that they never quite found. But alas, Cleveland was his ultimate destination for the time being.

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Whatever happens to Alfonzo McKinnie now, Warriors fans are sure to wish him well and thank him for what he’s done for the franchise, but the front office may just regret letting him go.