If, one year ago today, I had told you the Golden State Warriors were considered the fifth-best team in the Eastern Conference and the sixth-highest in the Western Conference, what would you tell me?
Because the biggest NBA news in the past couple days revolve around a left-handed Monta Ellis going to a team that's as interesting as it is confounding, there's plenty of time to pick nits at the people who are, more likely than not, picking teams out of an arbitrary mental process that so irks the Hollingers of the world, or something. The SBNation Power Rankings, an average of votes of a selected person on each site, yours truly included, voted on each team's rankings, from 1-30.
The Warriors ended up coming in at number 11, with the highest vote at 6 and lowest at 11. Ironically, it was myself that included Stephen Curry's band in that lowest slot. Seems that most people think much higher than the Warriors than myself. There will be much time to delve over the skepticisms I may have, or if 11 is a high ranking to you, the positives that can transpire over the course of an 82-game season.
But some quick reasons I had them outside of the top 10:
I don't need to say much more but it doesn't appear, at least until I see him healthy for more than a few months at a time, the ankle injuries of Stephen Curry will ever fully heal. Andrew Bogut is an aging center that's over seven feet tall with a history of bodily mishaps. If one, or both, fall to the wayside for an extended period of time or in the postseason, don't look for too much to happen, pertaining to the elevated expectations, that is. Now that the Warriors have put themselves in this situations, a first-round defeat would appear like a failure, just or not.
More Proven Teams
As much as we love the Warriors here, it's hard to dispute the Heat, Thunder, Spurs, Pacers, and the Grizzlies ahead of them, at least for now. The grumblings, I'd think, would focus on the Nets (who've added Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett), the Clippers with whom the Dubs beat 3 out of 4 times in the regular season but have since added flexibility and depth, the Bulls (obviously better with a healthy Derrick Rose, which remains to be seen), and the Rockets (locked in many great battles last season and have added Dwight Howard). The top tier under the elite is bunched and the injuries plus the so-so regular season projections—they did finish the season 17-18—for the Warriors probably knock them down a notch.
And if you choose to view this ranking not as a slight but as the beginnings of something great, here's why I ranked them so high:
There is an undeniable amount of talent on this roster. With the addition of Andre Iguodala and solid bench depth, to go with the sequential expected improvements of Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, there's a budding young core ready to explode. Potential also includes the ability to stay healthy and Curry, despite several ankle turns, did play in nearly all of last season's games. Though some are pessimistic about Bogut's likelihood to return to full strength, another offseason to heal and even an 85 percent Bogut would make a world difference. Literally a world, so concurs Andris Biedrins. Let's hope those Utah nights aren't getting to him. But I digress.
Management and Coaching
It's perhaps a bit early to stick this one at the helm of the Warriors' bandwagon but Bob Myers and Mark Jackson have done an *insert pop culture Bill Simmons-y reference here* job in turning the team around. The self-awareness and accountability were self-evident in this offseason as they strived to replace Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry with better pieces rather than keeping with the safe, comfortable status quo. Now it's Jackson's turn to mesh these pieces into the same engine that rolled through the Denver Nuggets and pushed the Western Conference champions to six games.
And with Bob Myers, a little cap room and multiple trade exceptions, there might be reinforcements on the way.
Where do you think they should land?