First off, Happy Fourth everyone! Now let's get down to business.
Assuming the Warriors aren't going to be able to pull a rabbit out of the hat, and sign an impactful free agent for what apparently amounts to a hill of beans - and just a molehill of beans at that - their success (or failure) this upcoming season is going to largely depend on the current roster and coaching staff. In this post, I'm going to talk about some of the factors that I think this season hinges upon.
This is by far the most important factor. If either Curry or Bogut incur injuries for any significant amount of time (say > 20 or so games), it's right back to the lottery. And, of course, this year we will almost certainly lose our pick to Utah. There's really no need to delve more into health issues. Everyone knows that for this team to win, those two guys have to stay healthy, and realistically, we can't afford to lose Klay or Lee for very long either. Heck, if Charles Jenkins gets hurt, that might cause significant problems, too, depending on who else we can get to back up Steph. But that remains to be seen.
Progress of 2011-12 Rookies
Klay Thompson. The assumption by most fans seems to be that Klay Thompson is "set" at the SG position for the next decade. Not so fast. While Klay showed a lot of promise offensively (the dude can shoot), he has major issues with rebounding and defense. If those two aspects of his game do not improve, Klay won't be nearly as positive a factor as some are thinking. Conversely, if Klay can just become an average rebounder and defender, his value both for the team and around the league may skyrocket.
Charles Jenkins. I was hoping the team wouldn't have to rely upon Jenkins or Tyler this season, but it's looking like both may become important factors. The question is how much will they improve over their freshman seasons? Jenkins was a 22-year old rookie and his TS% was 48.2% on a relatively modest 19% USG. That might surprise you because it seemed like he hit a lot of his shots. The problem is two-fold: 1) He didn't get to the line that frequently, despite his ability to penetrate (sort of like Monta in that regard); and 2) He doesn't shoot 3-pointers. Of his 20 3-pt attempts, Jenkins made 3. Not 4...not 5...not 6...but 3. That's 15%. Not good. My number one question about Jenkins is whether he can extend his range beyond the line. You'd think a guy who played all 4 years in college and was known for being an efficient shooter would have had some semblance of a 3-pt shot. I'm sure the coaching staff and FO is wondering the same thing. Remember Acie Law? He shot 53.2% TS in his last go-round with the Dubs. Nate Robinson (who I've been advocating we try to retain) has a career 53% TS. If Jenkins were a true PG who could pass like Steve Nash (or even Kendall Marshall or heck, Stephen Curry), I wouldn't worry so much about his scoring ability. But Jenkins is really a combo guard who is going to have to become more of a scorer if he wants to hang around the league for long, let alone help us win games.
Jeremy Tyler. It's great that the Warriors now have 4 bigs with wingspans over 7'. Unfortunately, two of those are extremely raw, and one seemingly forgot how to play basketball a few years ago. The fact is that given our salary situation, it looks like Tyler might actually be depended upon to some extent for productive minutes, especially on offense. I'm eager to see his progress in Summer League this year (although it's questionable how much you can count on that translating to the regular season). Hopefully, Tyler has been putting in the hard work he needs to improve his footwork and basketball IQ. Tyler was a black hole of ineffectiveness last season, which is not a great combination, although he was arguably the single most valuable player in terms of helping the tank roll to victory (if that makes sense). Tyler shot an absolutely abysmal 44% TS on 22% USG. Incredibly, Tyler has to improve by 100 points on that just to be league average! I'll settle for a 50 point improvement, which would be a still terrible 49%. But he's young and big. He better bring effort on the defensive end and on the glass. Otherwise, he'll be less useful than Biedrins. Speaking of whom...
Ha ha, you almost fell for it. I'm not going to pretend like Biedrins has any value anymore, and neither should you.
The fact is it's looking like the Warriors will need each of these rookies to contribute something, and that's asking a lot of any rookie. I'm not asking for miracles, but if these 3 can be good enough to simply get on the floor during a meaningful NBA game, that might be enough not to derail our playoff hopes. If none of the three are good enough to give some productive minutes, our playoff hopes go down significantly in my opinion. We just don't have enough depth otherwise to keep teams down when our starters go off the floor (assuming we get a lead in the first place!).
The four factors to winning are shooting efficiency, turnovers, rebounding, and getting to the line. On both sides of the ball. The ones I'm most worried about are (always the same for the Warriors): 1) Stopping other teams from scoring; and 2) Rebounding. The hope is that Bogut makes a major impact on both, but I'm not sure any one player in the league (even Super Man himself) can bring a team from 27th in DRTG to anywhere more than around average. Think about this. The starting lineup still has Curry, Klay, and Lee. Even if Barnes is a defensive savant (which is highly unlikely) and Bogut is in top form, can you see this team becoming a defensive juggernaut? To be blunt, this team is still built around scoring. Bogut is not going to turn us into the Heat or Bulls on defense, but maybe he can bring us closer to OKC defensively (11th in DRTG last season). My "ceiling" for this team would be around 15th in DRTG and, say, 6th or 7th in ORTG (compared to 14th last season). That would definitely be enough to get us into the playoffs. Truth be told, if the team can move up to 20th in DRTG and around 10th in ORTG, that still might be good enough to grab an 8th seed. If we hit the ceiling I just described, we could potentially be looking at a 4th or 5th seed.
Did I miss anything? Let's talk about it in the comments.