NBA Season Preview: Golden State Warriors

Last Season: 51-31, 2nd in division, lost round 1 versus LA Clippers; Leading scorer—Stephan Curry (24), leading rebounds—Andrew Bogut (10), leading assists—Stephen Curry (8.5)

Changes: Added—Aaron Craft (training camp contract), Brandon Rush (signed), James Michael McAdoo (training camp contract), Jason Kapono (signed), Justin Holiday (training camp contract), Leandro Barbosa (signed), Mitchell Watt (training day contract), Shaun Livingston (signed), Lost—Hilton Armstron (waved), Jermaine O’Neal (free agent), Jordan Crawford (free agent), Steve Blake (free agent)

Positions

Point Guard: Stephen Curry, Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa, Nemanja Nedovic

Stephen Curry was the best offensive point guard in the league last year. His 24 and 8.5 simply do not have another competitor for that title. His defense leaves a lot to be desired, but what Curry does to defenses and how he changes the complexion of the game cannot be ignored. Amongst point guards last year Curry ranked 1st in points (24), 2nd in field goal percent (47% behind only Tony Parker), 5th in 3 point percentage (42% on 8 attempts per game), 4th in free throw percent (88%), tied for 3rd in rebounds (4.3), and 6th in assists (8.5). Make no mistake, Curry is a threat for MVP this season and a lock for All Star and All NBA.

Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa are both competent backups. Barbosa will be used as a shooting specialist, although his 28% last year was a huge dip from his 38% career percent. Livingston has had a long road back from his devastating knee injury, but he’s been a good player in limited minutes for several years and put up a good show in 26 mpg in Brooklyn last year. He won’t be asked to play that much, especially with Barbosa on board as well, but I could see 10-12 minutes per game including some of them at the two.

Nedavic managed to have a negative PER last year in very limited minutes scoring basically not at all. I don’t expect him to even dress much of this year if he isn’t waived.

Shooting Guard: Klay Thomspon, Brandon Rush

Klay Thompson’s really good. It feels silly to write things like this, but I don’t think a lot of people realize that this is the case. He scores, he shoots well from three (42%) which gives the Warriors a super shooting punch that few other teams have. More importantly, Thompson can guard both guard spots effectively, allowing the Warriors to hide Curry on the less threatening back court opponent at all times.

Rush has declined pretty steeply since being moved down in minutes, but he is familiar in playing for Golden State and has been a useful player in the past. Livingston will also take some of the backup minutes here, especially if Rush doesn’t adapt to the new system.

Small Forward: Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes

Iguodala is aging, and his offensive game has tapered off now that he is a low usage option, but he is still a game changing defender, shoring up the wing position and guarding the best the league has to offer as well as mostly anyone. His 3 point shot is passable (35%) so he can’t be left alone to double team Curry or Thompson on offense.

Harrison Barnes is competent, shoots the three slightly worse than Iguodala, and isn’t that level of defender. But he is young and can soak up minutes without needing to use a lot of possessions. He hasn’t shown what you’d hope from a top 10 pick, but he is useful off the bench and a decent starter if Iguodala goes down with injuries.

Power Forward: David Lee, Draymond Green, Marreesse Speights

David Lee gets a lot of bad press for his limited defensive effort. That’s fine, but when he is stuck in between Iguodala and Bogut, two elite defenders this becomes a much less important factor—how many teams have three potent offensive threats on the front line that there isn’t any option to hide Lee against? It’s a tradeoff that’s worth it for the Warriors to add the extra scoring threat and keep their own line-up from having any spots that can be hidden against/helped off of.

Green is a good shot, fitting in as a stretch four, but he is small for a four which is why the Warriors are unwilling to bench Lee for him as some have called for. He is a good backup at this position though, and should be useful for the Warriors.

Speights is a more traditional height and mold for a backup four, and a seasoned veteran. Overall the Warriors are in a really good spot at forward with a lot of depth.

Center: Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Ognjen Kuzmic

The question with Bogut is always his health. The former #1 overall pick has missed as much time or more as he’s played since coming into the league.  When he’s on the floor Bogut is efficient, a good rebounder, and a defensive force. The key for the Warriors will be getting a year out of him when he misses 10-20 games instead of 40-50 games and having those games not be the last month of the season or the playoffs. None of which can be predicted or planned, despite what Miami tried with Wade last year—it’s going to come down to some good or bad injury luck with Bogut, but with good luck it gives the Warriors a very potent starting lineup.

Neither of the second year backups showed much of anything last year, despite Ezeli starting in place of Bogut in some games. One or the other will need to develop a bit and show some strength for the Warriors to be really set at the center—though realistically they can use Lee as the backup center in small lineups featuring Green at the four.

Outlook: The Warriors are going to be in the playoffs.  It’s a hard sell to say they will be a home court team with the depth of the Western Conference, but with good injury luck they easily can. A lot depends on Bogut and on how the team comes together under rookie coach Steve Kerr. Realistically though, this is a team that getting to the playoffs is a failure—success will require series wins.

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