The Golden State Warriors are heading into the 2012-13 season with the clear focus and quiet confidence of a playoff team. Of course, that’s a little unusual because the Dubs’ 23-win campaign a year ago left them well out of the postseason.
But the roster is vastly improved, with a roundly lauded draft class, a new defensive anchor and a couple of thoughtfully executed signings. This collection of players gives the Warriors the deepest, most balanced roster they’ve had in decades. As a result, the Warriors are dealing with something they haven’t had to for years: the pressure of high expectations.
Finally relevant in the NBA landscape, the Warriors will have to overcome issues with health and chemistry if they intend to live up to their potential. Head coach Mark Jackson is under scrutiny, too; he’s out of excuses.
Stay tuned and check back often, because we’ve got everything you need to know about the Warriors’ 2012-13 training camp, as well as season predictions, depth charts and the latest Dubs news.
The Small Forward Battle Rages On
Coming into camp, the Warriors’ starting small forward job was pretty much up for grabs. Although that’s still largely the case, there are some indications as to how the competition might ultimately shake out.
According to reports, rookie Harrison Barnes has been one of the most impressive players in camp. His polished offensive game, sweet stroke and surprising athleticism have drawn the attention of coaches and teammates alike. Despite all that, head coach Mark Jackson may still be leaning toward Brandon Rush, whom Jackson feels is a better fit as a starter.
On the one hand, Jackson’s showing some wisdom by valuing chemistry so highly. And withholding a little of the limelight might keep the rookie hungry. But on the other, if Barnes continues to perform at such a high level, it will become increasingly difficult to justify his absence from the first unit.
Andris Biedrins Remains in the Doghouse
Andris Biedrins was only Warrior who failed to show up when all fourteen of his teammates started voluntarily working out at the team’s facility in September. That didn’t do much to change the perception that Biedrins lacks commitment to his team.
As a result, Mark Jackson has bumped both Festus Ezeli and Jeremy Tyler ahead of Biedrins on the depth chart, sending a clear message to the once-promising big man that he won’t play until he proves he deserves it. Look for Biedrins to eventually play ahead of Tyler, but right now, the backup center job belongs to Ezeli.
Not Much Hope for Camp Invitees
Unlike most NBA teams, the Warriors’ 15-man roster is practically set in stone. Still, there are a handful of camp invitees working out with the Warriors. Carlon Brown, Lance Goulbourne, Stefhon Hannah, Rick Jackson and Tarence Kinsey give the Dubs a few live bodies to fill in for drill work and scrimmages.
None of these players has any hope of making the roster, barring some unforeseen injury or personnel move.
Update: Oct. 22, 2012 by Stephen Babb
Neither Andrew Bogut nor Stephen Curry will play in the Golden State Warriors' two remaining preseason games, but all indications are that the club is simply operating with an abundance of caution.
Marcus Thompson II reports for MercuryNews.com that while Curry remains on track to play in the season opener, he'll play it safe until then after rolling his ankle against the Portland Trail Blazers. Meanwhile, Thompson suggests that Bogut is medically cleared to play so long as he isn't experiencing any pain:
"We're not going to set a timeline because it will be when he's 100 percent," [general manager Bob] Myers said. "It's more feel. It's his body, how his ankle is responding. ... (Ferkel's) not telling (Bogut) he can't do five-on-five. All he's telling him is keep moving forward and listen to your body."
What that means in terms of Bogut's actual timeframe is unclear, but he hasn't experienced any setbacks thus far so the long-term outlook remains promising.
---End of Update--
Update: Oct. 15, 2012 by Stephen Babb
The Golden State Warriors are still taking things slowly with center Andrew Bogut, acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks last season in exchange for Monta Ellis. But the recovery process is coming along all the same, and now there's some evidence according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Rusty Simmons:
Center Andrew Bogut, who is rehabbing from ankle surgery, was cleared for one-on-one contact drills, and Jackson hopes the big man's recovery allows him to play one or two exhibition games. "His presence alone makes a difference," [head coach Mark] Jackson said. "He's doing all of the things he's supposed to do with rehab and treatment. He looks better and better every day. We're very happy with where he is right now, and we hope he'll be in a position to get some work prior to this thing starting."
