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Warriors make it official, sign free agent forward Jonas Jerebko

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Free agent forward Jonas Jerebko has signed with the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors announced the deal Thursday and planned to formally introduce Jerebko on Monday.

A native of Sweden, Jerebko has played nine NBA seasons with Utah, Boston and Detroit. In 32 postseason games – four starts – for the Jazz and Celtics, he has averaged 4.0 points and 3.1 rebounds.

Golden State had already added center DeMarcus Cousins in free agency and re-signed two-time reigning finals MVP Kevin Durant and forward/center Kevon Looney after winning a second straight title and third in four years. Centers JaVale McGee (Lakers) and Zaza Pachulia (Pistons) have departed.

Warriors will reportedly ink Kevon Looney to one-year minimum

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The Golden State Warriors made waves this week by reportedly agreeing to a deal with free agent big man DeMarcus Cousins. Coming off of an Achilles injury, Cousins was once a max salary type of player. With the Warriors next season he will garner a much smaller total, but he’ll be able to move on and try to go for a larger contract in the summer of 2019.

Of course, the Warriors still need to tie up the rest of their roster, and that includes guys who were not former All-Stars.

On Tuesday, it was reported that Golden State reached an agreement with forward Kevon Looney.

Looney was taken by the Warriors in the 2015 NBA Draft with the 30th overall pick.

Via Twitter:

Looney has been a low usage guy for the Warriors, playing less than 10 minutes per game over his first three seasons in the league. Still, his advanced stats are good enough to make him a roster player and he has slowly improved over the past few seasons with Golden State.

Keeping Looney on the roster helps the Warriors have some solid rotational players at the end of the bench who know their system without having to bust more of their cap space to do it.

Golden State is a dynasty, but how long can they keep it up?

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CLEVELAND — Dynasty.

That word gets thrown around too casually in sports. However, we can legitimately use it referencing these Golden State Warriors, especially after Friday night when they held the Larry O’Brien Trophy aloft for the third time in four years (and they won 73 games and went to a Game 7 of the Finals the one year they didn’t pick up a ring). The team has everything a dynasty needs. It has the banners — and now back-to-back titles. It has the legendary players that will help define a generation in the league — Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. It has players who can put ego aside and do what is best for the team, who can handle a regular season filled with injuries and uneven play with their eye on the big prize at the end.

The Warriors are a dominant force that will enter next season — regardless of what happens this summer in free agency — as the team to beat. They have set the bar to clear — LeBron James may be on the move again because he needs a better situation to challenge these Warriors. The only question that seems left:

How many more years can they keep this up?

“We want to keep this thing going as long as we can,” Curry said, although understandably the Warriors’ players didn’t want to discuss the future as much as celebrate the present Friday night.

“Any question that kind of talks about the future and whatnot, you don’t want to cheat the moment,” Curry added. “So we’ll have plenty of time over the summer to talk about what next year’s going to look like and what it’s going to take for us to get back to this stage next year.”

What it’s going to take to keep these Warriors rolling is to keep their core four together.

Right now, none of them are pushing to get out the door and have a team of their own — Durant has said he’ll re-sign with the Warriors and Klay Thompson said he’d take a discount to stay. Those two were considered the most likely to want to step out on their own according to sources around the league. If they stay, the Warriors remain a force for years.

That’s because none of those core guys are old — Curry just turned 30 in March and Durant will do the same before next season starts, while Green and Thompson are 27. They are at their peak and will be for another four or five years. Andre Iguodala is 34, but aside that the heart of their rotation is not old — and GM Bob Myers keeps finding guys such as Jordan Bell and Patrick McCaw who can help now while on their rookie contracts. There will be changes in the role players around the core — they likely lose Kevon Looney in free agency this summer and probably David West, but they will have the taxpayer midlevel exception to add someone — but so long as the core is together this team will contend.

The challenge is financial — all four of those core guys are max contract players. At what point do the Warriors’ owners balk at the cost?

