This upcoming season from the Golden State Warriors may be one of the most significant years in recent memory. Not only are expectations somewhat high ( a rare occurrence by the Bay), with recent draft picks, signings, and overall hope for improvement, but there are things outside of the immediate organization that raise cause for optimism.
One may ask, how is it more important than the "We Believe" seasons of a couple years ago?
Well, it's hard to quantify but it is safe to say there were less expectations when that ragtag team was put together. Even after they won, the team wasn't built to be sustainable because of their level of play from players like Stephen Jackson, and Baron Davis. Once the players regressed back to their career norms, the franchise went downhill again. The surrounding years around the "We Believe" provided little or no excitement through lack of playoff appearances and simply anemic play. Someone say Clifford Robinson and Cartier Martin?
This year may change it all. In short, it will take healthy seasons from Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut, combined with team-wide improvements on the defensive end by David Lee, second-year leaps from Klay Thompson, and deeper bench-play from the likes of Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack.
Even if the Warriors make the playoffs this year, ownership is looking to build towards the future as well, refusing to remain near-sighted. With Bogut in tow, the Warriors are hoping Stephen Curry stays healthy so they can sign him to an extension during or after the season. If that is the case, this will mean he has at least shown the potential he flashed during his first two years before injuries hit him last year.
They also drafted Harrison Barnes this year with the seventh overall pick, and if he reaches 75 percent of his potential, he forms a devastating forward-guard duo with Klay Thompson, especially for the future. That alone may make the hypothetical loss of Stephen Curry easier to take.
Another sign that they are building towards a franchise for the future was last offseason when they refused to give up Curry for a Chris Paul rental and again this offseason refusing to give up Klay Thompson, the seventh pick, and others for a rental of Dwight Howard. Knowing they are not top free-agent destinations, they did not jeopardize future stars for a couple months' worth of entertainment.
But at the end of the day, it comes down to this season. Will Curry stay healthy and re-sign and become the face of the franchise the Warriors ownership so wanted him to be when they tradedMonta Ellis? Will Barnes and Klay form one of the most highest-scoring rookie-sophomore tandem in the NBA? WIll Bogut transform an annually terrible defense into a somewhat acceptable one? How will Mark Jackson deal with his off-season issues and will he be able to coach this team with the pieces they finally have?
Not all the questions will be answered in the upcoming season, but after this one, the Warriors will sift through the wreckage and know exactly where they stand in the Western Conference landscape for the foreseeable future.