Given the uncertainty as to whether Bogut would be ready for the season-opener, the recent progress is an especially good sign.
As Jackson indicated, just having the seven-footer on the floor will have an impact for the Warriors. It may take him some time to completely get back into the swing of things, but his size and defensive prowess will anchor a front line otherwise reliant upon Andris Biedrins and rookie Festus Ezeli to man the center position.
---End of Update---
Update: Oct. 12, 2012 by Stephen Babb
Stephen Curry isn't the only one attempting to sort out his recovery in time for the regular season. Center Andrew Bogut is working toward a return to the floor as well—whenever that may be (via CSNBayArea.com's Matt Steinmetz):
“After the trade, obviously you want to be out there,” Bogut said earlier this week. “That’s the dangerous thing about these injuries. I can’t let what other people are thinking and wanting affect the injury. I need to come back 100 percent. I want to be out there. I’ve thought of many scenarios, and I want to be 100 percent ready for that first game."
Steinmetz reports that Bogut's weary of a premature return leading to setbacks later this season, and you can't really blame him.
After playing in just 12 games last season, the Warriors are just as interested in playing things safe. If that means Bogut misses one or two games to start the season, Golden State can live with that. The team will depend heavily on his defensive presence in the painted area, and for good reason—Bogut's averaged two or more blocks per game in each of his last three seasons.
Update: Oct. 10, 2012 by Stephen Babb
Though Warriors fans had to be ecstatic to see Stephen Curry back in action for his first preseason game, it's hard to know what to make out of the 24-year-old taking himself out of the game after seeing some action in the first half. He apparently began to feel some discomfort, though the ankle otherwise felt fine.
The good news is that there's no word of a major setback according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Rusty Simmons:
Andris Biedrins (right groin) joined the injury list that already included Bogut and Green. No mention of Curry on injury report.— Rusty Simmons (@Rusty_SFChron) October 9, 2012
While Golden State could survive a temporary absence after acquiring veteran floor general Jarrett Jack this summer, there's no question Curry is essential to the club's prospects of making it to the postseason.
Given Curry's progress thus far, those hopes remain very much alive.
---End of Update---
Perhaps more than any other NBA team, this year’s Warriors have their fate tied to the health of their cornerstones. Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry are both recovering from significant ankle injuries, and this team will go as far as their stars’ balky ankles will carry them.
Bogut remains restricted in training camp, forbidden from participating in full-contact drills and five-on-five scrimmages. It’s somewhat unlikely that the center will be available for any preseason games, but based on his recent progress, there’s still reason to be encouraged.
For one thing, Bogut hasn’t had any significant setbacks since his ankle surgery. For another, he recently dunked for the first time. According to Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News, Bogut “ended one running drill by dunking twice one-handed and then throwing down a two-handed reverse slam at the conclusion.”
The Warriors’ goal for Bogut is to have him ready to play in the season opener on October 31. Based on his current rate of recovery, that looks more and more realistic.
Unlike Bogut, Stephen Curry has had the training wheels off since September 20. Curry’s procedure was far less significant than Bogut’s—it merely involved cleaning out debris and scar tissue—so his accelerated recovery shouldn’t be a surprise. Fully participating and hopeful he’ll earn a lucrative extension, Curry’s primed for a healthy and productive season.
Don't be discouraged if Curry sits out a preseason game or two, though. Coach Mark Jackson is treating his point guard with extreme caution until the games actually count.
The Warriors’ No. 35 pick has been limited in camp with left knee inflammation. Green, who’s fighting an uphill battle for playing time, did work out with the rest of his teammates throughout the month of September, so there’s not much reason to think his injury is a major one.
If he wants to set himself up to earn some minutes this year, he’ll have to get himself back into camp quickly, as the rest of the team’s forwards are already playing at full strength.
(1) Stephen Curry (2) Jarrett Jack (3) Charles Jenkins
With Curry in top condition, he’s got a stranglehold on the starting point guard gig. Jack was brought in via trade both to play alongside Curry in late-game situations, and to provide insurance in case Curry’s ankle isn’t sturdy enough to last the whole season.
Jenkins was forced into duty as a rookie last year well before he was ready to play major minutes. He’ll come off the bench in blowouts this season, but probably won’t see much time as the team’s third point guard.