Curry got his max last summer (after being on one of the most cap-friendly contracts in the league), but also last year Durant took nearly $10 million less than he could have to help the team keep Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. Shooting down some odd speculation in the media (or maybe wishful thinking in some quarters), Durant said he will re-sign with Golden State this summer. However, he will not take that discount again, he will get his max starting at $35 million and the only question is how long the contract is for (four years, or does he take a one-plus-one so he is fully vested and can re-sign a five-year Bird rights deal with the Warriors next summer?).

Thompson is a free agent in 2019 and has talked about taking a discount to help keep the team together (probably not an extension, though, where he would leave as much as $80 million total on the table, he will just take less than the max in 2019). In 2020, Green will come up for a new deal that starts at $25 million.

The Warriors are in the luxury tax now ($32.7 million this season) and in the 2019-20 season will go into the repeater tax, jumping that bill up even higher — in 2020 they could pay $150 million or more in luxury tax, with a total team salary bill north of $320 million (that’s nearly double what they paid this season, already the highest salaried team in the NBA).

The Warriors owners have said they are willing to pay the tax for a winner (moving into a new building in San Francisco in a couple of years will help, that will open up revenue streams). Look at what Warriors’ co-owner Joe Lacob told the Athletic this week.

“I tell Bob (Myers, Warriors GM) every day, our job is not to let it end. It may change, just like we changed when we added Kevin and (let go of) some really good players that won the championship in ’15.

“So we have to recognize that and be willing to make some changes each year that are required. Some will be of our doing and some will sort of be handed to us….

“What I’d love for us to be able to do is have a Spurs-like 20-year run of being very consistently good and competing for championships, and that’s my job.”

A Spurs-like run of sustained excellence requires a lot of things to go right. It requires a little luck, too. The Warriors organization, however, is in as good a position as any team to do it.

Back to our original question: How many more years can they keep this up?

The Warriors aren’t going anywhere for the next three to five years at least — this dynasty has won three titles in four years, but it could be five-in-seven, six-in-nine, or more when all is said and done.

And if ownership gets its wish, the Warriors will not be done then.

Shaun Livingston rising to occasion for Warriors

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Shaun Livingston hasn’t missed in the NBA Finals.

And because of him, the Warriors have barely missed a beat without Andre Iguodala.

Livingston’s value goes well beyond shot-making, but given his historically hot start, it’s a good place to start.

Livingston is 8-for-8 in the Finals. Since the NBA adopted a 16-team postseason in 1984, nobody has ever attempted more shots without a miss in the first two games of a Finals.

Nobody has even been close. Only Francisco Elson – 5-for-5 with the Spurs in 2007 – had been better than 3-for-3.

“He’s a guy who gets it,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said of Livingston. “He understands how to play.”

That basketball intelligence has particularly shined while sharing the court with the Warriors’ stars – Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green.

That fifth Golden State player was usually Iguodala. But since Iguodala got hurt in the Western Conference, Livingston has stepped up.

The Warriors have outscored opponents by 23.7 points per 100 possessions with Curry, Thompson, Durant, Green and Livingston on the court in the playoffs. That’s even better than the four stars plus Iguodala (+22.9 net rating).

Here’s how Golden State has fared with its four stars sharing the court, depending on fifth teammate. Offensive/defensive/net ratings are listed:

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Options for that role other than Iguodala – Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell, JaVale McGee, Livingston and Nick Young – carry significant blemishes. Livingston’s is just the most manageable.

He’s a non-shooter from beyond the arc, but he’s a solid ball-handler and distributor. Though Livingston compromises spacing, he can’t be completely ignored on the perimeter (unlike Looney, Bell and McGee). Livingston will step into a mid-range jumper, make a timely cut to the rim, break down the defense with the ball and/or keep the opponent scrambled with a pass.

Livingston is not a lockdown defender, and he definitely doesn’t match Iguodala’s unique capability against LeBron James. But Livingston is totally fine on that end (unlike Young).

Iguodala will likely return soon, but Livingston’s contributions have already been felt in the Warriors reaching the Finals and taking a 2-0 lead.

