A somewhat exhaustive team preview; where defense reigns supreme

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Because everyone else is doing it.

Hilarious awfulness is perhaps a quaint observation for the past decade of Golden State Warriors basketball. And coupled with a tragic love of hype and disappointment; well you can see where this season's going. Except not at all. For the first time in a long time, the Warriors are a team on the upswing ,but with as many questions as their predecessors. But let's face it: even the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs (okay, maybe not them) face their own issues, it's the less volatile version of the varied answers that make this team so much more promising than before.

Questions:

Did the team mortgage too much future for present?

After trading Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush away to the Utah Jazz, they wanted even more (how dare they!). Bob Myers, the Warriors GM, relinquished first-round picks in 2014 and 2017 (unprotected), along with second-round picks in 2016 and 2017, and cash considerations to boot. All this while failing to trade David Lee’s enormous contract, and it now appears likely he’ll remain a Warrior until his contract ends three years from now.

Though it seems like a bunch to give up, and it’s fair to bring back the nightmares of the Marcus Williams trade where the Warriors were held hostage in a protected situation for years, and ultimately leading to the Harrison Barnes tank-job. So with a Stephen Curry ankle tweak here, and Andrew Bogut fluke injury there, and the general wear and tear getting to Klay Thompson (who hasn’t missed a game in his two seasons), there’s a chance this team might find themselves in the lottery with their pick going to the Utah Jazz.

But Bob Myers doesn’t seem fazed by that. More likely than not, the Warriors will make the playoffs, it’s the seeding that’s in question. If that’s the case, they are certain to land in the back of the first round, and we saw this year how Myers can make the cap situation work despite being stuck with no extra cash. With the multiple trade exceptions (acquired with Jefferson deal) Myers has the ability to move pieces during the regular season.

Are the new additions going to ruin team chemistry, or worse yet, the balance of the minutes?

This question is twofold: in that it copes with how Andre Iguodala fits in and whether Barnes can thrive in what appears to be his new sixth-man role. Some think Barnes’ struggles in last year’s regular season will exacerbate itself with his limited stature as ball-handler and the lack of minutes will hinder his growth. Others believe that his main minutes at the potential stretch forward spot and facing second-team players daily will only help him realize his potential. Both are correct, to an extent.

Mark Jackson found a way to curtail his responsibility last season, making it easy for him to simply catch-and-shoot or catch-and-drive, without worrying too much about pick-and-rolls and complex assignments that were out of his comfort level. Simply put, Jackson let him be him, without putting too much on his shoulders, and Barnes excelled in spurts. Ironically, it wasn’t until the postseason when more offensive tasks were given to him that he exploded with a quick post-game and solid jump shot.

As for the chemistry itself, it’s hard to see this team worrying too much about specific minutes or stats. Barnes was asked whether he minded starting off the bench and he answered how you think the perfect teammate would.

There’s obviously caveats; what if Lee doesn’t take to Bogut’s incessant yelling on defense(keep in mind Bogut wasn’t there for the majority of the regular season, when Lee was Lee-ing it up on defense); what if Curry’s nagging injuries persist and the team keeps losing; or if the losses are an indirect result of less Barnes and more Lee. Especially under a potentially crushing level of expectations, this clash of veterans and youngsters could find themselves in for a few rough weeks. But that’s all conjecture, and considering how Jackson dealt with the swirling question marks on Bogut’s ankle and in his first real NBA season out -coaching George Karl in a postseason series? The Warriors should be fine.


Surprising Strength

The defense is going to leap in the top-ten and stay there.The Warriors can essentially field a plus defender at two of the five positions (Klay Thompson and Barnes), elite defenders at two others (Bogut and Iguodala) and one very below-average at the point guard position (Curry). One can argue the logistics to this: can Lee defend at the four spot when he does play? Can Barnes defend the power forward position when he’s undersized? Will we revert back to Monta-Curry defense if Klay goes down? All these are problems that might surface as the season goes along, but that’s why there is preseason and quotes like “I’m in the best shape of my life”; “My new diet gave me 15 pounds of muscle”, and my personal favorite, “I worked extra hard on ___” as if that was never an option beforehand.

As for the arbitrary, relatively contextual statistical analysis, the Warriors, by all means, were a top-ten defense for the first half of the season and slumped towards the middle as injuries, fatigue and over-reliance on structure began to wear them down. Teams shot poorly from behind the arc in the first half but when the numbers regressed, the cracks started to show. According to Basketball-Reference, the Dubs expected win-loss was 44-38 and finished 11th and 14th in offensive and defensive rating, respectively. Staying middle-of-the-road without Bogut for the majority of the season, should be a harbinger for success. The influx of Iguodala only helps.

And then imagine a 10-12 minute shock-troop squad of Barnes, Thompson, Iguodala, Draymond Green and Bogut to end halves. And we haven’t even gotten to Kent Bazemore or Toney Douglas yet. Jackson has a stable of wings with which to draw upon. It’s up to him, now without Mike Malone, to create a defensive system that hides his star players as well as maximizes his role players’ talents.

Glaring Weakness

None.

Ha, just kidding. Coming from the resident Warriors guy, there’s not much to nitpick, as I’m used to whole seasons falling apart under the false presumption that rookies develop, stars become superstars despite not even star-worthy to begin with, and wholly incompetent coaching and management meshing together to put the finishing touches to an always epic screw-job.

But there’s not much to the notion that Barnes will take a step back, Curry suddenly unable to shoot, or Myers and Jackson blowing up the team for no specific reason.

Though there are smaller issues that may boil to a mini-disaster as the season rolls along. There aren’t great options behind Curry or Bogut. Losing Carl Landry may be easy to overcome—Marreese Speights can shoot and Green can provide toughness—but Jack’s leadership, ball-handling and ability to score isn’t going to come from Douglas or rookie Nemanja Nedovic. Iguodala is slated to play most of those minutes but there’s reason for concern if Curry goes down.

Whether or not Bogut does suffer an injury again, and he claims he is fully healthy now, there is still a lack of size down low. As evidenced by this report from Tim Kawakami, Bogut has been dominating practices because “nobody has been able to guard him”. Bogut has some nice post-moves and is an excellent passer from the low block, but nobody has mistaken him for Shaq down low and the lack of resistance from practices points to the fact that there are slim pickings behind the big Australian. Festus Ezeli’s knee injury and the uncertainty of Jermaine O’Neal’s gduction with the Phoenix Suns injury whisperers doesn’t help, either.

Final Touches

Losing breeds the notion that things, notably the future, will present you with hope, and a glimpse of success. For a long time, and even throughout the two scintillating “We Believe” years, there was a gloomy nature about the team; from its draft picks (Ike Diogu, Patrick O’Bryant, Marco Belinelli) to its signings (Corey Maggette, Andris Biedrins, Corey Maggette, and Corey Maggette).

Murphy’s Law existed merely to tempt the fans. It wasn’t anything that could go wrong went wrong; it was that everything that went wrong was seemingly a preordained set of steps derived from the Basketball Gods. Fans surely aren’t smarter or know basketball nearly as well as General Managers, coaches and players but it sure seemed that way. And that’s what was so inherently depressing to witness. But this season tempts us with the notion that all our projected potential developments and fan-sized optimisms will come to fruition. The team is doing and saying all the right things. Bogut’s healthy, Curry and Barnes are looking as great as ever, and Mark Jackson has his coach-speak tank on nitrous. Everything in the past 120 games or so have gone according to plan, or as close as possible, but it’s the next 82, or 100, that decides whether this team has what it takes to fulfill the promises of their aching potential.


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