Sunday, November 25, 2012

Golden State Warriors, An Early Season Outlook



Fourteen games into the season, the Warriors have seen both some of the “same old, same old,” and some signs that show brighter days may be are on the horizon. Andrew Bogut aggravating his knee injury and Brandon Rush losing the entire NBA season to an ACL tear was heartbreaking to say the least for a fan base that has all too often seen how high hopes can fall victim to untimely injury.

While that is a concern and a taboo topic in Golden State, there have also been some rather bright spots that should excite a fan base that has gone from an improbable 2007 playoff run to decimation with perennial disappointment.

For one, they have had put together excellent performances against some of the NBA’s best teams. Defeating the Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles was an incredible feat for a young team—the Warriors won with two rookies in the starting lineup against the likes of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. While the Warriors didn’t play particularly well against a soul-searching Lakers team, the Clippers game was a valid point of optimism for the Warriors faithful to say, “maybe…?”

36 points against the Thunder in the fourth quarter and a fairly convincing win against a stacked Brooklyn Nets team, there are ample reasons that show the Warriors are a team to be taken seriously. Here are three keys that have gotten the Warriors where they are…and must continue for a successful season:

Production from Harrison Barnes and the rookies

The Warriors just might have had one of the best low-profile drafts in recent memory. Oklahoma City has rightfully earned all of the accolades for picking up Kevin Durant, James Harden (now gone), and Russell Westbrook. But the Warriors were never lucky bad enough to land such a high pick in the draft. Nonetheless, general manager Bob Myers did the right thing when Harrison Barnes fell into his lap with the No. 7 pick in the 2012 draft.

Barnes has been a stud whose potential is sky-high. His jumper is impressive, he can create for himself and his ability to finish is nothing short of well, this…


10.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per game only begins to tell the story of what Barnes has meant to the Warriors. It’s early but let me just say that I’m not giving up on him as my pick to get that Rookie of the Year award. Damian Lillard is tearing it up in Portland but Barnes has earned a right to be in the early season discussion.

Barnes leads a rookie trio with two players who have stepped up big in Bogut and Rush’s absence. Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli have played solid minutes when asked and been energizers on defense. Ezeli has even landed the starting center role—although his minutes are not too extensive considering Carl Landry is waiting to make a (huge) impact off the bench.

Scoring and rebounding from the best power forward duo in basketball

As hinted at in the previous paragraph, the Warriors have the best 1-2 punch at power forward. David Lee is a nightly threat to go 20-10 and averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds over the past 10 games. His circus shot against the Timberwolves may have been lucky but his touch inside is incredible, having proven that his ambidexterity in the post is a true weapon.


Then there’s Carl Landry. Warrior Nation was quite excited for this pickup but nobody would have guessed this guy would establish himself as one of the best players on the Warriors this early in the season. Landry is a monster on the boards, both offensively and defensively. Just last night he out-rebounded Pekovic on a missed free throw and earned a quick put-back.

Landry is making an early season push for sixth man of the year, with 15 points and 7 rebounds per game to go along with 78 percent free-throw shooting and 60 percent from the field. Like the youthful energy brought with Ezeli, Barnes, and Green, the Warriors main big men need to continue to lead the way solidifying offensive scoring and securing rebounds.

These two are the Warriors foundation.

Stephen Curry shooting…and shooting a lot

Klay Thompson will continue to find his position and comfort on the basketball court and is a huge part of the Warriors both now and into the future. He has had a roller coaster ride of a season thus far but one thing is certain: Thompson can drain threes. It’s a matter of time for Thompson to improve his consistency. In the meantime, the Warriors have nothing to worry about because Curry is one of the best shooters in the league.

Although Curry had a disappearing act against Denver last Friday, that shouldn’t concern Mark Jackson in the slightest (and hasn’t). After all, the very next game, Curry shot five of 10 from three.

With Jarrett Jack taking off some of the pressure ball-handling, Curry can take advantage of his No. 1 strength. Curry has one of the best shooting strokes in the NBA, as he has proven when he is on the court. That nagging worry of injury is what keeps the Warriors cautiously optimistic with their star, but Curry can shoot outside, inside, jumpers, and is a lights out free throw shooter.

If he can stay on the court, the Warriors will always be a hot shooting streak away from getting back in any game.

