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Jan 26, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) is met by forward David Lee (10) after the Warriors scored a basket against the Portland Trail Blazers in the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Trail Blazers 103-88. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Golden State Warriors: Are They Legitimate Playoff Contenders?

After last years illustrious success, the Golden State Warriors appeared be on the path to being one of the most offensively dominant teams in the western conference.  While the Warriors roster may be made up of young protégés rather than well established veterans, this team has made it abundantly clear that they can compete valiantly even with their inexperience in the NBA.  On top of that, the Warriors have progressively made strides to improve their defensive tactics, which allows them to quickly get the ball down the court to their prolific shooters in Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry.  Although the Warriors have had issues this season with consistently taking down inferior opponents, their team chemistry and athleticism has thus far been enough for this intriguing squad to win more often than not.

While the Warriors have made a name for themselves as a franchise that can score first and ask questions later, their rebounding proficiencies along with their overall defensive improvements, have given this a team a much more versatile identity.  Although center Andrew Bogut may not be the most aggressive scorer in the game, his vigilance as a defensive contributor is vital to the Warriors development as a legitimate competitor in the west.  This year, Bogut has averaged 10.6 RPG, while garnering 48 rebounds in his last three games alone.

However, while Bogut’s defensive prowess should never be underestimated, power forward David Lee has quickly made his presence known as all around efficient shooter from the field (he shoots 52% from the field) as well as a physical defender who can effectively rebound (9.8 RPG).  For a forward, Lee has the skills to dominate on both sides of the ball.  In one instance, Lee will put up a smooth jump shot and in the next he’ll be hustling down the court to simultaneously retrieve a much-needed rebound or to at least force a contested shot.  While Lee may never get the limelight that he rightfully deserves, his tenacity on the court is more than enough to justify how gifted Lee is as a well-rounded professional athlete.

Yet, even with the Warriors evident improvements on the defensive side of the ball, this teams fast paced offense has only gotten better.  Although the Warriors have come to be known for their scoring capabilities, their ball movement is an essential part of how this offense is able to flow so effortlessly.  This year, the Warriors have displayed a level of unselfishness that is nearly unparalleled in the NBA (the Warriors dish out over 46 APG, 2nd in the NBA).  This teams sensational ball movement prowess is due largely in part to the Warriors beloved point guard Stephen Curry.  While Curry’s accolades last year were highly impressive, they pale in comparison to what this young talent has done this year.  In just one year, Curry has improved his points per game from 19.9 to 24.5 while also making incremental improvements to his already well developed passing game (he dished out 6.6 APG last year and has improved to 9 APG this year).  While Curry isn’t the only high-octane scorer on this Warriors squad (Klay Thompson puts up 18.7 PPG), he has clearly come in to his own as one of the most versatile and efficient point guards in basketball.  Curry’s attention detail and unwavering determination to better himself and his teammates both on and off the court is what makes this team so intimidating to face especially when they are firing on all cylinders.

However, the Warriors do have a single glaring issue that could severely hurt their chances at making a deep post season run; themselves.  For every win the Warriors have over a physically stout opponent such as the Loss Angeles Clipper or Miami Heat, they also have losses that are equally as jaw dropping especially when they come at the hands of an ailing Brooklyn Nets team.  Luckily, the Warriors are driven enough to avoid being mentally consumed be these inexplicable melt downs as they have never had a losing streak that has extended past three games in a row.  It could be argued that Warriors breakdowns in these games are just simply part of a young team that is still learning the ropes of the NBA.  While this team may have it’s issues from game to game, they have a passionately driven coach in Mark Jackson who confidently keeps his team in the right mind set while objectively conveying what his team needs to do to overcome their on the court transgressions.

In the end, the Warriors have the roster and perseverance to be legitimate playoff contenders when all is said and done.  While the Warriors may have their moments of ineptitude, they have proven that they can overcome these moments by being disciplined with an uncanny level of maturity that is rare amongst developing franchises.  If this team can block the out the criticism from the skeptics while constructively fixing any weak spots in their game, they’ll make a bigger splash in the playoffs than they did last year.

Tags: Golden State Warriors NBA

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