Richard Jefferson and the Golden State Warriors took on the Los Angeles Lakers in their first preseason game Oct. 7.
Warriors fans have been waiting for Golden State to get back to the playoffs since their historic run in 2007 when they upset the No. 1 seed in the first round.
Since then, trades, moped accidents, coaching changes and new ownership all seem to have slowed the Warriors' progress as a playoff contender in the NBA.
But this season, the team’s roster is looking better than it has in years and the wait might just be over for fans looking for the W’s to make the playoffs.
Here are some of the players who will be key in getting them there.
Harrison Barnes in the Warriors' Oct. 7 preseason game against the Lakers.
Barnes is a rookie drafted out of UNC who’s competing with two other Warriors (Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson) for the starting small forward position.
In his two years at UNC, Barnes shot 43 percent from the field and averaged about 16 points and five rebounds per game.
He looked good in Summer League, averaging 16 points and five rebounds per game in five games. He also shot 57 percent from three-point range.
Whether he starts or comes off the bench (which is more likely), Barnes' scoring ability will be an important contribution to the team.
Jarrett Jack plays defense on Metta World Peace in Golden State's Oct. 7 preseason game vs. the Lakers.
Jack is a good illustration of how deep Golden State’s bench is this season.
Jack, who has been in the league for seven years, has proven himself to be a capable backup and leader.
With him on the bench, Mark Jackson won’t have to worry about resting Curry when he needs to and the Warriors can benefit from his scoring off the bench.
Richard Jefferson smiles in Warriors' preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Jefferson may not be the player he was for the Nets, but the 12-year veteran can still play.
He’s shot 40 percent or better from beyond the arc for the past three seasons.
Jefferson is also a good defensive player. He was known for his defense before being drafted out of Arizona (a long, long time ago), which may be more important than his shooting for this Warrior team looking to transition into a more defensive-minded squad.
Brandon Rush shoots in a February game against the Portland Trailblazers.
This season Brandon Rush is set to provide the Warriors scoring and defense. What more can you ask for?
Rush, who will be backing up starting 2-guard Klay Thompson, is a career 41 percent three-point shooter. He shot 45 percent from beyond the arc last season with the Warriors and averaged just under 10 PPG off the bench.
Rush is also one of Golden State’s best defenders. He’s one of the league leaders at the guard position in blocked shots. He averaged .9 a game last season and accounted for 29 percent of the team’s blocked shots.
Rush is yet another Warrior player who will play an important role off the bench this season.
Carl Landry plays in Golden State's Oct. preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Landry is a solid backup for starting power forward David Lee. Both players are shooting 53 percent for their careers.
Landry averaged 12.5 points and just above five rebounds per game last season with the Hornets.
His No. 1 duty will be to provide the Warriors with a presence inside. Landry is a physical player, a good rebounder and a good post-up scorer.
Andris Biedrins guards Kobe Bryant in the Warriors' January game against the Lakers.
Andris Biedrins has been criticized for not playing as well as he’s capable of for Golden State.
In the 2008-09 season, Biedrins averaged a double-double (11 PPG, 11 RPG) and after a series of injuries following the 2009 season, his production has slowed considerably. Last year, Biedrins played just 15 minutes per game, averaging under two points and four rebounds per game. You’d expect a little more from a player getting $9 million a year.
Biedrins was an integral part of the 2007 Warriors who shocked the Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs. That year he played 30 minutes a game, and averaged nine points and nine rebounds.
If Biedrins can finally get back to where he was three seasons ago and give the W’s their money’s worth, Golden State will be a better team with even more size and depth.
Klay Thompson dribbles in Golden State's February game against Portland.
Thompson is in his second year out of Washington State, where he averaged 20 PPG in his last two years.
The Warriors drafted Thompson mainly for that scoring ability. He struggled in his first few NBA games, but it didn’t take him long to become a big contributor off the bench.
Thompson ended the season averaging 12 PPG and shooting 41 percent from three-point range. And in the games following the Monta Ellis trade, he averaged just over 18 PPG.
And Thompson is just getting better. In his two Summer League games this offseason, Thompson scored 20.5 PPG and shot 71 percent from three-point range.
If he continues to score like he did in Summer League and at the end of last season, Thompson will be a major key in Golden State’s success this year.
David Lee shoots over Lakers' Earl Clark in an October preseason game.
Lee has been one of the Warriors' most valuable players since the team picked him up from the Knicks in the 2010 season. The W’s went 1-8 in the nine games he missed last season. His size, physicality under the basket and rebounding are all qualities the Warriors had been lacking before getting Lee.
He’s been the team’s primary rebounder with nine per game, and he averaged 20 PPG last season.
Lee played 37 MPG last year, but with capable backups like Carl Landry behind him at the power forward position, Lee can get more rest throughout the game without the team losing productivity. He also won’t have to worry as much about getting into foul trouble.
Stephen Curry chases the ball in Golden State's February game against Portland.
Stephen Curry is gearing up for his first season as Golden State’s leader.
Without having to share the point guard position with Monta Ellis, Curry can control games and focus more on distributing the ball.
But the main key for Curry and the Warriors this year is for their newly appointed leader to stay healthy.
Curry has injured his surgically repaired ankle numerous times over the past two years. Last season he only played in 26 games, sitting out for last two months of the shortened season.
If Curry stays healthy, and embraces his new role as the unquestioned leader, he can take the Warriors far.
Andrew Bogut in Milwaukee's April game against the Miami Heat.
Trading for Andrew Bogut last season was one of the biggest moves the Warriors have made since getting Baron Davis in 2004. Davis led the team to the playoffs in the 2006-07 season with 20 points and eight assists per game.
The Warriors are hoping center Andrew Bogut will do the same thing, but in a different way: with defense.
Bogut is one of the best (if not underrated) defensive players in the league. He’s been among NBA leaders in blocks (1.6 BPG career) since his third season with Milwaukee.
Bogut averaged double-digit rebounds for three straight years (2009-11) with the Bucks. That’s especially important for a Warrior team that was ranked dead last in rebounding last year, with a minus-6.6 per game differential.
But that’s not all. Bogut is also among league leaders in drawing offensive fouls. He drew .92 a game last season.
Bogut’s defense will make a world of difference for the Warriors, whose defense has been virtually non-existent for the past decade. If he can fully recover from his ankle injury and stay healthy all season, there’s no doubt Bogut can lead the W’s to the playoffs for the first time since Baron Davis did it.