The knee-jerk answer to the question posed in the headline is probably something in the vein of "Playoffs or bust!" That's been the refrain over the years, and it's gotten louder following a bang-up offseason filled with savvy moves. But for the 2012-13 Golden State Warriors, can it really be that simple?
Taking a step back, it's usually fair to say that success occurs when performance measures up to capability. So, saying this year's Warriors will be successful only if they make the playoffs presumes that the roster and coaching staff are capable of going that far.
But looking at the collection of talent the Warriors have—without a doubt, the best it's been in years—and the front office's apparent understanding of how to build a winning franchise, it's possible the Warriors should be dreaming even bigger.
This year's Warriors, strictly from a capability standpoint, can go further.
Everybody knows that over the last two decades, it's been a sucker's bet to put money down on the Warriors making the postseason. It's happened once since Bill Clinton was in office. So it might sound a little crazy to skip right past making the playoffs and start thinking about winning a series or two.
But there are two basic reasons why that kind of talk is far from crazy.
The first one is the most superficially obvious and has been beaten to death from every possible angle: The team is simply better. The Andrew Bogut acquisition gives the Warriors a legitimate center. Stephen Curry is healthy and has something to prove. Klay Thompson is ready to break out. The bench is deeper than ever.
You get the idea.
That's the one we've all heard. And it's a totally valid argument. The Warriors have a ton of talent and it seems to fit together well. On paper, there's reason to believe the squad has what it takes to be successful.
The second reason, though, is the more important one. We should expect the Warriors to have success—which, in this case, means a fairly deep playoff run—because believing the team is ready to become elite, forcing ourselves to raise our expectations, is just another step in the process of redefining what the Warriors are all about.
We should believe the Warriors are capable of more than just making the playoffs because high expectations are supposed to be part of what it means to be a great franchise.
The ownership group firmly believes that the Warriors are such a franchise. And why not? The Bay Area is the nation's fourth-largest market, the Warriors sell out every game they play and the front office is stocked with bright young minds.
And the best way to become an elite franchise is to start by thinking you already are one. The league's marquee teams in Los Angeles, Boston and Miami don't go into a season hoping to simply make the playoffs.
They intend to contend for a championship.
So, for the Warriors players, coaches and staff, that should be the expectation. They have to believe they're capable of more and cast aside the low expectations of years past.
That type of confidence and determination should extend to the Warriors fan base as well. The past is over and it's time to believe that something bigger is possible. There was a time when fans of the Warriors defined themselves by saying, "We Believe."
Now, it's time to believe the Warriors are capable of more than they've done over the past two pathetic decades. Making the playoffs shouldn't constitute success this time around.
It's time to redefine success. And in this case, "success" doesn't stop with a playoff berth.