With the NBA offseason activity beginning to wane heavily this week, albeit for a few signings still up in the air- Nikola Pekovic notably. And on the eve of the NFL and college football's annual takeover of all things media, I think it's finally time to make some predictions for the upcoming NBA season given that the majority of rosters are somewhere between working rough draft and fixed. Now before reading this column, I need you guys to realize a few things: 1) I'm making NBA predictions in JULY and literally ANYTHING can happen before the season to derail these predictions. 2) These are 100% serious. I am not here to troll or make fun of anybody. That would be churlish and a waste of time. 3) I encourage you to respond with how you feel about my predictions. So without further ado, I present to you a running column that will include a Fanpost for each and every NBA team, "The Flagrantly Early, Incredibly Half-Baked NBA Predictions Series."
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
No. 1: Warriors will beat the crux of fragility
Perception is not exactly in Golden State's favor when you think about the Warriors collective health over the past few seasons. If it's not Steph Curry's ankles, it's David Lee's hip; if it's not Andrew Bogut's ankle, it will be Jermaine O'Neal's knees. The Warriors all in all seem fragile, and many believe that if David Lee had been 100% in last year's playoffs the Spurs series would've gone 7. When you really look into though, the Warriors had an extremely healthy season from their returning players aside from Bogut's 50 game sabbatical (Bogut did play all 12 playoff games). Curry played 90 games; Thompson had 94, Barnes (93), Lee (85), Green (91), and Ezeli (90). When you add Iguodala (86) and Speights (79) to the mix, that's eight key contributors for this year's team who played an entire season last year. If that holds up, the Warriors are in great shape because that lineup is stacked. The real key will be whether those younger guys have gotten stronger and been keeping their bodies right to make themselves so much less prone to nagging-injuries. We will see, but I think this is the year the media finally stops pegging the Warriors as brittle and this talented squad makes a run of things
No. 2: Steph Curry and Klay Thompson will light up the league
Being a New Orleans Hornets season ticket holder last year, I got to witness two incredible regular season performances from the Golden State Warriors- one by Steph Curry and one by Klay Thompson. These dudes are two of the most automatic shooters in the league, and they lit it up against my hometown Bees with such class and grace; it was a thing of beauty. This year I think they are poised to fully explode onto the NBA scene as the greatest shooting backcourt since Stockton and Hornacek in their second full year together. Last year Thompson boasted a true shooting percentage of 53% which is astounding for the second year player who doubled his shooting load from his first year. Curry, however, shot an even greater 59% (TSP), and the best part about it is that Curry is just now reaching his prime. Both of the two shot greater than 40% from deep, which oh by the way, is incredible. Further, Curry has been so close to breaking into the 50-40-90 club (FG%-3p%-FT%) the past few years, and should he improve his shot selection that seems totally feasible. With marked improvement in his 3rd year, Thompson’s not that far off either. Both of these Warriors can only be expected to get better this offseason, especially given the great culture Mark Jackson has brought to Oakland in his 2 year tenure. Whether the Warriors end up winning it all or bowing out early, there's no denying Curry & Klay will be fun to watch as they make the league their christmas tree.
No. 3: Warriors won’t be bested by the Spurs this time around
Experience matters. No matter how much talent your team possesses, it’s evident in the playoffs that the guys who have been there before show it and the guys that haven’t fold their hand. Cohesion matters. You have to have guys who have been through it together to win in the playoffs because a group of dudes motivated by the same failure is so much stronger than one dude by himself. It’s why the Heat lost the 2011 Finals; it’s why the Thunder lost the 2012 Finals. And its why, should the Spurs stand in the Warriors way next post season, Golden State will come out the victor. Like the proverbial mentor always says: History repeats itself, but in this case not in a way you might think.
The ultimate example would be the Memphis Grizzlies, who lost a hard fought series to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2012 that included Nick Young’s only relevant NBA moment. This past year they came back and beat the living tar out of the Clippers in a series that was a lot less close than it looked. In the 2013 playoffs, the Warriors looked so good against the Spurs, but ultimately came up a day late and a dollar short in a series that was much more hotly contested than it looked. Now the Warriors have the experience of playing well against a perennial postseason team in last year’s playoffs, and despite coming up short that’s something to build on especially as they return their entire starting 5 from last season in Curry-Thompson-Barnes-Lee-Bogut. The cohesion was jilted somewhat as Golden State dumped backups Brandon Rush, Andris Biedrins, Carl Landry, Jarret Jack, and Richard Jefferson, but replaced that shrewd lot with Andre Iguodala who will now start in place for Barnes and brings loads of playoff experience to this roster, Toney Douglas- the ultimate professional, and Mareese Speights whom most would agree is a major upgrade over Biedrins. All in all the Warriors return a hungry, newly-experienced core and basically turned an efficient Nissan Altima into a sexy BMW M Series in one full offseason. How are the Spurs going to best that?