Throughout September and October, we’ll be examining all 30 teams in the NBA and previewing the 2013-14 season through the lens of each particular organization. I’ll be going through each team’s roster and expected outcome for the upcoming campaign in reverse order of predicted finish, starting with the worst team in the NBA. At the bottom of each preview there will be a table with each division that will link to already-completed previews.
And we arrive at the Golden State Warriors, a team that remains the darling of the basketball world following their captivating run to the second round of the playoffs.
I tend to be a little more skeptical of the light in which Golden State seems to be viewed nowadays. I was surprised that I ended up ranking them this high, and I think I regret it. I’m not convinced they’re better than Minnesota, New York, or Atlanta, but then again, the roster was actually stabilized this off-season. That makes it difficult to dock their ranking, so we’re going to roll forward with the Warriors at #10.
Stephen Curry is the main attraction in Golden State, and rightly so. He had a historical playoff showing, and should only continue to improve his all-around game. David Lee bounced back after his first two years in the Bay Area were more up-and-down than anything else. Andrew Bogut only played in 32 games last year, but is allegedly healthy to start this season.
The Warriors added Andre Iguodala over the summer, and he should slot in nicely next to a sharpshooter like Curry and a defensive big like Bogut. A starting lineup that includes Curry, Iguodala, Lee, and Bogut is absolutely the lineup of a true contender. Klay Thompson will round out the starting lineup, and is without question the weak link. Casual fans will remember his long range prowess from the playoffs, but that was really the only thing he contributed.
Well, that was the story of the regular season for Thompson, too. He shot a nice 40.1% from deep during the season, but didn’t provide a ton of value other than that. He averaged just 1.9 free throw attempts per game, and his overall shooting numbers weren’t great, highlighting the numerous offensive holes in his game. Quite simply, a player that shoots 84.1% from the line and 42.2% from the floor needs to get to the line more often. And that’s a big part of why his overall offensive game is actually subpar. He doesn’t get to the line, largely due to his array of floaters and mid-range jumpers. Those don’t lead to fouls, and they’re often low-percentage attempts.
Even still, a 40+% spot-up shooter running the floor with an athlete like Iguodala and a guard like Curry is a beautiful thing. The Warriors lost third guard and sixth man Jarrett Jack to Cleveland via free agency, and replaced him with Toney Douglas. It’s probably only a slight downgrade, and for the money they saved (Douglas signed for just $1.6 million), it may actually be a slight win.
The rest of the bench includes Marreese Speights, Jermaine O’Neal (Really? He’s still a thing?), Festus Ezeli, and Draymond Green. That’s an okay group, but probably mediocre at best, all things considered. Green was not very good as a rookie last year, but played averaged more than 13 minutes over 79 games played nonetheless. Ezeli wasn’t particularly impressive, either, but they’re hoping he can develop into something similar to former Warriors’ first round pick and current Buck Ekpe Udoh.
(Edit: Yeah, I glossed over Harrison Barnes in the original post. Similar to Thompson, he has too much hype surrounding him due to the playoff run. He’s a nice player that shores up the bench and the wing nicely, but he won’t provide more than league-average production in 2013-14. The efficiency and consistency just isn’t there.)
That isn’t too far-fetched, and with O’Neal to help eat front court minutes next to Speights, the big man rotation should be pretty solid. That obviously doesn’t factor in Lee and Bogut’s injury-proneness, but that is certainly a concern that Warriors fans would rather not talk about. Back court and wing depth is certainly more suspect as the likes of Kent Bazemore is almost certainly not the answer.
Despite lop-sided depth and chronic injury issues to three of their top four players, the Warriors should be a playoff team again in 2013-14. I’m not quite as sold on them as many other folks are, mainly because of Thompson’s generally overrated ability and the unlikelihood that they’ll get through another season nearly as unscathed as they did last year. (Yes, Bogut missed 50 games, but Lee and Curry only missed a combined 7 games. Not likely to happen again, unfortunately.)
Best Case Scenario
Best case? Health relative to last year, and even better regarding Bogut. Unfortunately, I can’t stop the doubts from creeping into my mind that this is a realistic possibility. The addition of Iguodala will certainly help shore up the defense, and the combination of he and Bogut together on the court will create serious issues for opposing offenses, and should be a lot of fun to watch.
This team could legitimately manage 52-55 wins if they stay healthy. It’s a scary good starting lineup. The bench and the lingering shadow of chronic injuries is enough to bring out the pessimist in me, however.
Worst Case Scenario
I hate to just dump a laundry list of injuries that might happen here. Mostly because I don’t want to start predicting such morbid things with no reason to think that they’ll occur other than the stars aligning last year for Curry and Lee.
If we factor in better health for Bogut and maybe slightly worse luck for Curry and Lee, I think the lack of depth outside of the front court will affect the win total in GoldenState. Lee’s scoring would be missed sorely, and there is simply no replacing Curry. Even when Curry is healthy, there isn’t a whole lot behind him. This team could surprise many pundits with a low win total somewhere around 40-43.
Most Likely Outcome
I think the Warriors will still make the playoffs. It’s just very hard to know how many wins that will take in the West this year. There are somewhere around 10-11 teams that could be good enough to make it, but the other 4-5 are so terrible that they’ll be easy to beat up on.
If GoldenState can stay reasonably healthy and their young players, namely Thompson, Green, and Ezeli can each improve incrementally and take another step in their development, they could improve on last year’s 47 win season. Somewhere in the 49-52 win range seems about right for this dangerous, yet injury-prone and shallow squad.
|New York Knicks (12)||Atlanta Hawks (13)|
|Toronto Raptors (22)||Cleveland Cavaliers (17)||Washington Wizards (19)|
|Boston Celtics (24)||Detroit Pistons (18)||Charlotte Bobcats (26)|
|Milwaukee Bucks (20)||Orlando Magic (27)|
|Minnesota Timberwolves (11)||Golden State Warriors (10)|
|Denver Nuggets (15)||Los Angeles Lakers (23)|
|Portland Trail Blazers (16)||Sacramento Kings (25)||New Orleans Pelicans (14)|
|Dallas Mavericks (21)|