It’s just about impossible to characterize Shaun Livingston’s ongoing career in ways that don’t reference his debilitating 2007 knee injury – believe us, we’ve tried. For Livingston to be a sought-after free agent, signed to a multi-year deal some seven years after that injury is remarkable enough. What’s probably more remarkable is the fact that he’s signing to his current deal with Golden State in the years following D-League stints, or three seasons spent playing a total of 48 games with three different NBA teams between 2007 and 2010. Stranger things have happened than a player returning from a devastating knee injury like Livingston’s to great acclaim.
Livingston did not return to great acclaim, just great respect. And after year after year of struggling to find a minimum-sized contract with whatever team would have him, for the man to sign a potential three-year deal with a championship contender is happy news indeed. It’s been a fantastic comeback.
Shaun is set to sign a three-year, potentially $16-plus million contract with the Golden State Warriors later this month. He’ll take in the full mid-level exception over the first two seasons, and his third year is only partially guaranteed as he turns 31 during the 2016 offseason. Because Livingston is already a step slow in what should have been his physical prime, it’s unlikely that the Warriors would bring him back for the 2016-17 at what will be below the league’s average salary, even as the salary cap and luxury tax level grows and grows.
The W’s are now facing a hard cap of $81 million due to their various combined luxury tax transgressions, but they’ll still have more than enough room to either extend Klay Thompson moving forward or re-visit talks that would bring Kevin Love and Kevin Martin to the Bay Area. Livingston’s new deal won’t act as a hindrance.
The question is whether or not Livingston is worth this sort of money. Yeah, we sort of have to go there.
Livingston is a secondary ball-handler that doesn’t rack up major assist totals. He initiates the offense, something that will be much needed in what we presume will be improved Warrior offensive schemes under Steve Kerr, ones that hopefully will have counter options that won’t rely on isolation sets once the initial action bogs down.
Golden State doesn’t lack for shooting, but Livingston will act as an offensive millstone at times. He’s made just 10 three-pointers in his career, just one last season, and his usual post-pass move is to hide on the weak side after setting the offense into motion while hoping that his inability to convert from the perimeter doesn’t cause too much traffic for his teammates. This hurt at times in Brooklyn, as Deron Williams and Paul Pierce worked their in-between games, and the hope in Golden State is that Livingston’s presence won’t rob bench types like Marreese Speights and Harrison Barnes of the room that they need to move.
Defensively, Livingston’s ability to stay in front of either guard position will help, but working as a no-stats All-Star with solid defensive marks at the league’s average salary is a bit of a reach.
The Warriors can afford to reach, though. This team is looking to win right away, taking advantage of a rising Stephan Curry and the last prime years of Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut along the way. In a vacuum, Livingston is overpaid, but he was also coveted by several other teams and he’s about to enter the best two years of his career. If Kerr can introduce him to the fine work of the Chicago Bull-era Ron Harper, the man who started in front of Kerr during three championship runs, this team might be onto something.
It’s also 2014, and Shaun Livingston is still in the NBA. He’ll be there in 2015-16, as well, and possibly longer. That’s accomplishment enough.
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