Thompson should improve with the talent surrounding him.
The Golden State Warriors look like a complete team on paper, but the Dubs need to execute in order to reach their playoff goal. The Dubs will have a whole new nucleus on the floor, and there are five critical keys for the team to make the playoffs this season.
Mark Jackson needs to quickly mold this team with his defensive strategy and get the deep team in concert with each other’s abilities.
This team has the talent to be a factor at the end of the season, but it is how quickly they mesh that will determine where they stand at the end of the season.
Here are the five critical keys for the Dubs to make the playoffs:
Defense will be the key to the Warriors success.
Defense is a key priority for the Dubs this year; they finished in 28th place last year by giving up 101.2 PPG, an improvement from the disastrous 105.7 PPG they allowed in the previous season. The Dubs did drop one place in the rankings.
Mark Jackson has made defense his first priority since taking over, even changing the photos in the Dubs weight room from scoring plays to defensive plays. Jackson wants a team that thinks defense first.
It didn’t help having a strike-shortened season last year because he didn’t have a camp to instill his defensive strategy. The large roster turnover during the season last year and key free-agent signings during the summer have also changed the personnel dramatically.
Jackson now has a year under his belt and is more comfortable with his surroundings. Last year, the Dubs had a few standout defensive efforts, like when they held the Knicks to 78 points last December.
The Warriors need to do a better job filling the lanes, finishing off rebounds and increasing the number of steals to begin the transition game.
The defensive effort is a work in progress, but hopefully by playoff time the Dubs are locking down opponents and winning the necessary close games.
Moving without the ball sets up open shots.
The Dubs have fast guys and big guys who can move and pass effectively. Stephen Curry will now have two guys to efficiently run the pick-and-roll with in David Lee and now Andrew Bogut. But it is the rest of the team that can really outwork opponents to set up wide-open looks.
Jackson needs to use his versatility to have his players set more screens around the perimeter to gain more open shots. The Warriors were seventh in the league with their 45.7 field-goal percentage. If they can roll off screens to create shots without a hand in their face, that percentage might increase a couple of points.
The big men are a big piece of this strategy too. Both Lee and Bogut can take a step back to hit perimeter shots, but they are also good passers. The Dubs have three dominant shooters in the backcourt and the post presence down low can open up perimeter shots.
The backcourt players also need to move around to get more three-point shots, since they finished second in the league in three-point percentage. The new inside presence should free up Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes for easy looks behind the arc.
Brandon Rush is one of the keys off the bench.
The Warriors have the most depth on this team since the days of Run-TMC. They have a better bench than most of their division and have players who can adequately fill in when the starter is on the bench or injured.
The starting five should be Curry, Thompson, Barnes, Lee and Bogut, but behind them are players who will crave minutes. Jarrett Jack has been a starting point guard before and could easily run the team in the absence of Curry or when Curry needs a breather.
Carl Landry was a major free-agent signing if he can put up the numbers. He will be an instant factor at the power forward position in place of David Lee. The depth at this position will give the Dubs a big advantage because most teams don’t have a substitute with similar abilities.
Brandon Rush is the all-around sub who can play defense and fill in at more than one position. He was a crucial re-signing and he is the glue that keeps the bench together.
The draft picks will get the experience and can refine their talents in big spurts. Festus Ezeli has the talent at the center position, but with more experience he can become a force in the paint. Draymond Green is a player who can rotate between both forward positions, with the strong ability to pull down boards.
The Dubs will need to utilize all of their players in the right situations and exhaust teams into making more turnovers and critical mistakes.
Barnes should help the Dubs hit more three-pointers this season.
The Warriors have three clutch shooters in Curry, Thompson and the recently added Barnes. Last season the Dubs finished second in three-point percentage by knocking down 38.8 percent of attempts. The problem is that they finished only ninth in attempts.
With a new inside presence and having the wings running free, the Dubs need to focus on the open three-pointer. This strategy should be used in the half-court set with significant ball movement instead of launching something behind the arc during a transition play.
The Dubs' arsenal of three-point shooters includes the previously named starters along with Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson. The continued success of the shot will have other teams creeping up to the arc, which will create more space and opportunities for the Dubs to score closer to the basket.
Bogut's presence under the basket should help the Dubs shoot more free throws.
The Dubs finished second to last in free-throw attempts last year. Was that partially caused by the team mailing it in the second half of the season? No.
The Dubs actually improved on the 2010-11 season by not finishing dead last. The reason for the lack of free-throw attempts was that the Dubs didn’t have a featured big man in the middle.
The Dubs now have a big man? Well, that information is still sinking in for Warriors fans, as the only glimpse of the legitimate center, Andrew Bogut, has been with him wearing street clothes. Bogut’s ankle is healing on schedule and he should be ready for the start of the regular season.
With Bogut and Lee banging inside and having the ability to pass the ball, the Warriors should increase their free-throw attempts significantly since they will finally have a presence in the paint.
Curry, Thompson and Barnes can all drive to the basket with their newfound freedom, and that should result in more fouls against opponents. With more trips to the charity stripe, the Dubs should increase their scoring, especially in crunch time.
If the Dubs follow these five critical keys, the team will continue to develop and should do some damage come playoff time.