Golden State Warriors Season Preview: Groundhog Day

Team Capsule

It’s a new season, and the Golden State Warriors are optimistic that this year will be different.

How many times have we heard that?

The Warriors represent many things, but a winning tradition is not one of them. Making the playoffs twice in the last 20 seasons, the Warriors represent futility, mismanagement, and entertaining if unsuccessful basketball. They represent the land where teams tank for a 70% chance at a top 7 pick. And they represent a land where the team simply cannot get out of its own way.

But this year? Will this year will be different?

The Warriors have talent. Andrew Bogut can single-handedly make the Warriors a good defensive team for the first time this century. Stephen Curry can shoot the ball better than almost anybody. David Lee can put up 18-10 (points-rebounds) pretty much any time he wants. Klay Thompson finished last season strong. The bench looks to be improved significantly. Their hilarious tanking strategy actually worked! The team looks deep and well-constructed.

Things are different!

But can Andrew Bogut stay healthy for the first time in years? Will Stephen Curry’s ankles finally detach? Can David Lee bring himself to try on defense? Can the bench players stay on the bench and not have to replace all of the easily injured starters? Can Harrison Barnes live up to lofty expectations?

So maybe things aren’t much different after all. The Warriors, like always, look like a decent team. But there’s so much more to being a good basketball team than winning in the summer and looking good on the proverbial paper. The Warriors always look good on paper, but the results never show. So when I express some restraint in anointing them as a playoff contender, maybe you can understand why as well.

Biggest Strength: Three point shooting

Curry has a career mark of over 44% from three. Brandon Rush has a career mark of over 41%. Thompson shot 41+% last season. Richard Jefferson shot a high percentage last season. Barnes’ biggest strength is his shooting. The Warriors should take and make a ton of threes this season.

Biggest Weakness: Injuries

As mentioned above, Curry and Bogut are huge health question marks. Considering they are the team’s two best players, the team’s hopes hinge on their health. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that’s not the best idea.

Player to Watch: Andrew Bogut

Bogut received a rap as being a bit of a letdown for a number one pick, but his play on the court certainly doesn’t show that. Bogut, when healthy, was among the league’s five best centers in Milwaukee. Unfortunately for most of the NBA universe, nobody ever really watched the Bucks. But Bogut is simply game-changing defensively; if he can add anything on offense, the Warriors got a steal in the Monta Ellis trade and someone who can lead the team to the playoff appearance it desperately wants.

Also, as mentioned earlier, Bogut HAS to stay healthy for the Warriors to make a playoff run. The odds aren’t in his favor though. He’s missed at least 10 games in all but 2 NBA seasons, with season-ending injuries in 2 of the last 4 seasons.

2011-12 Record: 23-43

Coach: Mark Jackson (23-43 career)

Key Additions: Jarrett Jack, Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli

Barnes could start at the three, Jack could be more than a solid sixth man, and Ezeli could beat out Andris Biedrins’ corpse and Jeremy Tyler for the fourth big spot. None of these additions are game-breaking (the Bogut trade during last season could be), but all improve the team’s depth.

Key Subtractions: Dominic McGuire?

Team Trajectory: Flat

The Warriors’ record should improve this year – even with my relative pessimism this team has too much talent to lose nearly half of its games again – but the outlook for the future remains sketchy. Stephen Curry should be retained as an RFA, Klay Thompson looks like a keeper, and Barnes looks (at least for now) to be another solid perimeter player. But the team is capped out, aging inside, and has little flexibility with its contracts. It’s hard to imagine this core going further than the first round of the playoffs, if that far. Which makes this year just like all the others.

Projected Record: 39-43

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