Golden State Warriors: A Team of Change (Pre-Season, Pre-Ellis Injury)

C-SalContributor IMarch 7, 2009

Two years ago, fans witnessed, arguably, the greatest playoff upset in NBA history.  The Golden State Warriors of the 2006-07 season produced, what most would consider the most exciting series seen in the playoffs in recent memory. The No. 8 seed Warriors defeated the No. 1 seed Mavericks in six games.

Fast forward, two summers and one season later, and the team has undoubtedly changed in a way Chris Mullin and Co. believes is a better direction. A better direction? Maybe. 

Will that produce a better team? Maybe...but not right away. Gone from that playoff team are key contributors Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, and journeyman Matt Barnes. 

In the busiest offseason that the club has seen in some time, the Warriors have made ample strides in producing a team that is young, athletic, and full of promise. 

After the Warriors drafted Anthony Randolph from LSU and big-body rebounder Richard Hendrix, the Warriors offseason officially started on Jun. 30, when star Davis opted out of the final year of his contract. 

After numerous instances where Davis was quoted on staying with the ball club, the UCLA product threw a big wrench in the Warriors' future plans.  Contract extensions between Davis and the Warriors did not include the long-term security Davis was looking for. 

It was reported that the Warriors offered three years at $15 million each, but Davis denied the offer in hopes of a secure long-term deal (also rumored Robert Rowell rejected this offer to give Baron). 

As soon as Baron opted out of his contract, I knew that he would no longer be a Warrior, and 24 hours didn't go by before Davis agreed to a five-year contract with the Los Angeles Clippers.

The next few months saw the Warriors make a flurry of moves.

They signed Los Angeles Clipper swingman Corey Maggette to a five-year, $50 million contract. Maggette will be expected to provide the scoring that Davis produced last year (Davis: 21.8 ppg/Maggette: 22.1 ppg). 

Ronny Turiaf agreed to a four-year, $17 million contract that will provide the Warriors with much needed hustle, energy, and toughness in the paint.  They matched the $9 million offer sheet that the Clippers offered Kelenna Azubuike and also acquired young point guard Marcus Williams from the New Jersey Nets via trade.

Golden State General Manager Chris Mullin said signing restricted free agents Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins was the club's No. 1 priority heading into the offseason and he did not disappoint. 

The Warriors signed two of the best up-and-coming players in the entire league to new long term deals.  Biedrins signed a six-year, $54 million contract that could be worth up to $63 million with incentives.  Ellis, the replacement for Baron at the PG position, signed a six-year, $66 million extension. 

As for some of the notable departures, Matt Barnes, Mikael Pietrus, and Patrick O’Bryant all reached agreements with other teams, but none were expected back with the club.

Joining the newcomers will be current crucial Warriors' players Al Harrington and the often-criticized Stephen Jackson.

The active offseason seems to have finally come to an end and the final result is a team that any true Warrior fan could only be excited about. 

The team consists of 12 players who are 25 years of age or younger, with Ellis unquestionably being the team's best and most dynamic player. 

Second-year players Marco Belinelli and Brandan Wright are promised to get more minutes this year and look to make a serious imprint on the upcoming season. 

Anthony Randolph, the 19-year old versatile forward who turned some heads with his play in summer league, looks like a kid who will flourish in Don Nelson’s up tempo style.

It’s a proven fact that a team is no longer as good as before if their star player is no longer there.  For the 2008-09 season, look for that to be no different for the team by the bay.  With the ultra-competitive Western Conference, the playoffs are a stretch. 

Realistically Warrior fans should be content with a .500 season. With all that said, they have the talent to prove me wrong. Monta and Andris have improved every year they have been in the league and don’t look for that to change. 

Andris averaged 10.8 ppg and 9.8 rpg in just 27 minutes a game.  He raised his free throw percentage from .52 percent to .61 percent a year ago. 

Wright stands at a lean 6’11" with a 75-inch wing span and a boat load of potential.  Sharp Shooter Belinelli is poised to have a breakout year. 

There are going to be growing pains as with any young team, but the future looks bright for the team from Oakland.

Ellis made his case for another “Most Improved Player” award as he averaged 20 points a game shooting over .53 percent for the season (which was the highest field goal percentage for a player 6’7" or under). 

Monta is already widely considered one of the fastest, best finishing guards in the NBA and has earned the nickname “All Day Monta.”

This is Monta Ellis’ team and as he goes, so do the Warriors. If I were a betting man, I would bet the Warriors have a much better season then most anticipate.