A sixth place finish during the regular season was a bit of a surprise from the Warriors last year. They had plenty of talent on the roster and a young star in Stephen Curry, however, the injury concerns surrounding Curry and the relatively lackluster performance during the 2011-12 season in which they finished twenty games under five hundred did not lead many to expect a playoff berth for Golden State. Curry proved that he was not just a potential star with questionable ankles, but he was a legitimate offensive star and one of the best shooters in basketball. After defeating the banged up Denver Nuggets in a six-game series, the Warriors were eliminated by the eventual Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs in a hard fought six-game series that showed the franchise they had something to build on for the future. With the roster moves made and time off for oft-injured big men David Lee and Andrew Bogut, the Warriors could once again be a contender in the West.
Any discussion of the Warriors is naturally going to start with the previously mentioned Curry. After getting over the initial hurdle of critics questioning his thin, lanky frame coming into the league, Curry had to prove that he could get over the ankle troubles that lead to him playing just 26 games in the 2011-12 season. He put together career highs in points and assists, and continued the great shooting expected from him at 45 percent from three and the field overall, and 90 percent from the free throw line. Curry played great on the huge stage of Madison Square Garden, scoring 54 points to go along with 7 assists and 6 rebounds. It was a great year and it leads to expectations of an All-Star appearance and potential MVP consideration. That great season from Curry doesn’t mean that there is no room to improve however, as he could be a better defensive player. He understands the game very well and can use his understanding on the defensive end of the floor, but he needs to work on defensive fundamentals like staying down in a stance instead of standing up, allowing players to get around him easier, and using his feet to keep the opposition in front of him instead of his hands. If Curry can put this package on the court and stay healthy, he has the potential to be the leading scorer in the league and an All-Star in the guard heavy Western Conference.
The back-court in Golden State is in good hands with Stephen Curry and teammate Klay Thompson. Thompson is a similar player to Curry, only four inches taller. He is more of a dimensional shooter than Curry, as his assist and rebounding stats aren’t incredibly impressive, but the offensive talent is something that cannot be denied when it comes to the son of former Laker Mychal Thompson. If Thompson can add another dimension in his game to round everything out, the Warriors have an exciting duo.
After Curry and Thompson however, there is not much behind them in terms of traditional guards. Toney Douglas came over during the offseason to backup Curry and fill the hole that Jarrett Jack left after his departure to Cleveland. No offense to Douglas, but he is not the player that Jack is and has a long way to go if he is going to come close to what the veteran leader was last season. Rookie Nemanja Nedovic is a combo guard, mostly a slasher and finisher at the rim. His jump shot needs to be more consistent and there are legitimate questions on how he will transition to the NBA game however, as he is not quick enough to play against the top-tier point guards and will need to greatly improve his game on defense.
The big addition for the Warriors this offseason was Andre Iguodala. He is a known commodity in the NBA and a two way player that they need on the wing, with the ability to play a point forward type role when Curry is on the bench or drive and kick to the guards for open threes on offense and guard the best scorer for the other team effectively. Bringing in an All-Star and former Olympian may lead some to believe that promising second year player Harrison Barnes, who plays the same position as Iguodala, will see a greatly reduced role. However, this could end up being a great situation for not only the Warriors, but Barnes as well. A veteran like Iguodala can teach him a thing or two about the NBA game and also aid his improvement on the defensive end of the floor. Barnes is already a capable scorer but he has some growing to do stopping opposing wings and Iguodala can be the mentor that he needs. The Warriors need a scorer off the bench to spell Curry and or Thompson when needed, and Barnes is a great option to have as instant offense. Draymond Green is another player that will benefit from Iguodala’s experience, as they are similar players in their versatility. Green may not be the same type of athlete, but he has the play-making ability to be a point forward type and be a good backup for both Barnes and Iguodala. This signing may not be as big as the Dwight Howard move, but it is huge for the Warriors’ future and looks to be mutually beneficial.
The post is where the biggest questions could be for the Warriors this season. While David Lee and Andrew Bogut are both very good players and former first round picks, their injury history leaves some cause for concern. Bogut is the biggest risk when it comes to health, as he played in just 12 games in 2011-12 after a gruesome ankle injury and 32 games in the regular season last year. He played very well during the playoffs last year, averaging 10.7 rebounds and just over a block per game to go along with 7.2 points per game. His relative fragility however means that unproven backup center Festus Ezeli and the older Jermaine O’Neal will have to be ready in case of anything unfortunate happening. There is no wish here that Bogut will get injured, but the history should raise cause some unease. David Lee had a back problem last season and a problem with a hip flexor that led him to miss most of the playoffs. Lee is a double-double threat when on the floor as a tenacious rebounder and good offensive post player with range to go along. However, back problems are nothing to scoff at, they can reappear at almost any time and can be debilitating. The hip problem may or may not be fully healed but legs and hips are extremely important when battling for position down low. Marreese Speights is another offseason addition and has the size of a post player, but he is not the banger and tough player that Lee is. Speights will need to be ready to go and will be that physical presence in the middle if Lee’s back issues show their ugly head again.
A win projection for the Warriors should be around the 47-50 range as they have one of the best starting fives in the league and a young, potentially potent bench. The injury concerns are there, as mentioned throughout this article many times, however they should not hold back expectations for a playoff berth and a potential lengthy post-season appearance. With Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala leading the team on the floor and a former great point guard and burgeoning coach Mark Jackson on the bench, there is a solid core to work with in Golden State. The rest of the assumed Western Conference elite should be on the lookout for this team and be on their toes when they head into one of the loudest building in the NBA at Oracle Arena, this a team to be reckoned with.