Golden State Warriors: Why the Warriors Are a Legitimate Playoff Contender
The Golden State Warriors endured a pretty tipsy-turvy 2012 season. They dealt a player once viewed as their franchise cornerstone in Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks, receiving Stephen Jackson and the injured Andrew Bogut in return. The Warriors then proceeded to flip Jackson to the San Antonio Spurs for Richard Jefferson and a first-round draft pick (a pick which they would use very wisely).
Ellis' trade opened the door for young two-guard Klay Thompson, who absolutely lit it up the moment he was given the chance to start.
Also, Stephen Curry played in only 26 games and was forced to undergo surgery on that nagging ankle of his, leaving many to wonder whether or not Curry could ever be the player we all know he has the ability to become.
Andris Biedrins continued his slide into NBA obscurity, the one-time double-double machine averaging only 1.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game in what was an injury-plagued 2012 campaign.
As you can see, there were a lot of positives and negatives for Golden State this past season. Still, overall, I think the Warriors actually improved, as the trade of Ellis not only netted them one of the best centers in the game (when healthy) in Bogut, but it also allowed Thompson to show his stuff and gave Curry some freedom in the backcourt, as it eliminated any sort of "point guard controversy" in Oakland.
Then, the offseason came around, and this is when Golden State transformed itself from a pesky team into a legitimate playoff contender.
It all started with the draft, as Harrison Barnes fell to the Warriors at No. 7. Naturally, Golden State jumped at the chance to draft the high-ceiling wing, and that gave the W's a very nice trio of young scorers in Barnes, Thompson and Curry.
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The Warriors were then able to snag center Festus Ezeli at No. 30 (the pick they acquired from the Spurs), a player who I think has "steal" written all over him. The 6'11", 255 lb. athletic big man out of Vanderbilt should give Golden State tremendous depth at the center position, as it already has Bogut and Jeremy Tyler (a young, raw player oozing with potential) at that spot (although there is a chance that Tyler might also play some power forward).
Then, the Dubs selected forward Draymond Green at No. 35 overall, another great value pick. Green will never be a star in the NBA, but he should end up being a very solid rotational player.
After hitting it out of the park in the draft, the Warriors went on to acquire Jarrett Jack in a three-team trade, giving them probably the league's best backup point guard, then re-signed Brandon Rush and topped everything off by signing the perpetually underrated Carl Landry.
Looking at Golden State's roster up and down, it is very safe to say that this team will seriously challenge for a playoff spot in the tough Western Conference this coming season. The key, of course, is whether or not the ball club can stay healthy.
Bogut and Curry, arguably the Warriors' two most important players, have a history of missing time due to injuries, particularly Bogut, someone who hasn't played a full 82-game season since his rookie year in 2005-06.
That said, when Bogut is right, there is no doubt that he is one of the game's best at the center position, as he is a great interior presence on both ends of the floor and he can rebound with the best of them. If he can remain on the court for Golden State, the W's are going to be a scary team to deal with in 2012-13, especially if Curry's ankles hold up.
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About Curry, this is a guy who can suddenly turn into one of the best point guards in the league. We all know how sweet of a stroke he has from three, but he also shoots a ridiculously high percentage from the field overall for a floor general (shot 49 percent in 2012 and is a career 47.3 percent shooter). Not only that, but his point guard skills have improved significantly since coming into the NBA.
Now let's look at Thompson.
After the All-Star break (starting about two weeks before Ellis was dealt), Thompson averaged 17 points per game and shot just under 40 percent from long range, giving us all a taste of how potentially lethal the backcourt duo of Thompson and Curry could be.
So, that is pretty much the Warriors' big three. As I said earlier, it all hinges on the health of Bogut and Curry, but if those two can stay injury-free, that is going to be a dangerous trio to deal with.
Also consider that I have not even mentioned David Lee in this article, a player who averaged 20.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 2012 and is well-known for being a double-double threat every night. Lee has also never shot below 50 percent from the floor in his seven-year NBA career.
As far as Lee goes defensively, yes, I understand that he is nothing to write home about, but Bogut will be there to clean up his mess in that regard. A frontcourt consisting of those two should end up being very good.
What really makes Golden State a legitimate playoff contender, though, is its depth.
With the offseason additions of Jack and Landry, the Warriors boast one of the strongest benches in the league, as those two will join the likes of Rush, Tyler and Jefferson (assuming Barnes starts right out of the gate), and then you have to throw Ezeli and Green into the mix as well.
With all of their new moves, the Warriors can do just about anything offensively. They now have the low-post scorer they have long been craving in Bogut, a guy to do the dirty work in Lee, two sharp shooters in Curry and Thompson, and someone who might end up being their best offensive player down the road in Barnes.
Defensively, Golden State will struggle a bit, as Bogut is really the only player in the starting lineup who has shown a propensity for being a good defender on this level. Still, you don't have to be a defensive juggernaut to earn a low playoff seed, and given the fact that the seventh and eighth spots really are up for grabs in the West, I can see the Dubs' overwhelming offensive talent prevailing and earning them a trip to the postseason for the first time since 2007.
No, the Warriors will not be challenging for the Pacific Division crown or anything, but they will certainly fight for a playoff spot, and they would be a very annoying matchup for whoever would draw them in the first round.
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