5 New Year's Resolutions for the Golden State Warriors
To say that the Golden State Warriors have exceeded expectations thus far would be a severe understatement. If you would have told anyone with even a sliver of NBA knowledge that the Warriors would be sitting at 19-10 after 29 games and Andrew Bogut had played a grand total of 72 minutes and 48 seconds, they may have unleashed a laugh so degrading that it would take several years of therapy to recover.
Fueled by an improved defense and commitment to rebounding, Golden State is starting to make noise not only in the Bay Area, but all around the league. However, as good as they have been, there is still much room left for improvement moving forward if they hope to be a playoff team.
With most of us eyeing 2013 and starting to come up with a New Year's resolution or two that we probably won't keep, let's do the same for Mark Jackson and his troops (but let's hope they actually keep these).
Cut Down Curry and Lee's Minutes
David Lee and Stephen Curry are two of the main reasons for the Warriors' success in the early season. Lee can be counted on for a double-double just as much as In N Out, and Curry has stayed healthy all season (showing why the Warriors were willing to give him a hefty pay raise despite the troublesome ankle issues). But in order to display all of that, both players have had to endure a lot of court time.
Curry and Lee are second and third respectively in minutes played this season (trailing only the Black Mamba himself, Kobe Bryant). For a team who is supposedly deeper than year's past, running your key guys out there for extended periods of time this early in the season can't be good for them or the team long term.
I understand that Mark Jackson is simply putting his best players out on the court in order to maximize his chances of winning, but with a little bit more than 50 games left in the season, Jackson needs to start thinking about the consequences of overworking his two best players.
Limit the Turnovers
I've attended most of Mark Jackson's post-game press conferences at the Oracle Arena, and whether the Warriors win or lose, Jackson always seems to harp on the fact that his team turns the ball over too much.
Golden State currently sits at 17th in the league in turnovers at 15.1 per game. While it quite certainly isn't the worst in the NBA, the Warriors simply aren't talented enough to overcome the amount of turnovers they give up.
The first thing you learn about basketball is that you're supposed to put the orange sphere into the hoop. The next? Don't give the ball to the other team. It's a fairly simple concept but one that needs to be actively implemented as soon as possible.
Don't Fall Too in Love with the Jump Shot
Some of the Warriors' 19 wins have been by margins that have been a little too close for comfort. The reason being that when the Warriors get up on a team, they tend to get lazy and fall in love with shooting jumpers.
They have one of the best shooting backcourts in the NBA (although the numbers would tell you otherwise) and other very capable shooters, but when those jumpers stop falling, that's when teams start to claw their way back into games. This trait was a big one for the Warriors of old, which of course led to several one-way tickets to Losing Town.
When the Warriors are playing their best offensive basketball, they do so with crisp ball movement and by not settling for just any shot. They need to maintain this mindset for every game and every possession no matter what the circumstances if they want to truly be one of the great teams in the NBA.
Actually Use Kent Bazemore
I'm not saying throw the undrafted rookie out there for Draymond Green-type minutes, but the Warriors need to see what they have in Kent Bazemore, at least defensively.
While playing at Old Dominion, Bazemore took home two Defensive Player of the Year honors in the Colonial Athletic Association. With a wingspan of nearly 6'11", his length coupled with his defensive ability could be a valuable asset moving forward. He could be used in short spurts throughout games, sending different looks at the opposing team's best player.
Although Bazemore is benefiting from playing time with the Warriors' D-League affiliate down in Santa Cruz, the team really won't know what they have from him until he sees meaningful NBA minutes.
Make the Playoffs
This may seem like an obvious resolution, but for the first time since the Baron Davis era, this may actually be an achievable goal. The hot start to this season will be completely forgotten if the Warriors find a way to fizzle down the stretch and let a playoff berth slip through their fingers.
Not a lot of people took this team seriously when the season started (and rightfully so, given their tortured history) but they have since shown that they are not the same team who could easily be walked all over.
The Warriors are currently in a good place in the Western Conference, but actually clinching a playoff spot will be no easy task. If they play with the same spirit and energy that they have been for the first few months of the season, they very well may bring back playoff basketball to a fanbase that so desperately needs it.