Stop Sleeping on the Golden State Warriors for the 2013 Playoffs
I'm so tired of hearing people either forget or deny that the Warriors have become an easy Playoff contender. It's one thing to believe that they won't stay healthy. Of course. They're the Warriors. They have Bogut and Curry, two injury-prone players, running the show.
However, their offseason surgeries went very well, apparently, but that's not the point. What I can't understand is how so many people say they aren't good enough. Here's their roster for next year, as it stands, assuming they pick up the option on Charles Jenkins and extend the qualifying offer on Brandon Rush:
PG: Stephen Curry, Charles Jenkins
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Brandon Rush/Dorell Wright, Richard Jefferson
PF: David Lee
C: Andrew Bogut, Andris Biedrins, Jeremy Tyler
Now I ask, what is wrong with this team if they're healthy?
Some say defense. And if I didn't do my research on the Warriors myself, I'd probably assume the same thing.
But here's an interesting statistic.
Before the Monta Ellis trade, in which they shipped out the team's worst defender for an elite shot-blocker, the Warriors had an above-average rating in opposing field goal percentage and points per game (pace-adjusted).
Can this core without help make it to the Playoffs?
And what's changed?
They've gotten rid of Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh, and added Andrew Bogut and Richard Jefferson. In case you haven't realized it, the number one reason the Warriors made that trade was to upgrade in size and defense, which is what so many people are still complaining about. As good as Udoh was at blocking shots, he isn't the inside presence that Bogut is. Nor is he the excellent rebounder or notable low post scorer.
So while the Warriors lost Udoh and will probably lose Dominic McGuire, they still have Brandon Rush and Dorell Wright on the perimeter, with an improving Steph Curry. Now they have Bogut cleaning up their mistakes inside.
What they did struggle with mightily was rebounding. While they were embarrassing as a team, David Lee alone put up 10 rebounds a game, playing primarily out of position as a center. Now he gets to play every minute at his natural power forward position. So his rebounding is going to stay at least as good as it was.
Ekpe Udoh was great defensively, but his rebounding was decent at best. Andrew Bogut is also one of the best rebounders in the league. Now the Warriors have a rebounding tandem that can easily rival any other in the league.
Offensively, the team will be just fine.
When Stephen Curry was healthy last year, the Warriors never had any trouble scoring. They moved the ball, looked for open shots, made great decisions, got it to the big men at the right times and often got out in transition. When Stephen Curry was out, they rarely pushed in transition, they turned it over, they took contested jumpers and very frequently isolated.
The Warriors have one of the best young guard tandems in terms of shooting in the history of basketball, as Klay Thompson is an incredible spot-up shooter who gets better every game, especially at creating his own shot.
Brandon Rush, who will probably start at small forward, not only was one of the league leaders in three-point shooting, but was also quite efficient at breaking down his defender.
David Lee, one of the best high-post scorers and passing big men in the NBA, was a star, averaging 20 PPG while shooting over 50% from the field. This was despite the fact that he was the team's only option on offense for much of the year, and that he was playing way too much center.
Now that the team has added Bogut, a strong, mobile seven-footer who scores easily in the low post, expect David Lee to get to deal with power forwards, as opposed to centers and to not have to force up every shot. Speaking of Bogut, the Warriors have added another excellent post passer and a low post threat.
The team's bench isn't as bad as it usually is. Charles Jenkins came out of absolute oblivion to become a very serviceable backup point/shooting guard. Assuming Rush starts, Dorell Wright and Richard Jefferson will successfully fill up the wing positions. Andris Biedrins, believe it or not, is actually useful coming off the bench, and by the end of the year, Jeremy Tyler became usable too.
One final thing to remember is that the Warriors have four picks in an amazing draft: the seventh, 30th, 35th and 52nd. Because of the depth in this draft, they might be able to draft a usable player at every pick. Or they might trade up to the second spot, as the Bobcats are shopping the pick.
If this works out, they'll undoubtedly take Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, an elite slasher, defender and transition player who can also rebound quite well for a small forward. Basically, he's everything they need. Rumor has it that they may bundle the picks together to land an elite small forward, such as Rudy Gay, which would make them a borderline championship candidate.
If they do incredibly well in the draft, they might have a chance at landing home court advantage in the first round of the Playoffs.
The Warriors undoubtedly have one of the worst histories of any franchise in sports. Besides a championship over 30 years ago and an incredible, but short, Playoff run in 2007, there really isn't much you can say about the Warriors.
But I'll say this.
This is the most talented team they've assembled since the Run-TMC era, and if they stay healthy, they could make it out of the first round. If they stay healthy and win the draft, they could be a force in the West for a long time.
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