2011-2012 GS Warriors Season Preview
The Golden State Warriors were a fun team to watch last season, winning 36 games while scoring 103.4 points a night. Conversely, they lost 46 and yielded 105.7 . . .
The Warriors have new owners, management and, finally, a coaching gig for first-timer Mark Jackson.
Jackson has already proclaimed his squad playoff pound but it’s going to take more than just words but a true commitment to some semblance, any semblance of defense for the Warriors to climb into at least the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
Here’s a preview of what to expect this season, and what we here at HOOPSWORLD see as we look into the state of the Golden State Warriors in 2011-12.
|Five Guys Think…|
For years various teams have shown interest in Mark Jackson becoming their head coach and the Warriors decided to become the first to give him a chance this summer. It’s a gamble because Jackson has zero experience as a head coach. He does have an intimate understanding of the game from playing point guard in the league for 17 years, though. He’s got two very nice guards at his disposal in Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. It’s up to him to figure out how to properly use them both at the same time, something that has been somewhat problematic up to this point. Jackson will also have to get the most out of David Lee and Andris Biedrins inside while keeping the team focused despite the fact that trade rumors will likely persist to swirl around them. The direction of the team is good, but their inability to consistently get stops will frequently hold them back.
3rd Place, Pacific Division
- Yannis Koutroupis
Like Keith Smart before him, new head coach Mark Jackson walked in the door preaching defense, but is Kwame Brown really the spark that will ignite a tough defensive campaign? It’s more likely that a healthy Andris Biedrins and Ekpe Udoh will help the defensive cause. Klay Thompson is a great pick-up, and may prove to be the piece that allows the Warriors to part with Monta Ellis. The Warriors will field an exciting, high-scoring team, but they’re not there yet.
3rd Place – Pacific Division
- Bill Ingram
The Warriors couldn’t pry away DeAndre Jordan from the L.A. Clippers. They couldn’t pull off a trade for Chris Paul, and even if they did they couldn’t convince him to stick with the team after this season. They couldn’t sign Tyson Chandler. They didn’t amnesty Andris Biedrins, but they did sign Kwame Brown to a one-year, $7 million deal. None of these things are instilling in me the belief that it’s the Warriors’ year to return to relevance. I love Steph Curry and expect a big year out of him, and Monta Ellis has reportedly showed quite a bit of maturity early in training camp, but the rest of this roster is underwhelming, and that’s going to make it hard to get into the playoffs. I’d expect a .500 year out of this group, at best.
3rd Place, Pacific Division
- Joel Brigham
New head coach Mark Jackson has been promising Warriors fans a trip to the playoffs in his first season calling the shots. It will be a tall order to be sure but Jackson has three guys who possess All-Star caliber talent on the roster in Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis and David Lee. The problem the Warriors will face in the solid Western Conference is that they will enter the2012 season without successfully addressing their need for interior toughness in free agency. With an undersized backcourt this area must be tightened before the Warriors can punch their respective playoff ticket.
3rd Place, Pacific Division
- Lang Greene
The Golden State Warriors bring back many of the same faces that won 36 games last season. Injuries slowed down the Warriors last year and while they’re now completely healthy, it’ll be very difficult for the team to compete for a playoff spot in the much-improved Pacific Division. Not only did Golden State lose the Chris Paul sweepstakes, they lost out to their division-rival Los Angeles Clippers. While the Warriors still have the high-scoring backcourt of Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis, it’ll be interesting to see if the team buys into new head coach Mark Jackson’s focus on defense. Last year, the Warriors were one of the highest scoring teams in the NBA, but they also gave up the third-most points. Jackson is a player’s coach and everyone within the Warriors’ organization has praised him so far. Whether or not he’ll be able to turn Golden State into a playoff team remains to be seen.
4th Place, Pacific Division
- Alex Kennedy
|Top Of The List|
Top Offensive Player: The offensive heart of the Warriors is Monta Ellis. The kid can score. The former second-round pick averaged 24.1 points a game along with 5.6 assists. His backcourt partner Stephen Curry was at 18.6 points with 5.8 assists. As a pair, Golden State has one the more exciting back courts in the game.
Top Defensive Player: When a team’s guard tandem measures at 6’3”, 185 pounds each, the defensive support has to come from the inside. This is where the Warriors struggled last year. It’s where they tried to improve this summer with offers to Tyson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan. Instead they settled on a short deal with Kwame Brown. Brown is immediately the team’s best post defender but Kwame is not a shot-blocker and has trouble reading the floor defensively (but he can stay in front of his man). The team hopes that Andris Biedrins can bounce back from a down year or two and that that second-year player Ekpe Udoh continues to develop into a significant defensive presence.
Top Playmaker: In addition to his outside shot (43.9% career from three), Curry is a creative playmaker. Both Stephen and Monta are combo guards but Curry seems to have a slightly better knack at the one spot. Still, the numbers are nearly the same with both in the 5-6 assist range but also slightly above three turnovers a game apiece. That sounds (and is) high but the Warriors fast pace had the ball in either of their guards’ hands much of the time.
Top Clutch Player: Yesterday (i.e. last season) the answer may have been Ellis but Curry will gradually take over as the team’s best finisher. They’re already a load in the final minutes with their quickness and creativity. Ellis is more of a ferocious scorer while Curry is smoother and a better true shooter. One number that’s more subtle but not any less significant is Steph’s 93.4% at the line vs. Monta’s 78.9%
The Unheralded Player: Biedrins, Udoh and Brown all have the potential to change the Warriors with an increased level of defensive play. One under-the-radar guy to think about is Louis Amundson. Lou isn’t especially skilled but he’s tough. He gives his body. He’s not afraid of contact. The Warriors need an enforcer to put a little fear into their opponents and Amundson looks to be the ideal man for the job.
