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GSoM Roundtable: How should Warriors fans embrace the uncertainty?

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Joe, Duby Dub Dubs, Dr. Tom, and Brady teamed up to share their thoughts on what should be a fascinating Golden State season

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Three

The Golden State Warriors are embarking on a brand new season this week, and we here at GSoM are buzzing with anticipation. I asked some of our best and brightest to answer a few pressing questions before we get the party started. Enjoy!

1.) Did the Warriors’ preseason change your outlook on the upcoming season?

Joe: Yes, to a certain degree. I predicted the Warriors to go 49-33, but that was before any of the preseason games began. Based on the personnel that was lost during the offseason (and the players they acquired to replace such losses), I felt — along with many others — that the Warriors would suffer a steep decline in defensive ability. Now that I’ve seen it actually manifest itself, my 49-win prediction looks slightly more bold. Can they do it? Sure, but it’ll be a tough task. They’d have to meet certain standards to get to 49, and overachieving defensively is the first and foremost standard, in my view.

Dr. Tom: No, I’m not one to put too much stock into the preseason one way or another. I also think that you saw just as many positives as you did negatives so it all balances out.

Duby: Not really, but only because I knew coming into this season that it was going to be a “crap” show. Given the amount of roster turnover we’ve had, and how much talent and institutional inertia was lost in just one offseason I expect this year to really hurt to watch. Yeah, we didn’t see the full squad because of injuries, but the Lakers helped remind me that our defense is going to be pretty bad.

Brady Klopfer: The team’s play didn’t particularly change my outlook, though the abundance of injuries might have lowered my expectations a little bit, since it seems like the Warriors will be hampered out of the gates. But ultimately, the preseason Warriors were exactly what I expect the regular season Warriors to be: An electric offensive team that struggles to find rhythm when Steph Curry is on the bench, and a disaster defensively.

Now, I expect that to result in better outcomes during the regular season than it did in the preseason, but the process should stay the same.

2.) Which team(s) are you most looking forward to watching the Warriors play?

Joe: The Clippers, if only to see how well their two high-profile offseason acquisitions, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, will mesh together. There is certainly an air of curiosity that surrounds them, and seeing them try to work together is must-see TV. The Clippers have the potential to be a defensive nightmare for their opponents, and I am curious to see how the Warriors will respond to that challenge.

Dr. Tom: I think the games against teams like the Denver Nuggets and the Portland Trail Blazers will be the ones I’m the most excited to watch. Specifically because those teams are not real defensive juggernauts but boast potent offenses, so those games will end up being shootouts and thus pretty entertaining.

Duby: Since we dropped a weight class down to “good” (from “great”), the teams I want to see the most are all of the other teams that will find themselves on the shoulders of that lower playoff bracket. The Portland Trailblazers are going to be a fun matchup just for the battle of the woefully undersized backcourts. I’m also excited to see how the Warriors play against the Sacramento Kings. While we still should be a clear cut above, the Kings always play us tough, and will probably take a personal interest in proving they belong in the playoff race by battling hard against Golden State.

Brady Klopfer: From a pure entertainment standpoint, the fellow high-octane offenses in Denver and Portland should make for good theater. Both of those teams are likely to be better defensively than the Warriors, but those contests don’t figure to have much attention to defense. It will be all about scoring, scoring, scoring.

From a more practical standpoint, I’m curious to see the Warriors match up against the two teams from Los Angeles, simply to see how Golden State - which sports the grimmest small forward spot in the entire league - manages against elite 3s in LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George. What are they going to do to cover those holes?

Finally, I expect the Utah Jazz to have the league’s top defense this year, so seeing the Warriors offense try and combat that will be lots of fun.

3.) Who will the top four scoring leaders for the Dubs be until Klay Thompson returns?

Joe: Who the top two scoring leaders will be for the Warriors are obvious — Stephen Curry and D’Angelo Russell. As for the third, I personally feel that Draymond Green must be that third scoring option in order to keep opposing defenses honest. If Green manages to average double-digits in points, it’ll only make life easier for the Warriors offensively and will release some pressure from Curry and Russell. As for the fourth, I will go out on a limb and predict that Jordan Poole will average double-digits off the bench, if only because he is a gunslinger with no fear and will score a lot of points due to volume.

Dr. Tom: Curry, Russell, Alec Burks, and Kevon Looney. I think Green will be so focused on defense that he won’t be able to provide the points that Thompson would score otherwise. But I’m really excited about Burks and think he could give the Warriors substantial scoring.

Duby: Like my esteemed colleagues have pointed out above, you got Curry and Russell as one and two. I’ll co-sign Joe’s prediction of Jordan Poole off the bench being one of the remaining two. We are going to be desperate for some additional scoring punch, which should result in Poole taking a more active role on offense.

You ready for my hot take? I think the 4th leading scorer will actually be Marquese Chriss. He was putting up almost 10 points per game in the preseason, and the Warriors are going to really be looking for him to finish lobs and convert easy buckets all year - but especially so before Klay Thompson’s return.

Brady Klopfer: After Curry and Russell, I think Draymond Green fills up the points this year. It won’t be super efficient, but I envision Green having a highly aggressive offensive season, for one simple reason: the team needs it. The sample is small, but Green averaged 14.9 field goal attempts per 100 possessions this preseason; that’s the second-highest mark of his preseason career, and his most since 2015-16, the last of the pre-Kevin Durant years. His career-high regular season mark is 15.0 attempts per 100 possessions, so he’s essentially shooting as much as he ever has in his career. I expect that to continue.

