What We Learned About the Golden State Warriors During Season's First Half

Scott Burns@Follow @ScottInTheBayCorrespondent IIIJanuary 21, 2013

What We Learned About the Golden State Warriors During Season's First Half

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    The Golden State Warriors used all of the excitement surrounding the upgraded team and put it to good use in the first half.  Not only are the Warriors in playoff position, they are beating the teams they should and giving the top teams a run for their money.

    The Warriors have survived injuries with Andrew Bogut still waiting to return after microfracture surgery and Brandon Rush being lost for the year with an ACL tear.  Just recently, Stephen Curry missed two games with his right ankle and David Lee missed his first with a swollen ankle.

    The depth has shown up and provided the necessary reinforcements for this team, along with all three draftees.  The fan base is happy as Oracle Arena is sold out almost every night.

    Even with all of the excitement, there are some things we have learned along the way about this new and improved Warriors squad.

    Stats used in this article were accurate as of January 20, 2013.

The Warriors Are Legitimate Playoff Contenders

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    First things first, the Warriors are right in the middle of the playoff chase.  The team currently sits in fifth place in the Western Conference and it doesn’t look like they will be chased down.

    Warriors’ management and Coach Mark Jackson have instilled a confidence in this team that they have not had in years past.  They actually expect to win games, including those played against the top NBA teams.

    The Warriors are winning the games against underachieving opponents, too.  In years past, they would usually play down to the competition and end up on the losing side. 

    The team is going through a rough stretch in the schedule where they recently faced the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs with the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder on the way.

    The Warriors have a very talented perimeter with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes with Jarrett Jack ready at a moment's notice.  They also have David Lee, Festus Ezeli and Carl Landry controlling the front court.

    If the Warriors can get through the next two and the following four-game road trip without losing any ground, the schedule looks favorable the rest of the way.  The team wants a playoff spot and if they could get a matchup that they like, it will be even better.

Mark Jackson Can Coach

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    Mark Jackson can flat out coach. Period.  The former point guard and analyst-turned-coach is in the running for NBA coach of the year.

    Major questions arose with the lack of the success after his rookie campaign, but most of the problems were associated with a team that had major injuries and traded away its biggest playmaker.  After that, the team went on a losing spurt in order to qualify for the lottery that led to the pick of Harrison Barnes.

    One of Jackson’s first goals last season was to focus on defense.  The Warriors defense has ranked at the bottom or near the bottom in points allowed since the 2006-07 season.  This season, the team is currently ranked 22nd in the league.

    The team is still learning and improving as it finds ways to fill the holes and prevent teams from getting the easy shots.  The culture is changing, though.

    The biggest upgrade has been on the rebounding side, where the team went from 28th in the league to being fourth in the league.

    He has also instilled a culture of winning.  The team doesn’t wilt when it comes to crunch time as the Dubs make the necessary stops or the key basket to win games.

The Warriors Are Deep

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    The hiring of GM Bob Myers was a great move by the Warriors and to have the great Jerry West to help him is even more exciting.  They have created a team that can compete with most first and second teams.

    The two veteran moves have worked out great with the acquisition of Jarrett Jack and the free agent signing of Carl Landry.  Jack is the steady influence who is called upon to hit key shots and Landry is instant offense and somebody who can work his way to the free throw line.

    They also have rookie Draymond Green to go with proven veteran Richard Jefferson to fill in the forward positions.  The lesser featured players such as Charles Jenkins, Andris Biedrins, Jeremy Tyler and Kent Bazemore are even pushing for more time.

    The total depth of the roster and the solid bench keep the Warriors running at an even level and prohibit the lulls that cause teams to come back from bigger deficits and make huge runs. 

    The Warriors should be competitive in every game.

The Warriors Can Survive Without Andrew Bogut

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    The Warriors were very excited to see the product of last year’s monster trade with the Milwaukee Bucks that sent Monta Ellis packing and landed Andrew Bogut.

    Bogut gave it the old college try and played in four of the first five games of the season.  He played well, but he had to return to the bench and ice his ankle during the games.   

    It turned out his surgery was more complex than originally thought, but Festus Ezeli has stepped up and really provided the necessary physicality.  He hasn’t been an offensive force until the game against the New Orleans Hornets where he scored a season-high 13 points.  His presence has helped the defense as he has put up a line of 2.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG and 1.1 BPG.

    David Lee and Carl Landry have had great seasons so far and David Lee should be an All-Star.  When they play small ball, the two power forwards can co-exist and keep opponents’ centers at bay.

    Bogut’s fire and defensive ability have been missed, but Coach Jackson has been right there instilling the belief and teachings to make sure they make the necessary stops.

    When Bogut does return, there will be a small transition period for the front court to understand their new roles, but that should be quick and the Warriors should be an even stronger team.

The Warriors Future Is Very Bright

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    The Golden State brand is significantly moving away from the laughable losers to a young, competitive franchise that has most of the pieces in place.  When Bogut returns, we can see how dangerous this young team can be.

    Until that point, the Warriors are struggling through injuries and every player is getting a lot more action.  Once Lee and Curry fully return from injury, they will be at the level that put them 10 games over .500.

    The biggest advantage of this stretch is that the young players are getting a lot of playing time and will be ready when their name is called in the future.  That experience will help during playoff time as the Warriors can use the entire squad to create mismatches.

    This is a very young team with most of the players in the beginning of their career or just entering their prime. 

    The only two players that the Dubs are excited to see their contracts run out are Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson.  Both of those contracts will end after the 2013-14 season and will give the Dubs about $20 million to spend on current and future players.

    This team will continue to grow and should turn into a perennial playoff threat.  Teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers are getting old and will need time to reload.  If the Warriors can keep improving their roster annually, they could compete with the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder.