Warriors could feel Kevin Durant's loss more on defense than offense

Brian Witt
NBC Sports BayArea

Much has been made of the offensive firepower that has departed the Warriors since they lost to the Raptors in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals. Kevin Durant has taken his talents to Brooklyn. Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston -- two critical members of Golden State's dynasty -- are no longer with the team. Klay Thompson, coming off a torn ACL, is expected to miss a large chunk of next season.

And yet, those collective departures could potentially have a more drastic effect on the Warriors' defense.

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Yes, for the last several years, the Dubs have been renowned for their explosive offense, but they've always been a good-to-great defensive team under Steve Kerr. A lot of that is due to players like Draymond Green, but there's reason to believe Golden State's defense could take a step or two back next season.

Using FiveThirtyEight's new DRAYMOND rating system, the Warriors have lost three of their six best defenders from last season according to Bleacher Report's Will Gottlieb -- and that doesn't include Thompson, who will be out a while.

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In losing Durant, Iguodala and Livingston, FiveThirtyEight projects the Warriors will lose 1.2 points per 100 possessions of defensive value based on the team's cumulative scoring defense alone. It's worth noting, however, that in order to qualify for that metric, a player must have played at least 10,0000 possessions over the last six seasons combined. So, the Warriors' 2019-20 DRAYMOND rating doesn't factor in Golden State newcomer Glenn Robinson III, nor any of the Warriors' 2019 draft picks.

As such, it's possible the dropoff might not be as severe as FiveThirtyEight projects, assuming those newcomers prove to be solid defensive players. Then again, it could also go the other way if they prove to be poor defenders. One must also consider the possibility that the seven veterans that are included in Golden State's 2019-20 DRAYMOND projection outperform their individual projections.

For instance, Draymond Green's career DRAYMOND rating of plus-3.2 points per 100 possessions is considerably better than his 2018-19 DRAYMOND rating of plus-1.76. The 2019-20 projection assumes Green will perform at an identical defensive level, even though it's reasonable to assume he'll outperform it, based on both track record and necessity.

[RELATED: Why Doug Gottlieb is very wrong about Draymond's place in NBA]

If the Warriors are going to get back to the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season, it will require certain individuals to step up defensively. Green will lead the charge, no doubt, and should enter next season as one of the front-runners for Defensive Player of the Year. But it's got to be a group effort, or else replacing Durant, Iguodala and Livingston's combined 35.7 points per game won't be the biggest of Golden State's problems.

Warriors could feel Kevin Durant's loss more on defense than offense originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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