Consider this scenario for the Golden State Warriors.
Before the NBA season started, if the Dubs knew, after 13 games, that they would get a combined 4.5 games out of Andrew Bogut and Brandon Rush, that Stephen Curry would be shooting 42 percent from the field and that it would like seem Klay Thompson had missed more shots than he attempted...would they would be ecstatic with a 7-6 record?
I’ll answer it for them.
Yes they would.
Despite all that, the Warriors even own a better record than the Los Angeles Lakers! Other than Bogut and the easy target of Andris Biedrins, there isn't much to complain about right now. They should be thrilled with where they stand in the Western Conference. But how much longer will they be satisfied playing close to .500 basketball?
Well, if after their seven-game, 11-day road trip ends on Dec. 15th, they are still close to .500 ball, they should be plenty satisfied and in great position to make a run at the playoffs—as long as Bogut comes back at full strength, whatever that is now.
The Warriors have done a terrific job holding their own since the Big Aussie has been out. A lot of the reason why is due the standout play of the younger guys on their team. Thanks to stellar drafting—an area that has improved dramatically since Jerry West came on board—the Dubs are able to contend while they wait for their big man to come back. Not just that, with keen moves this offseason, the Warriors have done a great overcoming the devastating injury to Rush, who was expected to be a key contributor this season.
Harrison Barnes has stepped up and played as well, if not better than anyone has expected. It’s just been 13 games, but it’s easy to see the Warriors should be set at small forward for as long as Barnes is on the team.
Festus Ezeli is not Bogut, but he is no Biedrins either. He has filled in nicely while they wait for No. 12 (That is his number right?) to return. He's been exactly what the Warriors have needed when they drafted him with the 30th overall pick.
Thompson, yet another recent outstanding draft pick, is one a main reason why the Warriors were able to trade for Bogut in the first place. However, he has not taken the step forward that many expected him to take.
He is currently shooting 35 percent from the field and just 32 percent from the three-point line—not the start anyone was looking for. Another discouraging sign is that he is only shooting 76 percent from the free-throw line. He's not getting there often, either. Hopefully, his breakout game against the Brooklyn Nets is the start of things to come.
As for the older guys, Curry and David Lee have stumbled out of the gate, but their games are trending upward. The stellar play of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry have masked the slow start of Curry and Lee, and, consequently, the Warriors have been able to play decent basketball.
The Warriors need all these guys, as well as the rest of the team to step up while they wait for Bogut to come back, and as they embark on a treacherous road trip that concludes in mid-December. A lot of these road games are against beatable teams, but as the Warriors have proven in the past, any game against a road team is not an easy one.
That’s why the Warriors will be just fine (as long as Bogut returns at full capacity) if they are clicking with a .500 record by Dec. 15th. From there, they play 11 out of their next 17 games at home, where they can really move up in the standings. With the NBA's current talent level, there are no easy games in the NBA this year, (unless they played the Washington Wizards every game) so home court becomes even more of an advantage.
Sure, it’s hard to get too excited about a .500 record seven weeks into the NBA season, but this is the Golden State Warriors we’re talking about. The key right now is to stay afloat while they wait for everyone to get on the same page.
Curry, Lee, Thompson, Barnes and Bogut haven’t played much basketball together, which is worrisome. But if they can hold it together while Bogut eases himself back into the lineup and continue to play at the same pace they are currently playing, the Warriors can easily put themselves into the playoff picture.
For now, they should be satisfied if they can can get past Dec. 15th with a .500 record. And hope that Bogut is back without restraint and that everyone else can stay injury free. They should be happy if they are in the middle of the pack of the Western Conference standings, as they prepare to surge above .500 basketball when their long road trip ends.
If after Feb. 15th, the Warriors are at still around .500, then they can start to point fingers.