It's treacherous to bring any sense of optimism to ORACLE Arena, but the incoming Golden State Warriors make it awfully tempting. Last year's team—even when in tank mode—made for some fun and decidedly imperfect basketball, but the additions made since mid-March position these Warriors to be a shockingly good NBA outfit...provided expectations are kept in check. Preseason optimism has a way of spiraling out of control, but in this case, it's possible for the Warriors to be noteworthy and successful merely by competing for a playoff spot. Anything beyond that is luxury, if only because it's essentially a Warriors custom to underwhelm just when things start to get interesting.
This impromptu rebuild has a bit of a different feel than the last few cycles, largely because of the presence of Andrew Bogut. It's easy to glance past a big man who has played just 77 games over the past two seasons, but Bogut has the potential to be that unicorn of NBA roster construction: the defensive big who rectifies the weakness in the rest of the roster. Bogut could have plenty makeup for with this particular cast, but simply having such a tremendous defender on the floor gives Golden State an air of defensive respectability.
Beyond Bogut's delayed Golden State debut, the Warriors' improvement is all about incremental gain. Brandon Rush was re-signed to fill out the rotation with productive, low-risk minutes. Harrison Barnes was drafted by Golden State to complement the scoring core already in place. Klay Thompson already has shown some signs of improvement at the Las Vegas Summer League and should look even better in a more balanced role. Carl Landry was signed to a completely reasonable deal to punch up the bench. Jarrett Jack was acquired in exchange for the now-redundant Dorell Wright to help stabilize the Warriors' ball-handling.
No single move takes the Warriors over the top, but that's a lot of gradual improvement for a single offseason—particularly with the bottom half of the Western Conference playoff picture so wide open. The West's best are relatively stable, but there's plenty to be decided beyond the top few seeds. With a good run, Golden State slides into the postseason. With anything better (or some correspondingly good luck), the Warriors become almost shockingly relevant. The ceiling on this team is very much indefinite, but it's their projected mean that makes them so compelling; for the first time since 2007, there's sound reason to expect something of these Warriors, even if doing so welcomes the possibility for an all-too-familiar disappointment.