People care about predictions. Fan-bases get really angry and skeptic when a national pundit projects an arbitrary number as their favorite team's win total or favorite player's point per game average. Then when it's wrong? Screenshots, embedded tweets and old links flare up like the Bay Bridge on Fourth of July. This is standard practice when fans are excited for the season and highly defensive of the team they've been watching suck for the past decade and a half. But in the same way writers go with the "It's just business..." trope; this is just a part of the winding down of the offseason, as we wait for the final seconds to mesh into a whirling rush of athletically and aesthetically stunning dunks, passes, footwork, and anything hardwood-related. Predictions are good in that it's a match to the oil that is the conversation. Using the unpredictability of the future to denote someone's expertise is akin to screaming at your fake GM self for not picking up Marvin Jones and starting him last weekend.
I don't have a fancy regression model, SportVu access, or a compilation of statistics/pretty flowcharts that make up ostensibly accurate projections. But that doesn't mean I can't throw some numbers out there, chop and screw some flashy narrative on top of that, tie a ribbon around the edges and present it as some semblance of a few hasty gut-contrived conclusions. So I guess I'll go with 52 wins and a second-round exit to the Oklahoma City Thunder. (more on that later)
The season churns to a start in a little over 24 hours and still so many questions remain. But we've gone through them as much as ESPN has "covered" Tim Tebow. Is Harrison Barnes really hurt? How is Mark Jackson going to incorporate Andre Iguodala and David Lee in the offense? Will Andrew Bogut stay healthy in lieu of his new contract and will it be a repeat of the Stephen Curry now-discounted extension? I've heard some boldly proclaim a Warriors championship or upwards of 50 wins. I myself don't have a hard time seeing this team struggle a bit when adjusting to the new starters, weakened bench and lack of a cupcake schedule to the season that played a good part in last year's scintillating 22-10 start.
There's an inkling and skittishness that comes on the eve of a much-publicized season that feels like all this will lead to a letdown. To keep everything in perspective, I do think this year's version of the Bay Area's team will be markedly improved, but unfortunately, not finish as far or further than last year's small-ball squad. A second-round defeat is nothing to scoff at but it's looking as if the expectations will dwarf even a moderate to above-average 2013-14 campaign. Not that there's anything inherently awful about back-to-back postseason appearances. If everything goes right, there's a chance at the Conference Finals. If everything goes wrong, it's just a repeat of history. The likelihood is that it falls somewhere in the middle - as cop-out answers always go - but in no way does that mean this team did not improve. The result gleaned from the process doesn't mean the process itself was erroneous. All this to tell you I am a natural hedge-better.
Ultimately, these last words mark the ending of exhaustive rhetoric, verbiage and now the cauldron of the national hype machine; the magazine covers, everyone's favorite "dark-horse" contender, and endless TV spots. It's time for it all to end and the actual basketball to begin. The hype train has crescendoed into a roar, with Curry showing up as a dark-horse MVP in some circles and Kent Bazemore as the next Shawn Marion in others (okay, that's just something I made up at this moment). All this culminating, we hope, into a mid-May Oracle detonation.
As we near the end of a tumultuous, surprising, and hectic offseason, it marks the beginning of a new era of Warriors basketball. Yeah, that's cliche, but that doesn't mean it isn't true. Basketball is back. This year opens with as many questions as any season that's preceded it.
And hopefully when it all ends, it does so in June.