The Golden State Warriors agreed to sign Shaun Livingston for three years and $16 million (two fully guaranteed, the third partially guaranteed) at the full Mid-Level Exception on Tuesday, the first day of free agency.
One of the key distinctions I like to make is between “Point Guard” and “primary ballhandler.” In my eyes, like every other position point guards should be defined by who someone defends rather than an offensive role.
This distinction matters for the Warriors because while they had other point guards during Stephen Curry’s career, they have only had one reliable primary ballhandler other than Curry: Jarrett Jack for one season. Having a second person who can run the offense effectively should keep the team afloat when Curry sits and allow Steph to play off the ball more regularly when they share the court. Considering Curry may be the best catch and shoot player in the entire league, that combination should work.
What makes Livingston a particularly good fit for the Warriors is that he can defend both guard positions, meaning he can shield Curry when they play together like Klay Thompson did the last few seasons. Even though Livingston cannot shoot a lick, he was a shockingly effective post-up player last year and could work wonders with whatever young Warriors do not make the starting lineup. I harped all of last season about how Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes needed to play more with Curry and those drop-offs without him should improve with another lead guard that can actually run the show.
Finally, Livingston fits beautifully with the team whether or not they move Thompson this summer. A trio of Curry, Thompson and Livingston would be very effective, but Livingston’s ability to play with Curry means that Golden State can downgrade a little from Thompson at shooting guard with less dramatic consequences. In fact, Livingston would pair well with Zach LaVine, Minnesota’s first round pick that I would like to see included in a Kevin Love trade should Klay Thompson head east.
The Warriors fixed their single largest flaw from last season with a player who makes complete sense with their best player. While Livingston works better as a complement to Curry than an injury replacement since they are so different, he works incredibly well with the current roster and even better if they can add a power forward who can stretch the floor.
Grade for Golden State: A-
More than anything, I am so happy for Shaun Livingston. After starting his career as a star prospect and then the point guard of the future for the Clippers, he suffered a horrific knee injury (that I have still never had the heart to watch) and worked his way all the way back to relevance in the NBA. Despite having shown so much promise before his 20th birthday, 2014-15 at the Mid-Level Exception will be the highest salary Livingston has ever had in the NBA. While Shaun will never be what we dreamed he would become, making it back to this level in the best league in the world is absolutely admirable.
Grade for Shaun Livingston: A+