Golden State Warriors: 5 Bold Predictions for Second Half of 2011-12 Season
While the season started with big changes and big predictions by new management, it looks as though the second half of the Warriors season will be more of the same for an always supportive, yet almost always disappointed fanbase.
Here are five bold predictions for what lies ahead in 2012 for the Golden State Warriors.
No. 1: Steph Curry Will Miss Significant Time with Injury in Second Half
While the Warriors brass have identified Stephen Curry as a building block for the future, the most significant thing keeping the Golden State guard from reaching his full potential is a history of nagging injuries.
Curry initially injured his ankle in the summer of 2010 while playing as a member of Team USA in an exhibition game against Spain. Since then, he has had no less than seven moderate to severe ankle sprains and had offseason surgery to repair ligament damage.
Unfortunately, while the franchise hoped that this would curtail the ankle issues, Curry suffered another ankle ligament injury prior to this year's All-Star Weekend.
Look for these problems to continue in the second half of the 2012 season. It is more likely than not that Curry will miss numerous games during this compacted schedule. At some point, the Warriors may decide to shut him down for the rest of the season.
No. 2: Several Teams Will Wish They Drafted Klay Thompson
When Klay Thompson fell to the 11th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Warriors could not run their draft card up to NBA Commissioner David Stern fast enough.
Not only was Thompson a great fit for a roster which desperately needed size and outside shooting in the backcourt, but he was a player who received nothing but glowing reviews from all of their management prior to the draft, including team consultant Jerry West.
While Thompson started off near the end of the bench at the beginning of the season, the rookie from Washington State has continued to push for more playing time in Coach Mark Jackson's rotation with solid play over the last month.
While his actual minutes have not dramatically increased over the last three months, his production and quality has.
Known for his outside shooting ability coming out of college, Thompson began the season shooting in the mid-20s in both field-goal and three-point percentage.
However, during the month of February, Thompson shot over 48 percent from the field and three-point range, and now ranks in the top 10 in the NBA in the latter category. He also averaged over eight points a game; I expect that during the second half of the season he could average double digits.
Outside of Cleveland and Minnesota, and despite the snub by the NBA of leaving Thompson off the Rising Stars rosters during All-Star Weekend, I doubt there is a team more excited about the future of their 2011 draft pick.
No. 3: Warriors Will Be Active at the Deadline
Since the day Joe Lacob took ownership of the Warriors, he has promised sweeping changes that will turn the franchise around. However, although he made numerous changes in the front office and basketball operations, the changes have yet to hit the players on the floor.
In fact, despite managing just 36 wins a season ago, the Warriors returned this year with the same starting lineup that produced another sub-.500 record.
Recently in the Bay Area, it is another day, another trade rumor. Rajon Rondo, Brook Lopez, Andrew Bogut, even Dwight Howard are all names linked to the Warriors in the rumor mill over the past few weeks.
Despite several assurances by Larry Riley and company that they are happy with their backcourt of Steph Curry and Monta Ellis, it has been increasingly clear that they are going to have to move one of them to get anything of value in return.
As each day draws us closer to the trade deadline, it seems the pressure on Larry Riley, Bob Myers and the rest of the Warriors brass to make a move grows infinitely, even at the risk of making a trade for trade's sake.
If not, it is clear the supportive, yet disgruntled fanbase will begin to call for more changes at the top, perhaps to bring in someone creative enough to get this team back to winning ways with more than just unfulfilled promises.
No. 4: Ekpe Udoh Will Find His Niche
When the Warriors made Ekpe Udoh the 10th overall selection in the 2010 NBA Draft, they knew they were getting a project who they would have to be patient with.
While Ekpe had shown great athleticism at Baylor that the Warriors knew would translate well on the defensive end, they certainly believed it would take him time to develop an offensive game.
Maybe the worst thing to happen to Udoh so far in his career was being drafted one slot ahead of Greg Monroe in Detroit. While Udoh has shown gradual improvement over the course of his short career, Warriors fans have been playing the "What Could Have Been" game, imagining Monroe averaging 17 and 10 at center for Golden State.
Lately, however, Udoh has been able to not only gain the confidence of his head coach, but also Warriors fans. It has become clear that the Warriors are simply a better team when Udoh plays more minutes, and fans have begun to call out Mark Jackson when he continues to play a struggling Andris Biedrins over him.
Biedrins missed a game against the Clippers recently, forcing Udoh into his first start of the season. All he did was put up 19 points and eight rebounds and lead a great defensive effort to knock off the Pacific Division-leading Clippers.
Udoh is currently the only player in the NBA to rank in the top 50 in plus/minus ratio on a team with a losing record. While his value may not always show up in the box score, it is clear that he is finally beginning to realize the potential the Warriors felt he had when they drafted him.
No. 5: The Warriors Will Miss the Playoffs and the Lottery
It is a fate that is all too familiar to Warriors fans, and one that has left the franchise in a state of eternal mediocrity. For six of the last seven seasons, the Warriors have been bad enough to miss the playoffs, but just good enough to avoid getting a top draft pick that could turn the fate of the franchise overnight.
During these non-playoff seasons, the Warriors have managed every year to make their pick in the NBA Draft between Picks 6 and 14.
So while stars like Chris Paul, Kevin Love and Kevin Durant have been able to come in and almost singlehandedly turn around bad franchises whose poor play landed them in the high end of the lottery, the Warriors have toiled in the wasteland of mediocrity, landing such stalwarts as Patrick O'Bryant and Ike Diogu.
And while a top-four pick does not guarantee a franchise player, it certainly increases the odds for a team like the Warriors, who, outside of Monta Ellis, have not been know for finding diamonds in the rough in the NBA Draft.
This year is headed for more heartbreak in the eyes of Warriors fans. With this being advertised as one of the deeper drafts in recent years, missing the playoffs might normally be of benefit.
However, the Warriors traded their first-round pick to the Nets back in 2008 for, of all players, Marcus Williams.
Williams did little in his short stint with Golden State, and now this top-seven protected pick seems destined to be headed to Utah (acquired in the Deron Williams trade), as the Warriors will once again be better than downtrodden teams like Washington and Charlotte, but not good enough to make the playoffs.