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2013-2014 GS Warriors Season Preview
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On September 20, 2013 @ 12:00 pm In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
For a team that returns all five starters from a year ago, the Golden State Warriors are one of the harder teams to predict in the NBA. The Warriors’ fate is so variable because of two key factors: The differential between their regular season and playoff performances and the health of oft-injured stars Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut.
Last season was a banner year for the Warriors even before their shocking upset of the third-seeded Nuggets in the first round. Considered a fringe playoff contender before the year started, the team won 47 games and secured only the franchise’s second playoff berth since 1994. The Warriors then gave the eventual Western Conference champion Spurs all they could handle before bowing out in six games. Had it not been for ankle injuries to Curry and Bogut, the Warriors could well have won that series.
In the offseason, the Warriors cleared over $20 million off their salary cap by trading their three worst contracts (and two future unprotected first-rounders) to the Utah Jazz. They also allowed bench stalwarts Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry to leave for lucrative deals elsewhere. With the resulting cap room, General Manager Bob Myers signed ace defender and glue guy Andre Iguodala to a four-year, $48 million contract. With this expensive acquisition of the 29 year-old Iguodala, Myers has indicated his belief that the Warriors are ready to contend. Although they first made the playoffs last year, the Warriors are older than many realize. Bogut is 28, David Lee is 30, and Curry and Klay Thompson are 25 and 24, respectively. The Warriors’ window is now.
With these improvements, the Bay Area expects no less than a top-four seed in the West this year. The Warriors could well fulfill those expectations, but it should be remembered that Mark Jackson’s club had the point differential of a 44-win team last season. Their playoff performance certainly evinces a higher ceiling, but that small sample size (especially with the injury histories of Curry and Bogut) could prove less predictive than last year’s regular season. Are the Warriors the team that was 14th in points allowed per possession last year, or the one that shut down the high-powered Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs? Is the playoff improvement of Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson permanent, or just a hot streak? And can the Warriors maintain their playoff performance while integrating All-Star power forward David Lee—a poor defender who was injured in the postseason–back into the lineup? If the answers to these questions go the Warriors’ way, they could win 55 games. But the more likely outcome is a near-50 win campaign, which would make Mark Jackson’s club one of the more terrifying fifth or sixth seeds in recent memory.
- Nate Duncan
Additions: Andre Iguodala, Jermaine O’Neal, Marreese Speights, Nemanja Nedovic, Toney Douglas, Seth Curry
Subtractions: Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry, Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush
A year ago, it looked like Stephen Curry would spend his entire career playing 50-60 games per season due to those crippling ankle injuries, but by the time the 2013 playoffs were over he was arguably the biggest breakout star of the season (James Harden, obviously, gets his fair share of votes here, too). Mark Jackson has proven to be an excellent NBA coach, and the Warriors have an exciting roster full of players that can get out and run with anybody. This may be the year Klay Thompson tosses himself into All-Star consideration, and there might not be a stronger small forward rotation in the league thanks to Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes. Losing Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry hurts (while losing Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson hurts quite a bit less), but this roster is still really deep and still really hungry to build on last year’s success. Golden State should head into the season one as one of the Western Conference’s five best teams.
2nd place – Pacific Division
– Joel Brigham
Last season, the Warriors took the step from lottery team to playoff squad. Now, they’re looking to make the leap to legitimate contender, and it’s a realistic goal for the up-and-coming young group. Not only should Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes show internal improvement with another year of experience under their belt, the addition of Andre Iguodala is huge for this team. He’ll fit in with their athletic, up-tempo style on of the offensive end, and he’ll give them the elite perimeter defender that they need on the other end. The Warriors were already one of the most exciting teams to watch. Now, they may just be one of them most talented teams too.
2nd place – Pacific Division
- Alex Kennedy
Business is booming for Golden State, both on and off the court. Off the court, the team’s franchise value continues to skyrocket and fans are buying season tickets at a record setting pace. On the floor, the backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson should be causing nightly fits around the league for years to come. In free agency, the team lured former All-Star forward Andre Iguodala into town and the veteran will provide immediate dividends on the defensive side of the ball. Iguodala’s presence will shift second year forward Harrison Barnes into a reserve role, which by default, strengthens the team’s bench unit. The health of center Andrew Bogut is a perennial question mark on the interior, but the signing of former All-Star Jermaine O’Neal in free agency adds some insurance. Another playoff appearance in 2014 should be a lock.
2nd place – Pacific Division
- Lang Greene
Although the season contained its ups and downs, things really couldn’t have gone better for the Warriors. To get to the second round of the playoffs and give the San Antonio Spurs their toughest matchup on their way to the Finals was a real step in the right direction. Then this offseason the front office made a major splash, ridding themselves of a couple expiring contracts and future draft picks in order to land Andre Iguodala, one of the best all-around players in the NBA. Iguodala was tailor made to play in the Warriors’ system and should be an ideal fit next to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson out on the perimeter. The Iguodala acquisition cost the Warriors some depth, though, most notably Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, who signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Sacramento Kings, respectively. They’ll miss those two, along with top assistant Mike Malone, who is now the head coach of the Kings, but you can’t help but feel like their potential is even higher going into next season. The L.A. Clippers are the class of the Pacific Division, but the Warriors aren’t far off. More importantly, they’re a virtual lock for their second-straight playoff appearance, a feat they haven’t accomplished since the early 1990s.
2nd place — Pacific Division
- Yannis Koutroupis
With a healthy Andrew Bogut and the newly acquired Andre Iguodala, the Warriors epitomize a team on the rise. If he is to be trusted with the basketball, Stephen Curry must continue to develop as a distributor. Though they achieved highly last season, the entire roster in Oakland is flush with talent that has tons of upside—and that applies to Curry, as well. David Lee is one of the best passing big men in the NBA and has an improved post-game that should mesh fairly easily with Klay Thompson and Curry’s outside shooting prowess. Lee and Iguodala should form a dynamic tandem as well, since Iguodala is one of the elite perimeter players as it relates to moving and cutting without the ball. The only concern with this roster will be how Iguodala and sophomore Harrison Barnes coexist. If those two share the court, the Warriors will either sacrifice three-point shooting, which is an important weapon for the team, or rebounding, which is important for any team. Concerns aside, the Warriors have a legitimate shot of earning home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, even if they are unsuccessful in their attempt to overthrow the Los Angeles Clippers as the Pacific Division champion.
2nd place — Pacific Division
- Moke Hamilton
Top Offensive Player: Stephen Curry. It has to be Curry, who by some measures had the greatest outside shooting season in league history last year. He set an NBA record with 272 made threes last year, while also ranking third in the league by shooting 45.3 percent from deep. That combination of volume and accuracy from outside is unprecedented in league annals. Curry is also an expert pick-and-roll operator and has a beautiful array of midrange floaters as well.
Top Defensive Player: Andrew Bogut. Iguodala possesses one of the league’s best defensive reputations on the wing, but as a center Bogut is able to have even more of an impact on the game through his help defense and rebounding. Health permitting, Bogut is a massive deterrent at the rim. When he was healthy in the playoffs against the Nuggets and Spurs, the Warriors shut down two of the league’s best offenses.
Top Playmaker: Andre Iguodala. The Arizona product is an excellent passer from the wing position, averaging over five assists per game the last five seasons. While Curry plays plenty of point guard, Warriors fans can also expect to see Iguodala with the ball in his hands while Curry gets open off the ball for his deadly three-pointers. Iguodala will also be the primary passer for the second unit, especially since nominal backup point Toney Douglas is not a natural playmaker.
Best Clutch Player: To Be Determined. The Warriors nearly blew two huge leads against the Nuggets and then were on the wrong end of one of the greatest comebacks in NBA playoff history in Game 1 against the Spurs. The hope is for Curry to mature into a clutch player, and given his talents it should be a natural evolution. But for now, this remains an open question for Golden State.
The Unheralded Player: Andrew Bogut. Despite being the number one pick in the 2005 draft, Bogut toiled in relative obscurity for years in Milwaukee. When the Bucks made the playoffs in 2010, he was sidelined as the result of a gruesome elbow injury. Though that injury has hampered his offense ever since, Bogut finally got a chance to show the value provided by his interior presence in the playoffs last year.
Best New Addition: Andre Iguodala. The Warriors added insult to injury after their upset of the Nuggets, poaching Iguodala with a 4-year, $48 million contract. Though not a dominant scorer, Iguodala was imported to fill in the cracks with the same defense and athleticism he brought to Team USA in 2010 and 2012. While the risk of decline over the length of the contract is significant for the 29 year-old, the Warriors are willing to accept that in their bid to win now.
- Nate Duncan
1. Andrew Bogut. Bogut was rumored to be on his way out over the summer if the Warriors succeeded in signing Dwight Howard. While many modern athletes would take offense at such rumors, the Australian handled them with aplomb. In discussing the putative move, Bogut acknowledged that he didn’t take it “too personal” because “right now Dwight is a better player than I am.” More importantly for this season, he has declared his surgically repaired ankle healthy for the first time in years. This should be welcome news for Warriors fans, as Bogut holds the key to maintaining their playoff defensive improvement from a year ago.
2. Stephen Curry. The Davidson product presents a unique challenge for opposing defenses. What makes Curry so dangerous is not only the accuracy of his quasi-set shot, but its versatility. Mark Jackson actively encourages Curry to take what would be terrible shots for anyone else in the league, and he still hit 45 percent of his threes last year. Curry has no qualms about pulling up off the dribble from 30 feet away, a tactic that forces opposing teams to extend their pick-and-roll defense far beyond the three-point line. If the defense elects to place two defensive players so far out, it opens up opportunities for the Warriors’ other dangerous weapons. Some teams did slow Curry down by matching up long wing defenders, but that left their point guard vulnerable to the Warriors’ wings. How opposing teams pick their poison with the Warriors’ perimeter players will be one of the most fascinating tactical subplots of their season.
3. Mark Jackson. Before last season, Jackson had done little to prove that he could be an above-average NBA coach. In fairness, his debut 2011-12 season was hamstrung by a truncated training camp and the Warriors’ late-season tanking, which allowed them to keep the top-seven protected pick that became Harrison Barnes. But last year, Jackson cemented a reputation as an inspirational leader who is one of the NBA’s rising coaching stars. The Warriors outperformed their point differential with him at the helm, and he somehow led a team with no healthy and established defensive players to an above-average defensive performance. In the playoffs, he got the Warriors to turn up the defense to elite levels at times. Now, Jackson must weather the departure of lead assistant Mike Malone—who many credited for the Warriors’ defensive improvement—since Malone is becoming the head coach in Sacramento. With the addition of Iguodala, a healthy Bogut and another year of experience from Thompson and Barnes, the Warriors have the pieces in place to move into the top 10 on defense.
4. Harrison Barnes. The one-time No. 1 high school recruit is one of the biggest enigmas of the upcoming season. Barnes had a relatively underwhelming career at North Carolina for someone so highly-rated, but his athleticism and pedigree still merited a selection as the No. 7 pick in the 2012 draft. Although Barnes gleaned accolades for “starting for a playoff team” during the regular season, he was rarely out there in crunch time and was not even close to an average starter at small forward. But once David Lee was injured in the playoffs, Barnes moved to power forward and torched the Denver Nuggets with threes and straight-line drives. And when the San Antonio Spurs tried to hide Tony Parker on him in that series, Barnes abused him with midrange postups. Based on his playoff performance and that high school reputation, Barnes is a rising star. But his regular season pegs his ceiling as more of a solid starter. To prove worthy of the former designation this year, Barnes must prove he can score against real wing defenders while improving his defense to a level commensurate with his athletic gifts.
5. Draymond Green.
Green is yet another player who blew up in the playoffs for the Warriors. The Michigan State product has a very unique game. He has worked hard on his physique, but his natural frame renders him a somewhat portly and undersized power forward. Yet Green is a fantastic rebounder and also shows great playmaking ability. (He operated quite a bit as a pick-and-roll ballhandler for the Spartans and the Warriors’ champion summer league team.) He also established himself as one of Jackson’s favorite wing defenders. On the other hand, Green shot 32 percent last year. That’s total, not just on threes. But in the playoffs he heated up from the outside on wide open attempts that resulted from all the defensive attention given Curry. If he can maintain that shooting this year, he will be a key rotation piece.
- Nate Duncan
Coach Jackson famously called Curry and Thompson the best-shooting backcourt in NBA history, and it is not too far from the truth. The Warriors’ shooting stretches the defense to the breaking point, creating openings inside for other players like Lee. Warriors players and Jackson were also quick to credit outstanding team chemistry for their success a year ago. Finally, the home fans at Oracle Arena are considered perhaps the most raucous in the NBA, making a playoff win in Oakland an extremely difficult proposition.
On offense, the Warriors’ main weakness is driving to the basket. Incumbent perimeter players Curry, Thompson and Barnes struggle to get by their man, while Iguodala is not the penetrator he once was. Defensively, the Warriors lack for interior defense aside from Bogut. While an excellent offensive player, Lee is well-known around the league as one of its worst interior defenders, and the backup bigs are average at best on that end. The Warriors may seek to alleviate these issues by going small with Barnes at power forward, as they did when Lee was injured in the playoffs.
How many healthy ankles will the Warriors have?
The Warriors’ two most essential players are Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry, but both have had continuing issues with their surgically repaired ankles in recent years. Indeed, the team was ultimately felled by these issues last year; the Warriors looked on track to beat the Spurs before Curry sprained his ankle in Game 3 and Bogut tweaked his in Game 5. If either misses significant time or is limited, the Warriors could finish substantially worse than projected despite the addition of Andre Iguodala.
- Nate Duncan
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