Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.
When the Warriors open their season this fall, they will be without six of their top eight assist leaders from 2018-19, after splitting with Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Quinn Cook, as well as losing Klay Thompson for most of the season. Collectively, those six players accounted for approximately 18 of the Warriors league-leading average of 29 assists per game.
How will the Warriors maintain their revolutionary style of sharing the ball next season without them?
It starts with the two remaining assist leaders on the team from last season, Draymond Green and Steph Curry. After a good-not-great regular season where Green averaged about seven assists per game, the Dubs forward took his conditioning and effort up a notch, resulting in an increase in assists in each playoff series.
Against the Clippers in the first round, Draymond averaged 7.8 assists, followed by 8.2 assists in the second round against the Rockets. He then totaled 8.8 assists per game in the Western Conference Finals against the Blazers, and 9.3 assists in the NBA Finals versus the Raptors. Draymond's increase in assists coincided with the absence of Durant, as he needed to become more of a playmaker. For the Warriors to maintain their expected offensive dominance, Green will have to take that same attitude and physical shape into the regular season.
Curry, after averaging a little over five assists per game last regular season, increased his assists totals once Kevin Durant went down as well. In the Conference Finals and NBA Finals, Curry posted a combined 6.5 assists per game. Without Durant, Curry played less off-the-ball, and instead had the ball in his hands in order to create for himself and his teammates.
Typically, Warriors coach Steve Kerr shies away from constant pick-and-roll action and likes his offense to share the ball, including everyone on the court as much as possible. In doing so, Curry uses his incredible talent of moving without the ball to confuse defenses and force miscommunication and ineffective switches.
Next season, however, the Warriors may not have the luxury to utilize Curry that same way, as he may be needed to run a team that is without most of their veteran, accomplished playmakers. Kerr said he may have to adjust his strategy this next season, and his usage of Curry might be their No. 1 change.
The Warriors were fortunate to bring D'Angelo Russell from the Nets for many reasons, including his ability to run an offense. Russell's seven assists per game last regular season would have led the Warriors team. Used in primarily a high-ball-screen, pick-and-roll scheme, Russell feasted on defenses when he got into open space in the key.
When Curry is on the bench, there is an expectation that Kerr will utilize Russell in that same fashion, and let him find a groove with great rim-rolling options like newly-acquired big man Willie Cauley-Stein. Many wonder how Russell will fit into the style that the Warriors have played in the past, but it will be up to Kerr and the coaching staff to strategize how to get the best out of Russell's skill set.
[RELATED: Kerr reveals why he was devastated by Dubs trading Iguodala]
A lot has been made about Jacob Evans converting to a point guard, but for him to be a rotation piece, he simply will have to be careful with the basketball. The Warriors are not expecting Evans to suddenly be a dynamic shot creator -- they know that it will take time for him to develop that confidence and ability.
What they do hope is that he can facilitate the offense from the top of the key, make the right passes, and be secure with the ball in order to avoid live-ball turnovers. There is a reason that the team has likened his potential role to mimic that of Shaun Livingston. If Evans can come close to emulating Livingston's game, the Warriors will feel confident that they have four ball-handlers and facilitators going into next season.