The Golden State Warriors wore glass slippers to the NBA playoffs last season. After starting the season 25-15, Mark Jackson’s young squad dropped 20 of the final 42 games, earning the sixth-seed in the Western Conference. Following an opening round upset over the Denver Nuggets, the clock struck midnight on Golden State — the Warriors fell at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs. Overwhelmed by the Spurs’ depth and experience, and in addition to missing a key-component, Golden State was simply gassed and out of firepower to keep up with San Antonio.
Was it the inexperience preventing the Warriors late season and playoff success? Or was it the exciting and up-tempo play?
Playing at the fourth-fastest pace (the number of possessions a team uses per game) in the NBA, Golden State’s 101-points per game last year ranked seventh amongst the league. The Warriors, however, hope to play even faster this season.
“Our style is going to be similar, but I’d like to push the ball even more,” Jackson said during the team’s media day. “We’ve got versatility and the ability to get the ball off the rim and push it and make plays. There are so many weapons around the floor.”
Key Offseason Additions: Andre Iguodala, Toney Douglas, Jermaine O’Neal, Marreese Speights, Nemanja Nedovic and Seth Curry.
Subtractions: Andris Biedrins, Jarrett Jack, Richard Jefferson, Carl Landry and Brandon Rush
Though veterans Jack, Jefferson, Laundry and Rush were all essential to the success of the team’s bench last season, the Warriors addressed the holes in the depth chart with capable, more affordable backups. O’Neal and Speights will be the back-up bigs to Bogut (who always seems injured) and (currently injured) center Festus Ezeli, who may not return until January after having knee surgery in the offseason. Douglas, brought in on a one-year deal worth 1.6 million, played with the New York Knicks his first three-seasons in the league and lands in the Bay Area after appearing in 22-games for the Sacramento Kings last season. He’ll likely handle most of the point guard responsibility behind Steph Curry.
The likelihood of taking down the Goliath-like Spurs may not have been so slim had the Warriors not lost David Lee in the first game of the postseason. Lee, entering his ninth season, led the league in double-double’s last year and was Golden State’s only All Star selection. His feel good story ended abruptly in the first game of the opening round after tearing a hip flexor. Lee’s absence was another reason the clock struck midnight on the Warriors playoff-ball last season. Because of the injury to Lee, youngsters Harrison Barnes (21) and Draymond Green (23) played significant minutes on the league’s biggest stage; reinforcing roster depth lost with the departures of Rush, Laundry and Jefferson.
Barnes. At. The Four.
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) April 24, 2013
Though Barnes playing the power forward added to the electric atmosphere within Oracle Arena, those moments are gone — for now. With Curry, Klay Thompson, Iguodala, Lee, Bogut as the projected starting lineup Barnes takes a backseat to Iguodala at small forward. Last season, Iguodala played 80-games with the Nuggets and was eliminated in the first round at the hands of those who are now his teammates. As far as what he thinks about the team’s depth at the wing;
“We have a really talented group at the wing position because we all push each other; really competing against each other, so it’s gonna be good for us.”
In an interview with CSN Bayarea.com, Igoudala would continue,
“I think we put winning as a team over any individual goals. Those are the type of things that don’t show up on the stat sheet that can help our team win.”
Iguodala has lifetime averages of 15-points, 5-assists and 6-rebounds a game — he’s a high flyer willing to do what it takes to win. The perfect fit for Coach Jackson’s team oriented philosophy; he can be a mentor to younger guys like Barnes and Green.
Prediction: 54-28, good for the 4th seed in the Western Conference.
Teams in the NBA are going for a smaller, less post-game oriented, approach to building rosters over the past few seasons. With stretch forwards like Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Ryan Anderson of the New Orleans’ Pelicans and as we’ve seen in Dallas during Dirk Nowitzki‘s time with the Mavericks; the ability to spread the floor offensively is a must for teams around the league. The Warriors have taken notice — the offensive versatility of Lee, Iguodala, Barnes with the willing grit that Green brings on the defensive end gives Golden State flexibility when matching up against Western Conference foes. Some questions remain however. Will Lee and Bogut remain healthy throughout the season? Will the loss of Jack limit Curry’s scoring output because there isn’t a veteran presence at point guard behind the Warriors sensational shooter?
Golden State is a team built, not only to win in the future, but to win now. So can they play an explosive style while also avoiding injuries? Will the fast-pace work against them if they’re able to reach the postseason? There’s a fine mix of young talent and experienced veterans playing in the Bay Area this season under a coach who’s been there before in Jackson — they’re on my list of Western Conference teams that make the playoffs this season.