Best New Addition: Rookie Klay Thompson went 11th to the Warriors in the draft and frankly that might be a steal. Thompson, a 6’7” guard from Washington State, can score. He has NBA pedigree (father Mychal was a number one pick and NBA champion) and a sweat stroke. First glimpse in person during a summer exhibition game? A stronger (physically) Kevin Martin. If Thompson can quickly establish himself as an impactful rotation player, the Warriors may opt to break up their backcourt and send out someone like Ellis for needed size.
– Eric Pincus
|Who We Like|
1. Stephen Curry – He’s smooth. He can shoot. He can pass. He represents the team well. It’s no wonder that the New Orleans Hornets wanted to make Curry the centerpiece of a Chris Paul trade. Instead the Warriors (unsure that Paul would stick long term) stood by Steph as their franchise guard. Now with two seasons under his belt, Steph will only get better.
2. Jerry West – He may not be directly involved in the day-to-day general manager duties but the franchise added one of the best minds in the business to their decision-making bank. That’s going to pay dividends, even if the initial haul this summer is less than impressive.
3. Monta Ellis – Ellis plays with passion. He has a little Nick van Exel in him; a defiant streak that works for him (but sometimes can be a hindrance), but he gives it his all every night. Monta may need to go eventually to make the Warriors a more-balanced team. On that day, even if he does help Golden State get to the next level simply by leaving (for the right return of course), he’s going to be missed by the Bay.
4. Klay Thompson – Given the minutes, Klay has Rookie of the Year potential, especially in a draft class with questionable depth. Of course he’s likely behind Ellis in the rotation, so Thompson will have to make the best of opportunities when they come. Eventually he will likely be Curry’s full-time, back court running mate.
5. Dorell Wright – Wright is coming off of a career year where he averaged 16.4 points a game while finally getting major minutes (after years on the bench in Miami). For the most part Dorell was a defensive threat but he’s got the size and athleticism to make an impact defensively. There’s been a lot of talk from Coach Jackson about this team becoming a force on the other end of the floor. Personnel hasn’t changed but Wright is one of the few players who can really make an impact with the right mindset.
– Eric Pincus
The Warriors can score. That’s been their identity and while defense must enter the picture, they need to maintain the joyful offensive spirit they showed last season.
It will be interesting to see how Jackson changes that approach but with players like David Lee (who was hurt most of last season), Curry, Ellis, Thompson and Wright . . . this team is going to pour in over 100 points nightly regardless of what offense their coach runs.
As much as a liability the smaller, slighter backcourt pairing of Curry/Ellis may be defensively, they pose a true matchup nightmare for their opponents. The combination of speed, ball-handling and straight-up firepower is an advantage. If the defensive concept can be built successfully around that duo, perhaps Jackson’s postseason proclamations prove to be precise.
– Eric Pincus
Defense. It’s one thing to preach it. It’s another to expect the same players with the same limitations to play beyond their capabilities for an entire season.
At some point you have to bring in defenders. Kwame is a step towards that, given that man-to-man he can stay in front of most big guys in the post. When it comes to rotations and shot-blocking, Brown has the experience and the inclination but not always the eye for what’s occurring around him.
Udoh is still young and inconsistent. Andris Biedrins has been a shell of the player he was a few years ago. Can Jackson get his confidence back up and find a rotation that takes advantage of the big man’s abilities?
Increased effort from Wright and some pounding from Amundson and it’s not impossible that the Warriors already have enough on the roster to make the playoffs.
Ellis is actually a solid defender when focused. The difficult part his he’s 6’3”, 185 pounds and he’s playing two-guard.
– Eric Pincus
|The Coach’s Chair By Anthony Macri|
I hear the whispers. I know there are some that don’t think we can be very good this year. However, I am not one of them. We have great penetrators, we have a few great shooters, and we have bigs that are more than willing to compete on the interior. With those things in place, we have a chance at a redemptive season. It starts on the defensive end of the floor, though, guys. We cannot be competitive if we don’t have some balance to our approach. Steph, you are a wizard at attacking off of ball screens. You have to be at least half that good defensively, if for no other reason than it helps you to get better when we are setting the screen. I’d like to get Klay involved early, and as his skill-set expands, we’ll be able to increase his role as well. Monta, I want to take as much off your plate as possible so you can become the ultimate scorer and feel like you have free reign. Let’s make the year fun and memorable no matter what the record turns into.
- Anthony Macri
|The Burning Question|
How much longer do the Warriors stick with the Steph Curry/Monta Ellis experiment?
Look for Golden State to ride it out with both Ellis and Curry through the shortened season. Barring some generous bounty, the team will compete with what they have and explore more options next summer when they should have a decent amount of cap room.
If there’s one player on the outs, it’d be Biedrins who has two additional year at $9 million per. If that contract can get off the books, suddenly the Warriors have a sizable amount of cap space in 2012.
Golden State will once again be fun to watch and throughout the year they’ll be within striking distance of the eighth seed . . . but likely fall short of Jacksons’ playoff guarantee.
- Eric Pincus
How do you see the Warriors this season, leave your comments below…