What Shaun Livingston Means to the Golden State Warriors
If you're an avid watcher of Warriors games, you've probably heard this once or twice before: "Eight years ago, we weren't sure if Shaun Livingston would ever play again."
After suffering a career-threatening knee injury in his third NBA season, Livingston endured through a long road to recovery. As a result, he missed the entire 2007-08 season and appeared in just 48 games in the following two seasons before signing with the Charlotte Bobcats in 2010.
Even then, over the next three seasons Livingston started just 43 games and never averaged more than 22 minutes per game. But then, in 2013, the Brooklyn Nets signed Livingston, and he played in 76 games (starting in 54 of them), averaging 26 minutes per game on a playoff-bound Brooklyn team.
And then the Warriors came calling...
On July 11, 2014, Livingston and the Warriors agreed to a three-year contract worth over $5 million a year. Looking back after just a year and a half, that investment has definitely paid off.
In his first regular season in Golden State, Livingston played in a career-high 78 games, contributing 5.9 points and 3.3 assists across 18.8 minutes per game. He posted an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 50% with 3.3 Win Shares on the season.
As backup to the eventual MVP, Stephen Curry, Livingston was a big reason why the Warriors sprinted into the playoffs, capping their year off with an NBA championship.
This year hasn't been much different.
Through 52 games, the Warriors sit 48-4. They have proven that they are the clear-cut favorite to repeat as NBA champions, blowing out other top teams in San Antonio and Cleveland.
Livingston has been very key in their success once again.
This year, Livingston's defense has dropped off just the slightest, from a Defensive Rating of 104 a year ago to 106, where it currently sits. However, his offensive game has appreciated much more than his defense has depreciated.
In 19.3 minutes per game, Livingston is averaging 6.5 points and 2.9 assists per game while turning the ball 0.9 times per contest. That's not an eye-popping improvement or anything, but it's Livingston efficient play that brings so much value to the Golden State bench.
Livingston is shooting 54% from the field and 88.9% from the free throw line, for a True Shooting Percentage of 58.5%. In reflection of his improved efficiency, his Offensive Rating has went from 107 points per 100 possessions last year to 120 per 100 this year.
The sum of Livingston's outstanding bench contributions?
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Livingston has improved all over the board in the first half of his second season under Steve Kerr. How has he been so effective though?
He's getting to his spots, but more importantly, he's converting when gets there.
The 6'7" combo guard is taking advantage of his size advantage on smaller opponents at two specific areas: the elbow and the post.
In his reserve role, Livingston has totaled 31 elbow touches so far this season -- which is surprisingly below the pace of his 64 in last year's campaign. The catch is that, while Livingston may not be getting the ball at that spot as much, he's averaging .613 points per elbow touch compared to last year's mark of .391.
As efficient as Livingston is from the elbow, he's been even better when he's fed the ball in the post. With 77 post touches on the season, Livingston has accounted for 77 points, or a point per touch. Compare that to last year when Livingston received 127 post touches, converting at a clip of .906 points per touch, you can see the spike in efficiency.
So, while the Warriors are primarily known for their run-and-gun offensive mentality, when the reserves are in, the approach is a little more methodical and less focused on the perimeter. Livingston feeds off of that, and in return, produces while Steph and the rest of the starters take their breathers.
We all notice the young stars of Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, but let's not overlook the 30-year-old veteran playing a vital role for a team looking to win their second straight NBA title.
Livingston brings so much more than his skills and size to the table. He brings experience and, above all, the unquestioned perseverance of an NBA champion.