(1) Klay Thompson (2) Brandon Rush (3) Kent Bazemore
Like Curry, Klay Thompson has the starting shooting guard job locked down. After shining down the stretch last season, being named to the USA Select Team and dominating in Summer League, there was never any doubt about that. Thompson is primed for big minutes and a breakout season.
However, there is some uncertainty behind him. With the small forward spot still seemingly up for grabs, it’s unclear whether Brandon Rush will reprise his role from last year as the first wing off the bench. If Rush wins the small forward spot, rookie Kent Bazemore technically moves up a notch on the depth chart.
It’s also possible that Jarrett Jack sees significant minutes at shooting guard—alongside Curry. Another option, previously foreign to the perpetually undersized Warriors, would be for the 6’8” Harrison Barnes getting a few minutes backing up Thompson.
This is a fluid situation, largely dependent on what happens at the small forward position. Really, the myriad options at shooting guard are a testament to just how versatile the Warriors’ wings are. However it shakes out, there will be a capable backup for Thompson.
(1) Brandon Rush (2) Harrison Barnes (3) Richard Jefferson
Easily the most contested spot on the roster, the starting small forward position could end up belonging to any of the three players listed above. The latest indications are that Rush has the inside track, despite Barnes being the Warriors’ most impressive player in early workouts.
If Jackson gives Rush the job because of his superior defense and experience, Barnes could still see plenty of minutes at either wing spot.
Jefferson, once rumored to be an option to start here, seems to have fallen out of favor. It looks increasingly like his role will be that of the veteran mentor, not the starting small forward.
Draymond Green, whose middle name might as well be “Tweener,” could also see a few minutes at the 3.
(1) David Lee (2) Carl Landry (3) Draymond Green (4) Jeremy Tyler
Between David Lee and Carl Landry, there won’t be many minutes left over for the other bigs on the bench. Lee is the surefire starter, while Landry figures to be the first front-court option off the pine.
When Landry enters the game, look for the Warriors to feed him the ball in the post often, as virtually all of his value comes from his knack for scoring down low.
Green could also see a few minutes at the 4, especially if the Warriors want to extend the opposition’s defense. His versatility, three-point range and passing skill make him a nightmare for larger, slower power forwards.
Tyler figures to see fewer minutes this year, as the Warriors have a bevy of more experienced front line players. He’s still a project but has the size and raw talent to eventually contribute at both power forward and center. Fortunately, he won’t have to do that this season.
(1) Andrew Bogut (2) Festus Ezeli (3) Jeremy Tyler (4) Andris Biedrins
In most cases, the guy tabbed as the franchise savior gets to start. That’ll be the case with Andrew Bogut, health permitting.
Bogut will probably be treated very gently by the Warriors’ staff, especially early on. Don’t expect him to crack the 30-minute barrier for the first month of the season as he continues to carefully work his ankle back to full strength. When he’s in there, though, the Warriors become a genuinely formidable bunch.
Right now, Ezeli is the Warriors’ backup center. He’s huge, he’s as strong as a bull, and he’s solely focused on defense. Ezeli is incredibly raw, but that’s understandable, considering he’s only been playing basketball for six years. With Bogut taking things easy for the first part of the season, watch for Ezeli to log double-digit minutes right away.
Tyler is only third on the depth chart here because Jackson is sending Biedrins a message. Realistically, Tyler’s not ready to play against NBA centers. But until Biedrins does something to show he’s got a little pride and desire, Tyler will probably play ahead of him.
With the fate of a franchise resting on his shoulders, it’s safe to say center Andrew Bogut is the Warrior under the most pressure to perform. Make no mistake about it: the Warriors go as far as Bogut takes them.
Bogut represents a sea change in the franchise’s priorities. For the first time in years, ownership has made a clear effort to add size, toughness and defense. Bogut stands for the idea that the Warriors will no longer throw seasons away by fruitlessly trying to out-gun opponents.
Bogut knows how important he is, and he also knows why. Here’s his dead-on take:
If I can influence other people to step up their up games defensively, that'll be mission accomplished for me. I think I need to bring the same tenacity and the same defensive mindset I had in Milwaukee, but make it rub off on David Lee and Brandon Rush and Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, that we need to get stops to win games...I think if we can get everyone on the same page defensively and hold guys accountable—which guys probably weren't held accountable the last few seasons defensively—I think we'll be better.
