Shaun Livingston Finally Gives Golden State Warriors Exactly What They Need

Shaun Livingston Finally Gives Golden State Warriors Exactly What They Need

It wasn’t a Kevin Love trade, and it may not be a precursor to one, but landing Shaun Livingston was a huge step in the right direction for the Golden State Warriors.

According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, “Sources close to the process told ESPN.com that Livingston and the Warriors have struck a deal that will pay him the league’s full mid-level exception for the next three seasons, which is valued at an estimated $16 million.”

General manager Bob Myers and Livingston apparently saw eye to eye on more than money alone.

Per Stein, Livingston told ESPN The Magazine‘s Jordan Brenner, “It’s the fit. Definitely the fit. I want to remain competitive and this is the best opportunity.”

Finding a winning franchise is always a good fit, but there’s more to it than that.

Starting with the obvious, Livingston is an experienced and gifted floor general who seems to be peaking at the perfect time for Golden State.

As NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman notes, “Livingston had the best season of his career in Brooklyn last year. Starting most of the season, he averaged 8.3 points, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals in 26.0 minutes per game as a secondary ball-handler in the backcourt.”

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Livingston told Brenner, “It was the best year I’ve had in terms of consistency.”

As CSNBayArea.com’s Monte Poole notes, “Livingston’s career has been hijacked by injuries, the most grotesque and devastating being a left knee injury as a member of the Clippers in 2007. The injury required extensive surgery and rehabilitation.”

By now the effects of that injury are ancient history.

So the signing comes at a good time for the Warriors. They’re getting a guy who appears to be hitting his stride, understanding his role and finding his niche. And the transition with Golden State should be straightforward enough.

As was the case in Brooklyn, Livingston will spend much of his time playing alongside a point guard who can score.

Stephen Curry did it all for Golden State last season, averaging 24 points and 8.5 assists in a campaign that solidified his status as an emergent superstar. But Curry does some of his best work off the ball, and that’s one reason he’ll co-exist splendidly with Livingston.

The 28-year-old’s ability to handle and distribute the ball will allow Curry to spend additional time running off screens and getting himself the shred of daylight he needs to put a shot up. Livingston will also relieve Curry of some minutes. The elder Splash Brother averaged 36.5 of those minutes last season and 42.3 per contest in the playoffs.

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Though the 26-year-old has carried the load quite nicely, an extra breather now and then certainly couldn’t hurt. 

The Warriors have tried unsuccessfully to find such a reliever after losing Jarrett Jack in 2013. The club experimented with Toney Douglas, Steve Blake and Jordan Crawford last season, but none proved a reliable understudy for Curry.

Livingston’s proficiency at the point will also alleviate the need for Andre Iguodala to serve as a secondary playmaker, allowing him to focus a little more on scoring the ball from the small forward position.

Livingston may also embolden Curry to become even more of a shooter, which is probably a good thing given his career’s 44-percent success rate from beyond the three-point arc.

Crucially, Livingston has pass-first instincts. His 26.6 assist ratio ranked just behind Curry himself last season (who scored a 26.7 rating). That didn’t rank him among the very best distributors, but it’s an impressive figure given that Livingston’s usage rate was 60th out of 70 qualifying point guards.

In other words, there was a relatively small sample size by which to measure Livingston’s decision-making. But the eye test confirms that he looked to facilitate more than the average ball-handler.

And the numbers confirm solid overall efficiency. Livingston’s 14.52 player efficiency rating put him ahead of several starters around the league, including Jameer Nelson, George Hill and Raymond Felton. 

He also does a few of the little things that might go unnoticed by the casual observer. One of those things is getting to the free-throw line.

According to the San Jose Mercury NewsMarcus Thompson II, “Livingston’s free throw rate of .392 is way higher than any of the Warriors’ top seven players.”

There are limitations to Livingston’s game to be sure.

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He can’t shoot three-pointers, and he turns the ball over a bit more often than you’d like to see from a player who doesn’t dominate the ball. 

The good news is Golden State has plenty of three-point shooters, namely Curry and backcourt partner Klay Thompson. Floor spacing won’t suffer too much when Livingston is on the floor, and he’s learned to make up for his missing perimeter shot with a better-than-average in-between game.

As CBSSports.com’s Matt Moore observes, Golden State, “needed a floor general and perimeter defender more than another shooter anyway.”

About that defense.

The Warriors became a much-improved defensive club over the last two seasons, and that’s in spite of the fact that interior anchor Andrew Bogut has been consistently sidetracked by injury (though the 67 games he played last season were a vast improvement over the 2012-13 campaign, when he suited up just 32 times).

Golden State ranked third league-wide last season in opponents’ field-goal percentage (at 43.6 percent), just behind defensive juggernauts in the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls.

Livingston will only add to that defensive presence with his length and versatility. Though he’s frequently classified as a point guard on account of his handling ability, Livingston can guard virtually anyone in the backcourt or on the wing. In fact, there’s no reason he couldn’t play alongside Curry and Thompson—essentially playing backup to Iguodala, himself a top-shelf playmaker and defender.

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The Warriors have been on the verge of contending in each of the last two seasons, appearing just a piece or two away from having what it takes to surpass teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Even as rumors swirl regarding the team’s pursuit of Love, it may be that the less ambitious acquisition of Livingston makes a significant difference nonetheless. 

Unless Myers and Co. are absolutely convinced that acquiring Love is worth disrupting this squad’s core, this roster is better off being tweaked than overhauled. Very little here is fundamentally broken, so the fixes should be modest.

Outside of a trade, the organization couldn’t (and can’t) afford much else.

With Livingston occupying Golden State’s mid-level exception and bringing the club’s salary commitments right up to the hard cap, the remainder of the offseason may be a quiet one. But for the chance of that Love story becoming a reality, quiet isn’t a bad thing.

Nor was adding Shaun Livingston.

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