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The Warriors have every reason to be confident that they can make a strong push for more than just a mediocre season. Even Andris Biedrins, whose name makes the Bay Area cringe, has made an (albeit small) contribution when called upon. The depth that the Warriors have is scary and if they can get their stars to play like stars consistently, it will continue to be a fun season to watch. Ideally Bogut gets his act together soon and comes back completely healthy, which is another critical piece to the puzzle of the Warriors success. Seeing a seven-footer on the floor who actually knows how to play the game is surreal for an organization that has traditionally been undersized.

I originally picked the Warriors to settle around the seventh or eighth seed in the Western Conference, but they should simply ride their confidence and deep roster as far is it takes them. Don’t look back, just keep playing and improving.

If these three keys can remain consistent, the Warriors might surprise a lot of teams in the West.

5 comments:

  1. Very good article, all of these are true! Harrison Barnes has been impressive especially in the last half-dozen games, especially his rebounding. I know you touched on this briefly, but down the stretch, I think the primary x-factor will be Klay Thompson. The Warriors CAN make the playoffs without Klay performing at a high level, but for them to make any noise, he needs to play much better than he has been. The fact that he's contributing essentially nothing besides scoring (3.5 boards, 2 assists, 1 combined steal/block, mediocre to bad defense) could be overlooked if he was scoring a lot and at a high percentage, but he is shooting a putrid 37% on the season and 32% from 3. Curry is a great scorer, but he's no Durant, Kobe, or Melo quite yet, so he can't quite carry the team's entire perimeter offense. The Dubs will need Thompson to be far more consistent (say, shoot even 42%) to be a real threat come playoffs.

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  2. Thanks, DTR, glad you liked it! And yeah Barnes is really looking like he's improving even from game to game.

    I did touch on Klay, and that is an interesting point in saying that he is the primary x-factor. Lee and Landry are the foundation for this offense and like you said, Klay isn't doing much besides scoring. That isn't to say his scoring isn't very important but he really hasn't grown into a well rounded player (just yet). I do think he has plenty of room to improve but to say he is the x-factor might be a stretch because I would put him as the Dubs third or fourth scoring option (Curry, Lee, and maybe Klay's on par with Landry). But in the sense that they need him to be a real playoff threat, you're definitely right. He's as much of a question mark as an x-factor.

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  3. Wonder why GS is doing so well? The #'s don't lie. 3rd in the league in defense(like 16th in offense!). Start with such a terrible shooting % & still in 2nd place at 8-6? Not even healthy yet! No more said! These kids are getting broken in correctly by understanding that control on the defensive end has given them more opportunities to score easier,more open looks at the basket. The best do this annually & just so happens that GS appears to be using this same thinking. Still not ready for the big show but things seem to be on track to improve for the long haul with some of the defensive lessons learned. Give this team some luck on health & maybe respectability could wander GS's way someday. Again still no legitimate 5 & 8-6 vs some respectable teams looks good in my opinion. Get ready though as GS soon goes on their longest road trip of the season soon so lets see what happens before we get excited. Nevertheless GS looks more like a professional team with the play they've illustrated this season. After last seasons garbage it doesn't really take too much to smile here in the east bay. S

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  4. I hear you on that. The Dubs have a nice thing going and are actually *gasp* playing really good defense. Hopefully, like you said, the trend continues and they can keep improving. And who knows how far away "respectability" is? After all, the SF Giants looked doomed to a long time of failure not too long ago and two World Series championships later, people are singing a different tune.

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  5. You're right, but as another reader pointed out, GS is actually doing far better on D this year than on offense. This definitely shows how far the warriors have gone from a run-and-gun team to a more post-up team under coach Mark Jackson, but Thompson needs to become a more consistent shooter to make teams consistently account for him down the stretch of games, and to improve the offense further. The primary reason why Lee and Landry have been so good down low is because the defense needs to account for both Curry and Thompson, and if Thompson continues to shoot 37%, it will change the way defenses play.
    Additionally and sadly, Curry is quite injury prone (as we have seen), so if he goes down with another ankle injury, Thompson will really need to step up, because the Dubs have little perimiter depth outside of those two. Jarrett Jack could suffice as a facilitator - which isn't completely necessary given the offense that the Warriors run - but he is nowhere close to the scoring threat that Curry is. When I say that Thompson is an x-factor, it's somewhat synonymous to a question mark - depending on whether he shows up, the Warriors could go from a one-and-done to a team nobody wants to play in the 1st round.

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