Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which Monte Poole will highlight a different Warriors player every day leading up to the start of training camp.
Player: Festus Ezeli
Age: 25 (turns 26 on Oct. 21)
Salary: $2 million in fourth and final season of the rookie deal Ezeli signed in 2012. The Warriors can make a qualifying offer but negotiations are under way in hopes of reaching agreement on an extension. The window closes on Oct. 31.
2014-15 in review: After missing the entire 2013-14 season with right knee surgery and rehabilitation, Ezeli spent most of the season trying to get up to speed. He played in 46 of a possible 82 games, with seven starts. He missed 16 games in the middle of the season with a sprained left ankle.
Ezeli in limited action showed appreciable improvement on the offensive end while maintaining a strong defensive presence. His footwork was visibly improved and his hands were, well, demonstrably better than the skillets they resembled when he entered the league. He advanced well enough to play key minutes in the postseason
Insofar as Ezeli is relatively new to organized basketball, discovering it in his late teens, he has proved he could be a functional NBA player and a solid backup center with the potential to develop into a starter.
2015-16 outlook: Ezeli hopes, first and foremost, to be healthy for the full season. If so, he’ll likely see more action than he ever has behind starter Andrew Bogut.
Ezeli needs to continue to develop on offense, while being an overall plus on defense. The expectation is that he will be in the rotation with much more consistency than he was last season, when he had 16 DNP-CDs. Ezeli’s work in the playoffs boosted the level of confidence among the coaches and that should show.
Ezeli’s pride is evident in the dedication displayed during times when he could have been excused for going easy. He busts his tail in hopes of pleasing Hall of Famer and fellow Nigerian Hakeem Olajuwon. Ezeli wants to be a quality player and his upside continues to shine through the occasional “oops” moments.