For fourth, I’m going with Willie Cauley-Stein, but you could put Kevon Looney or Marquese Chriss into this spot. The attention that Curry grabs, plus the likely increased focus on pick and rolls with Curry or Russell mean lots of buckets at the rim for big men.

4.) How did you feel about the Chriss-for-Zo move?

Joe: It was the right move. No one expected Marquese Chriss to play the way he did during the preseason, but full credit must be given to him for working his way toward a roster spot. As good of a story as McKinnie’s path toward the NBA has been, he is not what the Warriors need right now. Even if the Warriors are in dire need of wing depth, McKinnie hasn’t really shown the potential to be a live and able body against good NBA wings. But with his athleticism and occasional ability to spot up for threes, I’m sure he can find a niche role with another NBA team that will need his services.

Dr. Tom: Though I don’t like giving up that depth on the wing (as the Warriors are already short-handed there for as long as Thompson is out), Chriss has so much more talent and potential than McKinnie and thus it’s a risk worth taking. Given the way the Warriors are hard capped this season and the roster deficiencies they’re dealing with, taking a gamble like this makes a lot of sense. If they’re able to unlock even a little of the potential Chriss boasted coming into the league, it could be a huge positive for this team.

Brady Klopfer: Excited, more than anything. Neither McKinnie nor Chriss was a particularly good player last year. But the former is 27, and the latter is 22, with leap-out-of-the-building athleticism, and lottery pick pedigree. Do I think people are overrating Chriss based on some decent preseason numbers that were right in line with not only his prior preseason numbers, but his regular season performance? Yes, absolutely. But he’s a young player with untapped potential for Steve Kerr, Draymond Green, and Steph Curry to try and tap into, and that’s a helluva lot more exciting than a 27-year old wing who can’t do much other than rebound.

With Quinn Cook gone, who do you expect to lead the Bench Mob celebrations on the sidelines?

Joe: Alen Smailagic, maybe? I don’t know, I’m sensing him to be that kind of guy who will endear himself to his teammates and be that “quiet on the outside, personable and funny behind-the-scenes” type of dude. And maybe some of that personality will outwardly show itself on the bench. Just a hunch.

Dr. Tom: I’m going with the Damion Lee-Jordan Poole combo.

Brady Klopfer: Jordan Poole is, for lack of a better word, out there. I mean that as a compliment. He and Jacob Evans III have already developed a good friendship. Both are team-first players, who will see enough minutes to be engaged, but be on the bench enough to lead the bulk of the celebrations.

5.) Would you wager for or against the Warriors making it six straight trips to the NBA Finals?

Joe: I would wager against. The West is just so stacked right now, and as it always has been, it’ll be a no-holds-barred trench warfare, from the 1st seed all the way to the 8th, especially since the field has been evened up with the Warriors dynasty being broken up. The Warriors were able to survive the bloodbath in years past simply because they were the top dog in the arms race, but they’ve lost a significant amount of weaponry. Now, they’re back in the trenches fighting for every inch they can get.

Dr. Tom: I would wager against just because the odds are so profoundly not in their favor. The Western Conference is perhaps even deeper and tougher than it was before and the Warriors are hamstrung talent-wise in ways they haven’t been over the past five years. There’s a chance but it’s closer to the Dr. Strange/1-in-14,000,605 than the near lock that it’s been these past seasons.

Brady Klopfer: Against, easily. The field is almost always the smart pick when it comes to these things, and, realistically, the West sports six or seven teams with legitimate NBA Finals aspirations. Can the Warriors get there? Yes. Should they be favored over the field? Hell [redacted] no.

6.) What’s your advice for Dub Nation heading into a season where the Warriors aren’t the clear favorites?

Joe: Temper your expectations. This team is no longer the dynasty of the last five years. Find joy and entertainment in being the underdogs. If you expect less, then you’ll find that if this team overachieves, the rewards will be all the more remarkable and pleasurable.

Dr. Tom: Apologize profusely to Kevin Durant. Be patient and enjoy the ride.

Brady Klopfer: Enjoy it. Remember 2014-15, when the Warriors burst on the scene, and outperformed all expectations? Remember 2015-16, when, even with the bar set high, they leaped over the expectations (at least until the playoffs)? Those seasons were fun, right?

Look, almost every Warriors fan is happy for the last three years. Dominance is fun. Winning titles is fun. Having arguably the two best players in the world is fun.

It can also get tiring, being the favorite every night. Suddenly wins don’t feel like wins, because they’re accompanied by the nagging voice saying, they only beat the Suns be eight? At home? Steph Curry had to play in the fourth quarter against a lottery team? UGH.

The reality of having a world-beating lineup is that wins can be moral losses, which is as exhausting as it is deflating. But that’s gone. Every win this year will feel like that: A win. The Warriors will have numerous chances to exceed expectations, and limited opportunities to disappoint.

Enjoy it.

Duby: This is the phase that will weed the bandwagon back out of the fanbase. Don’t worry too much about the ups and downs of the season, just embrace the journey. In my book, it doesn’t matter if they win more rings or not.