NBA Offseason Report: A Look at the Golden State Warriors

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Off-season moves are a common way for teams to improve areas of weakness that posed problems during the regular season. Around the NBA during summer 2012, some teams made blockbuster trades that instantly put them on the list of contenders, while other teams made small but progressive moves that made them stronger and more competitive.

It is no secret that the Golden Warriors want to win badly. During the middle of the 2012 season, the Warriors decided to part ways with the face of their franchise, Monta Ellis, trading him along with Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown to the Milwaukee Bucks for injury-prone center Andrew Bogut and ex-Warrior Stephen Jackson. Immediately after the trade, the Warriors traded Jackson to the Spurs for forward Richard Jefferson.

The Warriors appear committed to building around Stephen Curry, who has been battling chronic ankle injuries for the past several seasons. According to multiple sources, the team plans to retain him for the long term, and it is expected that Curry will sign a contract extension of four years for roughly $48 million by the end of October.

When the season begins, the Warriors are optimistic to start Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Brandon Rush, David Lee and Andrew Bogut, a lineup that has the potential to take the Warriors to the playoffs this year. Klay Thompson is coming off a fantastic year, averaging 17 points and shooting 39.7 percent from the three-point line after the all-star break. David Lee and Brandon Rush are efficient players at their positions, and if Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut who has also struggled with injuries the last several seasons — can stay healthy, the Warriors have the potential to both run in the open floor and play a half-court game through their big men, diversity that they have never had in the past.

In the 2012 draft, the Warriors also picked up Harrison Barnes from the University of North Carolina (UNC) with their seventh pick, one that many experts considered a steal and a solid replacement for sharp-shooter Dorrell Wright. At 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds, Barnes is an athletic forward who can instantly contribute. Although defensively young and weak at creating his own shot, Barnes is a promising shooter, a strong rebounder and excellent at moving without the basketball, strengths that should instantly provide benefits for the Warriors.

The team’s leader, Stephen Curry, was also recently cleared for all basketball-related contact activities, a promising step for the young Warriors to begin the 2012-2013 season. In the past, Curry’s presence has resulted in a 10.9-point difference per 100 possessions for the Warriors. With Curry on the floor, the team also shot 47.3 percent compared to 45.2% when he is off, including an astounding 50 percent from corner three-pointers. With Curry and Thompson in the backcourt, Lee and Bogut up front, and Rush out behind the three-point line, the Warriors have a solid starting five that can compete in the West.  

Can this team make the playoffs? Maybe. It’s obvious the Warriors can score, but Mark Jackson needs to improve this team defensively and keep his stars out of foul trouble. The Warriors finished 28th in the league last year in defense, allowing their opponents to score a whopping 101.2 points per game. Mark Jackson has preached defense as the centerpiece of his playbook, but he needs to mold this team and make it more defensive minded, improve switches on pick and rolls, and most importantly, rebound the basketball.

The Warriors were nearly last in the league last year in rebounding, grabbing only 39 rebounds per game while allowing opponents to haul down 46 per game. Bench play for the Warriors will also be critical — Jarret Jack, Carl Landry, Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush all need to contribute off the bench in order for this team to make it out of the West. All in all, in order to make the top eight in the West, the Warriors have a big challenge in front of them. A healthy starting lineup and effective improvements to their defensive playbook will be critical in achieving this goal.