Andrew Bogut is the only thing standing between this team and yet another disappointing season. If he can get healthy and deliver on his promise, the sky’s the limit.
Stephen Curry, playing this season to prove he can stay healthy and is worth a big contract extension, is also under plenty of pressure. He merits an Honorable Mention in this category. But if he goes down, the Warriors have Jarrett Jack, a capable backup, ready to fill in. With Bogut, there's no such safety net.
When a team wins just 23 games, as the Warriors did last year, there's never just one area that needs improvement. So while there are plenty of weaknesses that must be strengthened, there are really two critical areas Golden State must address if they have any designs on the postseason.
Last year, the Warriors were the NBA’s worst rebounding team. So it’s a little bit of an understatement to say that they need to get better in that department. Forever undersized, Golden State simply couldn’t match up with opposing front lines.
The result was a consistently demoralizing rebound deficit. It’s hard enough to be a bad team, but when you’re a bad team that gets crushed on the boards, it sucks the life out of everyone involved.
Enter Andrew Bogut.
In what’s becoming a consistent theme, much of the Warriors’ potential improvement on the glass depends on Bogut’s health. When he’s right, Bogut is a beast on the boards. For his career, he’s averaged 9.3 per game in just 32.7 minutes.
But not only does Bogut go and get rebounds in (and out) of his area, he prevents opponents from getting them—just one of the subtler “little things” great centers like him do.
Plus, with David Lee playing more of his natural power forward position, he won’t be so outmatched in the size department, which should yield even more boards for him as well.
Playing a slower, more disciplined style will also be helpful for the Warriors. Running up and down doesn’t tend to put players in good rebounding position, and neither does standing around waiting for Monta Ellis to try to take his man off the dribble.
With a new style, improved personnel and better size, it’ll be a surprise if the Dubs don’t rebound at a rate somewhere around the league average.
Guess who matters most here. Yet again, Andrew Bogut will determine how good a defensive team the Warriors are. But he’s already gotten plenty of ink so far, so let’s focus on the other reasons why the Warriors might well improve on D this season.
For starters, it shouldn’t be too hard to improve on ranking fourth-to-last in defensive efficiency, so that’s encouraging.
But in addition to that, Monta Ellis is gone. Not only does his absence mean the Warriors won’t have to put up with his defensive apathy, it also allows the Dubs’ other wing defenders to get onto the floor. With Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson both very strong defensive players, opposing wings won’t have it so easy this season.
Jarrett Jack also has a reputation as a solid defender against shooting guards, where his size is a real asset. Against point guards, Jack’s not quite as good.
Surprisingly, Klay Thompson was actually a good defensive player last year, according to some metrics. Synergy didn’t rate him highly, but he did hold opposing shooting guards to a very respectable 11.4 PER.
Plus, Harrison Barnes’ length, size and athleticism project very well on the defensive end.
And finally, there’s Kent Bazemore, the NCAA’s best defensive player in 2011. He may not see many minutes in the early weeks of the season, but when he does eventually hit the floor, look out. He’s a terror out there.
Aside from Stephen Curry and David Lee, the rest of the Warriors’ roster does have some defensive aptitude. That should add up to the Dubs being a respectable defensive squad in 2012-13.
Win-Loss Prediction: 45-37*
Note the asterisk above. That prediction is only realistic *if Andrew Bogut is healthy enough to play at least 60 games. If he misses significant time, forget it.
The Dubs won just 23 games during the abbreviated 2011-12 season, so 45 wins is an exceptionally optimistic figure. But hey, the stars seem to be aligning, and the Warriors are talking and acting like a winning franchise. So why not expect a record befitting one?
The Western Conference is as stacked as ever, with at least six teams being virtual locks for the postseason. If everything breaks right on the health front and the Dubs’ new defensive mentality ends up being more than just talk, 45 wins is doable.
How 2012-13 Season Ends
Coach Mark Jackson’s not taking the “playoff guarantee” bait this time around. After foolishly proclaiming the Warriors were a playoff team when he took the job last year, and then ridiculously sticking to his guns well into the Dubs’ rapidly deteriorating 2011-12 campaign, it appears Jackson has learned to keep his mouth shut.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t predict the Warriors will make the playoffs.
