Hello Thunder fans. No, you haven't accidentally clicked on a link to Golden State of Mind. Rather, I was enlisted by Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog to do the Warriors preview for the 2011-2012 set of NBA Blogger previews, as it seems no one from GSoM had the time. I was more than happy to oblige, so without further ado, here's my preview for the 2011-2012 Golden State Warriors!
Team Name: The Golden State Warriors
Last Year's Record: 36-46
Key Free Agents: Reggie Williams, Al Thornton, Vladimir Radmanovic
1. What are your team's biggest needs this offseason?
The Warriors are a team that lacks, and has always lacked a true center. Andris Biedrins was a average to cood center a few years ago, but now he's all but ignored offensively. And aside from him, there really isn't anybody. Louis Amundson is an alright power forward, but lacks the necessary size to be a center. Ekpe Udoh is young and shows promise, but he struggled to find minutes last season under the irrational coaching of Keith Smart. Last season they dipped into free agency in order to sign NBA Journeyman Dan Gadzuric, but he was traded late in the season for Troy Murphy's contract. There's nobody esepcially tantaliying in the free agency pool, so it's looking like the Warriors will have to either continue going small, stick some really average guy there, or continue experiencing growing pains with Ekpe Udoh and possibly Jeremy Tyler.
Aside from that, they could use some good regular rotation players. Last season, the Warriors had a really solid core of Ellis, Curry, Lee, and Wright. And a few times, Reggie Williams played on their level. But outside of those 5, the rotation was really waggly. Nobody really had a defined role, and players would often look useless on the floor. Watching Acie Law pound the ball into the floor a thousand times was especially painful. Part of it was injuries, to be sure, but getting a couple of guys in key positions who could help off of the bench would be a huge boost.
Below: Strengths and Weaknesses, How the Team is Set up for 2012, Changing the CBA, Getting Out of the Playoff Dungeon, and a Record Prediction!
2. What are the team's biggest strengths & weaknesses?
Their biggest strength is one of the most powerfual guard duos in the NBA, functioning almost as Yin and Yang. Monta Ellis is the headstrong scoring guard who gradually learned to love the pass. He plays within his means, and knows when his opponent can't. His tattoos are questionable at best, but Warrior fans love him all the same. Stephen Curry is the main passer though, and he's one of the best shooters in the league.
The downside to having an excellent scoring duo is that if one has an off-night, it's really hard to make up for it. The Warriors were 13-23 when Stephen Curry scored less than 20, and an amazingly bad 3-20 when Monta Ellis scored less than 20. Being hot and cold is natural for a player, but you've got to have some sort of backup for your main guys, and outside of three-happy Dorrell Wright, the Warriors don't have that.
Another strength is the team's quickness. In this sense, it is still very much Don Nelson's team. The Warriors are second in the NBA in steals, helped by their ability to lure opposing teams into their fast paced style. By doing this, other teams are more prone to make bad long range passes. But this isn't to take away from the defensive ability of the Warriors on the perimeter, which is spot on.
Another downside of the team is their over-reliance on David Lee's post scoring and rebounds. When David Lee was out with a "zombie bite" for a stretch of 8 games in November of 2011, the Warriors failed to hit 100 points four times, and lost all of the games save for a matchup against lowly Detroit. It put the Warriors in a huge hole they were never able to get out of, and emphasized their almost complete reliance on David Lee scoring in the post. Of course, the 7 game losing streak in December wasn't pretty, either. But that was against some really tough opponents. Lee isn't hot and cold as much as Ellis or Curry might be, but when he's out, it can be devastating.
Something that can be both a strength and a weakness for the Warriors is their hot and cold streaks during a game. Obviously, it's not as bad as it was during the We Believe era, where players emotions seemed to go up and down faster than a teenage girl's. But the sentiment still remains with this team. At times, the Warriors look like they could cruise to an NBA Finals victory, and there's time that it looks like any local high school team could beat them. It depends on how you look at it, and at what time it happens, but it's definitely something to keep a watch on.
3. If there is no season in 2011-12, how is your team set up for 2012?
Well, there are good things to be considered. The Warriors still hold their draft pick, which is important since they'll probably still be considered a lottery team. But, most importantly, David Lee, Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry, and Dorell Wright will all still be on the books. They'll shed the useless 4 million dollar contract of Charlie Bell, and they shouldn't have a big problem re-signing Louis Amundson or fan-favourite Jeremy Lin to small contracts. Klay Thompson, who is sure to add a scoring punch to n already high-octane offense, will have another year to develop. Heck, even Andris Biedrins, who has been a ball and chain of a contract, will have some trade value as a expiring deal.
But there are potential downsides. We lose prime years in the careers of Monta Ellis, Dorrell Wright, and David Lee. The players will go an entire year without so much as seeing their coach, Mark Jackson. And Joe Lacob and Peter Guber lose money, giving them reason to raise the already absurd concession stand prices. But, all in all, there aren't any huge losses for the Warriors if we lose the season. Any foreseeable losses, anyway.
4. If you could make one change the NBA's new CBA, what would it be?
This might be a bit obvious for long-time Warriors fans, but the one thing the Warriors could use is an amnesty clause. That is, an contract out if a player is not performing up to standards. I can't tell you how many times Warrior fans have lamented over contracts given to guys like Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Derek Fisher, and Adonal Foyle (sorry man, I had to say it). Obviously, the contracts they have right now aren't as bad, but with the Warriors' injury luck, I wouldn't be surprised to see a situation like this arise again.
5. Will the Warriors ever get out of the non-playoff dungeon?
It's a really tough question to answer. It could be argued that if David Lee and Stephen Curry weren't injured last year, the Warriors might have finished at .500. But in recent years, .500 isn't even close to what you need for a playoff run in the West. Unless Klay Thompson, a Free Agency signing, or a really good trade happens to reverse our fortunes, it really depends on what other teams do. Obviously new coach Mark Jackson is a factor, but I don't see him being too much better than Keith Smart, who's main flaw was his terrible lineup management. More appropriate questions for Warriors fans might be: Does Denver keep their ship of good but not great players together? Do the Jazz find a way to succeed without Jerry Sloan? Does Chris Paul keep the Hornets going strong? Does Houston finally break up the post-Yao ship in search of another face to their franchise? The questions could go on and on.
Predicted Record: 38-44
Be sure to head over to Golden State of Mind for the best Warriors community on the net!