The Final Piece: Golden State Warriors Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Stephen Curry, SG Klay Thompson, SF Andre Iguodala, PF David Lee, C Andrew Bogut
 
Key Bench Players: SF Harrison Barnes, G Toney Douglas, F Draymond Green, PF Mareese Speights, C Festus Ezeli, C Jermaine O’Neal
 
Offseason Additions: Andre Iguodala, Toney Douglas, Jermaine O’Neal
 
Offseason Subtractions: PG Jarrett Jack, PF Carl Landry, C Andris Biedrins, SF Richard Jefferson, SG Brandon Rush,
 
FACT OR FICTION: The final piece to the Warriors’ championship puzzle was Andre Iguodala. 
 
FACT. But his simple addition doesn’t make them into a title contender. If that makes any sense.
 
So why then would our glorious FACT OR FICTION breed such a strong statement? Because with Iguodala, the Warriors have found a perfect fit for their style of play, not to mention plug some holes in their very obviously weaknesses.
 
Offensively, it’s not exactly three-dimensional chess here: AI is a nightmare in transition, whether he’s starting the break with his killer handle and passing, or finishing with deadly propulsive efficiency. He’s just as effective in the half court set, creating plays from the elbow or wing, as well as setting up as a willing streak shooter. He’s now just another weapon that diversifies an already dynamic Golden State scoring blitzkrieg, which also harbors young developing stars like Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. Iguodala will be key with them as well, taking up the slack on both ends of the floor which effectively buys Golden State time while those two blue chippers blossom from the delicate flower buds they are into a full blown bouquet of basketball dominance.

Even with Iguodala’s addition, the offense’s continued effectiveness is in question going into next season–we’ll get to that in a second–, so Andre’s biggest influence will actually be on the other side of the floor. The Warriors gave up the most points per game last season, though that number is highly augmented by Golden State playing at the league’s fourth fastest pace. Thus, taking every factor into consideration, the Dubs had a deceivingly stout defense last year, finishing 13th in opponents points per 100 possessions. The team could have been even better if not for their inability to force turnovers from the opposition, in which they finished 27th last season.

With Iguodala the Warriors now have two of the strongest defenders in the league anchoring the perimeter and paint in Andrew Bogut. Along with locking down players on late game crucial one on one possessions (if those type of strictly man on man situations ever indeed happen anymore), they’re also two of the best in fortifying Golden State against the league’s now bread and butter play, the pick and roll. Iguodala should be able to help in regards to forcing even more turnovers on defense, as well as a hopefully improving Harrison Barnes, Thompson and Curry helping out on that end as well. If Bogut can stay on the floor (which has been a huge question mark for the past three seasons), this is a championship-level defense. For real reals.

The biggest problem I foresee from Golden State is their lack of depth and specifically where that will impact them on the floor. The Warriors sacrificed re-signing super-subs Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry in order to bring Iguodala on board, thus thinning what were two starter-caliber players coming in reserve. Replacing them are guys like Toney Douglas, Mareese Speights, Jermaine O’Neal, a bigger role for Draymond Green and now Barnes, who was a starter last season. The Warriors were lucky in that down the stretch, their two most key players, Bogut and Curry, were able to shake career long injury bugs and contribute when their teams needed them the most. Jack and Landry became two components that left them two games from the Western Conference Finals, rather than necessary replacements for injured stars. With those two gone, the contingency plan for the two most crucial parts of the Warriors’ offense and defense will be in the hands of Douglas, Speights and O’Neal. Even if Curry and Bogut remain healthy, on paper it doesn’t look like the Warriors will be quite as deep as last season.

The key player here is Barnes, who will have to affect the offense in different ways than the two departing reserves. If coach Mark Jackson follows last season’s blueprint, Harrison will come in as a small ball power forward, playing alongside David Lee and Bogut, and serve as a change of pace “big” to discombobulate opposing defenses.

The Warriors should improve on defense, but they’ll have to successfully transition to an all new bench (with a completely different skill set) and keep their stars healthy in order to compete for a chip. It’s amazing how vastly different Golden State’s season could be: they’re depending so heavily on health and completely turned over bench in order to compete.

Best Case Scenario: Bogut and Curry stay healthy, Iguodala impact the team in all the right ways and the newly formed bench flourishes behind Barnes. The Golden State Warriors go the Finals for the first time in forty years. That’s their ceiling. 

Absolute Apocalypse: Bogut and Curry fall prey to the injury bug (again) and the bench can’t shore up their losses. The defense falls apart and there’s no reserve point guard that can replace Curry’s catalyst effect on offense. The Warriors barely miss the playoffs and are one of the league’s biggest disappointments. 

Expected outcome: 2nd in the Pacific, 5th in the Western Conference


Do you smell what MAMBINO is cooking? Check out the rest (so far) of our 2013-2014 NBA Season Preview series:

Central Division

Chicago Bulls
Cleveland Cavaliers
Detroit Pistons
Indiana Pacers
Milwaukee Bucks

Southeast Division

Atlanta Hawks
Charlotte Bobcats

Miami Heat
Orlando Magic
Washington Wizards

Northwest Division

Denver Nuggets
Minnesota Timberwolves
Oklahoma City Thunder
Portland Trailblazers
Utah Jazz

Northwest Division

Dallas Mavericks
Houston Rockets
Memphis Grizzlies
New Orleans Pelicans
San Antonio Spurs

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics
Brooklyn Nets
Philadelphia 76ers
Toronto Raptors

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