At a projected 45-37, the Warriors ought to have enough victories to sneak into one of the two remaining playoff spots in the Western Conference. Again, the first six will almost certainly belong—in some order—to the Oklahoma City Thunder, L.A. Lakers, L.A. Clippers, Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies.
From a perspective of unadulterated optimism, the Warriors have a real shot at making the postseason for the first time since the “We Believe” season of 2007. Of course, tempering that optimism is the reality that the seventh or eighth seed likely means a quick first round exit at the hands of either the Lakers or Thunder. One thing at a time, though.
Points Per Game Leader: Stephen Curry—20.7 PPG
In Curry’s second season, he averaged a career-high 18.6 points per game in just 33.6 minutes. If his minutes creep into the high 30s this year, he should pretty easily eclipse the 20-point barrier.
One thing to note, though, is that the Warriors won’t play at the same high pace they have in recent years, which means there will be fewer offensive possessions to inflate scoring totals. In a higher-octane offense, Curry could easily put up a scoring average in the mid-20s.
Regardless of pace, Curry will again be one of the league’s most efficient scorers. His season average will simply be a result of how many opportunities he gets.
Klay Thompson should nip at Curry’s heels with a scoring average that could also be right around 20 per game.
Assists Per Game Leader: Stephen Curry—7.1 APG
Curry projects to log another career high in the distribution department. Though he’s never averaged better than six assists per game, the absence of the ball-dominating Monta Ellis and the improved scoring options around him make it somewhat likely that Curry puts together a handful of double-digit assist games.
Because Curry is such a devastating shooter, there’s a good chance he also plays off the ball fairly often this year. That will allow him to benefit from the increased defensive attention paid to Lee and Bogut down low, freeing him up for plenty of open jumpers.
Curry’s not a true point guard, but he’ll have the ball a fair amount and is a pretty clever passer. That should be enough to earn him the team assist lead quite comfortably.
Rebounds Per Game Leader: David Lee—10.2
Lee’s career rebounding average is below 10 per game, but that’s only because he came off the bench in his first three seasons in New York. That limited his minutes and kept his rebound totals down. But when measured on a per-36-minutes-played basis, Lee has averaged an excellent 10.9 boards for his career.
With a capable backup in Carl Landry, it doesn’t seem likely Lee will see much more than 36 minutes per game this season, but he should still get enough floor time to crack double figures in the rebounding department.
Andrew Bogut, whose career rebounding average is right in line with Lee’s (9.3 per game, 10.3 per 36 minutes) will gobble up a few of Lee’s boards, but nobody who watched Lee rebound all by himself last season will be upset about that.
How Drastically Can Andrew Bogut Change the Warriors’ Culture?
We’ll end as we began, by noting that Joe Lacob and the Warriors’ new ownership group have each made a concerted effort to treat their investment like a top-tier franchise. In just one season, the Warriors have morphed from a perennial doormat into a team that has very real expectations of success. There has been a notable top-down culture change.
But now that change has to take place on the court, and one man is tasked with making it happen.
Andrew Bogut has been tabbed as the Warriors’ savior. He’s the guy who is supposed to single-handedly turn the Dubs into a respectable, defensively principled unit. If he is healthy, there’s no doubt he can do it. Here’s what John Hollinger has to say about Bogut’s potentially transformative effect (subscription required):
There's an impression out there that Bogut is a good defensive player, so I just want to clarify: He's not good. He's a freaking monster. Let's sample Bogut's brief 2011-12 season: Synergy ranked him among the elite centers, opposing centers had a 13.2 PER against him, according to 82games.om, and the Bucks gave up 9.9 points per 100 possessions less with him the court. This isn't a small-sample thing; Bogut's numbers look like this every year.
That’s high praise, but there are even more numbers that show just how big an impact Bogut can have on a team.
Over his last four seasons in Milwaukee, when Bogut was on the floor, the Bucks' defensive efficiency was the best in the NBA three times and third-best once. When he wasn't on the floor, their defensive efficiency fell apart, ranking 24th, 17th, 7th and 26th. Check out the chart of those ratings here.
So, if the most significant storyline this year is whether Bogut can change the Warriors’ culture enough to make them a playoff team, the numbers sure make it look like the answer is a resounding “yes.”