The Warriors have one open spot on their roster, and GM Bob Myers recently said they’ll be looking to use it on a center. Ever since Damian Jones’ season-ending injury, the Warriors have had a bit of a hole there.
Lacking centers is a weird problem for the Warriors to have: in previous years, the Warriors had more than enough centers (one could argue, way too many). But with Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee, and David West all gone, the Warriors have had to shuffle their centers around, and they’re still experimenting with what they have.
Damian Jones exceeded expectations as starting center earlier this season, but a torn pectoral will sideline him for the rest of the season. An athlete with size and agility, he did okay as a starter, making noticeable improvements in defensive awareness from previous seasons. He’ll be a factor for the team in future seasons.
This leaves two true centers on the team: Kevon Looney, the current starter, and DeMarcus Cousins, who will return soon. Looney is a good role player and Steve Kerr favorite; he plays like a ten-year veteran yet is still improving the secondary parts of his game. He proved his worth in last year’s playoffs, where he played the most minutes of any Warriors’ center. His rim protection and perimeter defense are his calling cards, but he’s also become a surer shooter and more confident finisher on the offensive end.
But he can’t do everything, and as the only true center available for the Warriors right now, he’s not in his proper role. He’s undersized for a five, and struggles against huge centers that can push him around. He also shouldn’t be playing starters’ minutes because of the wear-and-tear of playing against bigger guys.
When Boogie Cousins returns, his offensive output should be his greatest strength: he can handle the ball, stretch the floor, and score in the post. Because of his injury, however, it’s impossible to predict how agile he will be when he returns, and which parts of his game it will affect. His defense, which has never been great, will also be a concern. But having a mountain of a man to bang down low with other centers could be worth a lot to this team.
Lastly, don’t forget about Draymond Green. He won’t play at center much, but he’s still probably the Warriors’ best option at the position. The Warriors’ small-ball lineups unlock the pace and shooting of the Warriors’ stars like nothing else, and when they’re locked in, produce some of their best defense as well.
Other options, like Jordan Bell and Jonas Jerebko, don’t quite have the size, help defense, or rebounding necessary for a center. The Warriors need another center to provide just one more look for the team.
Assuming Boogie returns soon, this center won’t start games: he’ll have to be a bench guy who can rebound and defend, sort of like the Lakers’ signing of Tyson Chandler earlier this year. Robin Lopez, who is likely to be bought out by the Bulls eventually, would be a perfect fit for the team. An energy player with solid defense, he’s the kind of veteran who’d probably enjoy the chance to go deep into the postseason. There’s even a chance a slightly younger guy like Dewayne Dedmon is bought out too.
Because the buyout market market will materialize around the trade deadline, the Warriors shouldn’t sign a guy yet. This means the hole won’t be filled for a while, but with Cousins returning soon, the Warriors shouldn’t be in that much trouble. It’s more that the Warriors should have options come playoff time so that they can throw out different looks. Ultimately, the Warriors should pick the best defender of the centers available on the buyout market and entice them with a chance at a championship.