Golden State Warriors: 8 Early Games to Prove the Dubs Are Playoff Contenders
Mark Jackson now has the players he needs to make the defensive transformation he wants and the overall talent to get Golden State to the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
It's not going to be easy though. The Western Conference is as deep as it's ever been, and as much as the Warriors have improved since the end of last season, so have the rest of the contenders in the West.
After these eight games, we will find out if the Warriors have what it takes to be playoff contenders.
Wednesday, October 31st @ Phoenix Suns
Finally we will get to see what the Warriors look like with a center.
More than that, we will get to see how much Mark Jackson has improved with a full offseason to implement his system.
Facing the Phoenix Suns on opening night, the Warriors can start off their new era right and beat a team that they should defeat on the road. A win here will prove that this team will not be like the same ol' Warriors who look lost playing away from home.
The Suns are no cupcake here. With new additions in Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and Luis Scola to pair with Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley, opening night will be a good test of how quickly the Warriors will be able to gel with their new pieces.
Friday, November 2nd vs. Memphis Grizzlies
The Warriors' home opener is against one of the better teams in the Western Conference, the Memphis Grizzlies. This will be the first time in decades that a Warriors win will be determined on whether or not their post players outperform their opponents.
Four former All-Stars square off as David Lee and Andrew Bogut go up against Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol; there hasn't been that much talent in the post at Oracle in, well, ever.
The Grizzlies were a four seed in last season's playoffs and the Warriors' talent level compares to that of Memphis' 2012 team. If that proves to be true, the Warriors can make a statement here at home that they are going to be a team to be reckoned with this year.
Saturday, November 3rd @ Los Angeles Clippers
On paper, this is a game that the old Warriors would have almost no chance of winning.
It's on the second night of a back-to-back, on the road, against a team that won a playoff series in the previous season.
Even now, losing this one isn't going to be detrimental the Warriors, but winning it would sure mean a whole lot.
Any division game is crucial, but to win one under these circumstances would go a long way in proving that the 2012-2013 Warriors are going to be like no team we've seen in the past.
Friday, November 9th @ Los Angeles Lakers
The Warriors have historically struggled against the Lakers, but really, who hasn't? At a quick glance you would think the Lakers by 15, but let's take a closer look at the matchups.
Steve Nash going up against Stephen Curry could end up being a wash if Curry shoots a little better than Nash. Klay Thompson is not Kobe Bryant, but he might be able to hold his own both offensively and defensively against the recent gold medal winner.
Lee and Gasol won't be able to stop each from scoring, and Bogut and Howard will stifle each other down low. Now, if Harrison Barnes shoots well on Metta World Peace, the Warriors actually don't look that bad against the Lakers.
I think I just talked myself into thinking that the Warriors can compete on a nightly basis against a team that is expected to be in the NBA Finals next year.
On November 9th, we'll see if that's the case or if I just haven't been getting enough sleep lately.
Sunday, November 18th @ Oklahoma City Thunder
This one could potentially be a playoff preview of a first-round matchup.
The Thunder have everyone back on a team that is completely loaded with talent.
This going to be a extremely tough challenge for any team, but as mentioned earlier, a key asset for this Warrior team is that they can feature many different lineups.
This game will be a great test of Mark Jackson's abilities, to find out a way to defeat tougher opponents.
If he can find the right lineup to at least compete against an elite team like this, it will go a long way for the teams' confidence in not only their head coach, but in their own ability collectively.
Saturday, November 19th @ Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks missed out on Deron Williams, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, but they ended up getting sufficient talent to vie for a playoff spot.
Plus they have that Dirk Nowitzki guy.
The Mavs are yet another team vying for the 4-8 seed in the playoffs, making them a major competitor for the Warriors.
The Mavericks aren't nearly as tough after losing Jason Terry and Jason Kidd, but this will be yet another big challenging.
A trio in Nowitzki, Elton Brand and Chris Kaman should give the Warriors big fits down low, and it will be interesting to see how Jackson decides to defend Nowitzki.
Another tough road test here and it's the night after facing the Thunder in OKC. The Warriors have more talent than this team and it can't be stressed enough that these are the types of games that they need to win this season.
Friday, November 24th vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
Every game against the Minnesota Timberwolves is going to be vital this season.
With the Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder atop the Western Conference, there are at least eight other teams fighting for the remaining playoff spots. The final spot could end up being a battle between the Warriors and Timberwolves.
You know every Minnesota fan is thinking the same thing that Golden State fans are thinking, "this is the year our team gets into the playoffs."
Even though this is a home game, it is the second game of a back-to-back which makes it that much tougher. Not only that, it is their third set of back-to-backs this month!
It's games like this that are going to make or break the Warriors' chances of a postseason berth this year.
Thursday, November 29th vs. Denver Nuggets
I'll tell you this.
We will know exactly what the Warriors are made of after the month of November.
What a brutal stretch of games.
The Nuggets, after acquiring Andre Iguodala, are one of the better mid-level teams in the Western Conference. They have the defensive talent and athleticism to run and stop almost any team in the West.
This will be the Warriors' third matchup against the Nuggets this month, and coming away with a series win is crucial. With two of their matchups coming at home, I like their chances.
With a speedy team like the Nuggets, the Warriors should be able to slow things down and win this one down low. Bogut and Lee are superior to any offensive scheme the Nuggets can come up with in the post with JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried—something completely new to the Golden State Warriors franchise.
The best part about this one is that it's a home game with one of the best crowds in the NBA. The Nuggets are going to be a tough team, but having a superior home record is going to help if the Warriors' struggles on the road follow them into this season.
It's going to be a tough month, but the Warriors can come out of these eight-game with an above .500 record, it will prove that they belong it the 2013 NBA playoffs.