The likes of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson may make the most headlines for the Warriors, but as any perennial contender will attest, it truly takes a village to maintain the quality level of play that goes into five consecutive runs to the NBA Finals. Included in this season’s cast of characters is a plethora of NBA G League alums, all of whom have well defined roles and serve as key cogs who play them to perfection in Golden State’s rotation.
From a gritty proven NBA veteran like Shaun Livingston, to rising up and comers like Kevon Looney and Quinn Cook, this squad features a variety of talents who all made their way up through the NBA G League. Here’s a look at who they are.
Cook proved his worth in the NBA G League, garnering honors as a two-time All-Star, All-Star Game MVP, and 2016 Rookie of the Year. But no one accomplishment was greater than his NBA title championship victory with Golden State last season. After signing a Two-Way contract with the Warriors at the start of last season, Cook subbed in superbly for an injured Stephen Curry, so much so that the organization converted his contract into a standard pact and the guard hasn’t looked back. Whether he plays five minutes or 25, Cook continues to find ways to leave his fingerprints all over games as an offensive spark off the bench. He now looks for his second championship ring.
After first scratching the surface as an assignment player in Santa Cruz during his early years, Looney has emerged as a formidable man in the middle during Golden State’s current run to The Finals. He averaged 10 points in the Conference Finals, and pulled down a postseason-high of 14 boards in a decisive Game 4. He’s been clutch, providing a physical presence to absorb bumps and bruises down low alongside his team’s offensive stars. Primed to continue playing a key role in this formidable matchup against Toronto, Looney’s come a long way from averaging 10.5 points and 8.4 rebounds through 16 assignment games from 2015-17.
Livingston’s perseverance to overcome a grueling knee injury in 2007, en route to becoming a three-time NBA champion should serve as a feel good story for all. But the fact that he made a stop in the minor league back in 2008-09 (playing 11 games with the Tulsa 66ers) means he’s also a role model for rising prospects hoping to carve out their own in niche at the next level. The 33 year-old veteran has certainly carved out a role of his own, becoming a mainstay in Golden State’s rotation as they continue to chase title after title with him helping spearhead the team’s efforts off the bench.
Speaking of inspiration (when recognizing a player of Livingston’s caliber and respective legacy), McKinnie’s ability to provide the Warriors with a dependable 3 & D presence off the bench should give him a positive push right towards being included in that conversation. From playing overseas and participating in an NBA G League open tryout in 2016, the swingman has flourished. He became a minor league All-Star in 2017, and has since proven his value to the defending NBA champions.
While the four-time NBA all-star is not considered an NBA G League alum since he never played a game, he did hit the practice floor in Santa Cruz as part of his rehab from an Achilles injury on multiple occasions this past season. As he clawed his way back, the big man had a chance to suit up against his brother and the respectable competition caught his eye as he inched closer and sought out meaningful preparation for an NBA return. “There’s a lot of talent in here. This grind that these guys go through is kind of overlooked and underappreciated. It’s a grind like no other,” he said.
With Cousins now dealing with a new injury, Golden State has looked to a committee of centers to help fill the void and Bell has been part of that. The young gun scored 14 points in his lone assignment game back in the 2017-18 season and more recently averaged 6.8 points in the Western Conference Finals. He will look to continue helping his team bridge the gap while chasing his second ring.
The 2016 first round NBA Draft pick is someone who received much more seasoning in the NBA G League, averaging 13.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks through 76 games in 2016-18. He had plenty of time to blossom into the kind of player he is today at the next level. As someone who can assert his physicality, block shots, and muscle up in the paint to fight for boards, Jones returned in the Conference Finals against Portland after an injury sidelined him for much of the regular season.
Still just 21 years old, Evans spent a good chunk of his rookie campaign suiting up for Santa Cruz, averaging 11.2 points through 21 regular season contests and 14.5 points in the postseason. Evans’ playing time in the upcoming Finals could be scarce at best, but if he looks around him at the likes of Cook and Looney (among various others), Evans’ time to shine could be approaching in seasons to come. His team has proven time and time again that they are willing to depend on rising up and comers and will support them with development time in the NBA G League along the way.