Although I've made it exceedingly clear that this franchise has underachieved to an overwhelming degree, the brief success they have had is as important to examine as the abundant failure.
This team's lone playoff appearance since 1994 came in 2007, when they went 42-40, grabbed the No. 8 seed and beat the 67-15 Mavericks in Round 1. The next year, they became the best team in NBA history to miss the playoffs, going 48-34. It seems fair to call these two seasons a period of success.
So, why did the Warriors' upward momentum result in them crashing right back down almost instantly?
It's not that complicated—they lost good players and replaced them with not-so-good ones. The team's leader, Baron Davis, walked in free agency after a falling out with Head Coach Don Nelson. The team panicked and felt as though they had to replace Davis' spot by signing any expensive free agent.
So they brought in the consummate loser Corey Maggette.
Maggette's huge contract, combined with the massive extensions the team handed out to Andris Biedrins, Monta Ellis and later Stephen Jackson, handcuffed the team salary-cap wise. This meant that the team's best bench players—Matt Barnes and Mickael Pietrus—left via free agency, even though either one would have been much cheaper and more effective as a backup small forward than Corey Maggette.
The team went on to a 29-53 record, and has not approached .500 since.
People blame Monta Ellis' ankle injury, but that's ignoring what the team's real problems were: lack of a floor general, lack of defense, lack of grit off the bench and lack of size.
The current Warriors brass seems to understand this. They chose to keep Stephen Curry—a point guard—over Monta Ellis. They brought in a coach who prioritizes defense and players who can defend (Dominic McGuire, Brandon Rush, Bogut). They have their most complete frontcourt in years, as Bogut and Lee look to be a load to handle inside.
But nothing in this league is permanent, and the Warriors learned that the hard way four summers ago. Signing and keeping good players requires using cap space, and using cap space requires giving up other pieces. For the Warriors to extend Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut (both set to be free agents the season after next), and eventually Klay Thompson and this year's first-round pick down the line (if they pan out), the Warriors must be very careful with their cap management.
With a playoff season next year, quality free agents will gain interest in Golden State. And the Warriors will likely have cap room. As attractive as bringing in new pieces would be, the Warriors need to exercise foresight and patience.