It’s not just the stars: Cavaliers don’t have the role players to match Warriors

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LeBron James played well again in Game 2 on Sunday night against the Golden State Warriors. The Cleveland Cavaliers star followed up his 51-point performance in the Game 1 with a near triple-double of 29 points, 13 assists, and nine rebounds.

Still, it just wasn’t enough.

Despite double-digit contributions from three other starters and reasonable shooting percentages throughout most of the game, the supporting cast for the Cavaliers could not measure up to the intensity brought by the reigning world champions. Even worse, three players attributed with 49 of Cleveland’s most vital bench minutes combined for just nine points. Those players — Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, and Larry Nance — collectively shot 2-of-11 with 10 rebounds and three assists.

Meanwhile, despite lacking Andre Iguodala, the Warriors’ supporting cast was what you’d expect from such a disciplined squad. David West grabbed a few rebounds, dished a couple assists, and had three blocks in 11 minutes. Shaun Livingston went 5-of-5 from the field. JaVale McGee, who started, scored 12 points and didn’t miss a shot from the floor.

The differentiation in play between Golden State’s and Cleveland’s role players was not just the story of Game 2, but it’s what sets them apart fundamentally in roster construction and organizational strategy.

It’s a running joke on Twitter at this point, but the idea that Nick Young and McGee are contributing minutes to Golden State (they combined for 36 on Sunday) is wild beyond our NBA-watching dreams. It’s something you’d only expect to click for the Warriors or perhaps the San Antonio Spurs. But while that meme runs its course on social media, the reality is that Cleveland is running out a roster of players with similarly historically low expectations with very different results.

Jordan Clarkson looks like he’s not ready to be a rotation player; Rodney Hood nearly got DNP-CD’d again (he played garbage time on Sunday); Green looked extremely Jeff Green-y; Tristan Thompson didn’t contribute to his salary level; Nance got eaten alive against Warriors starters.

The gap between the stars on the Warriors and the stars on the Cavaliers is expansive. But the benches and role players, on paper and with Iguodala sidelined, are closer than we think. That’s doubly so when McGee and Young are getting significant run. It’s the execution that sets them apart, and as the rotation mixes over the game, how the stars are able to cover for their lesser teammates.

Cleveland isn’t the kind of team that’s going to be able to hide that many holes in a Finals matchup. They need their role players not just to fill in, but to push past their expectations in some kind of consistent manner. After Game 2 Tyronn Lue said as much, specifically with regard to Green.

“Jeff could be more assertive, I think,” said Lue. “[He needs to] be more aggressive offensively, not just settle for threes, [and] attack the basket.”

Green was important during Cleveland’s series against the Toronto Raptors, and vital to their Game 7 win over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. But for the most part, Green hasn’t been able to handle his share, particularly when opponents have zeroed in on Love and Korver. That rang true again on Sunday when Green finished with six points, two rebounds, and one assist on 28.5 percent shooting.

In these NBA Finals, we’re seeing the truths our facts, figures, and theorems can teach us when we put them into a real life experiment. The result, for the Cavaliers, isn’t good. Outside of the record-breaking 3-point makes by Stephen Curry and the high-scoring of Kevin Durant are guys like Livingston, West, Kevon Looney, and even Jordan Bell, grinding away and playing their part. Cleveland hasn’t been able to find the same spark from their bench.

Golden State has been able to suppress the effectiveness of Cavaliers starters outside of LeBron, limiting Love’s shooting or keeping Thompson off the boards. That should naturally leave space for players with smaller roles to step up, but with the way the roster is constructed and the continual failure to get just about anything out of their bench, the reality of Who the Warriors Are vs. Who the Cavaliers Are is here, and it’s clear.

LeBron can play as hard as he can. He has, really. Game 1 was a masterpiece, and Game 2 was an efficient, superstar kind of night. But no matter the effort from James, the averages always come to bear during a playoff series. That’s especially true during the Finals, and it’s not just Golden State’s stars that are better than Cleveland’s.

It’s their bench, too.