There aren't many more superlatives left to describe the current Golden State Warriors season. And we aren't even halfway through what appears to be a playoff-bound regular-season run.
However, this team isn't like the "We Believe" team of 2007, or even the team the year after in which they missed the playoffs despite winning 48 games. The core of the team—Stephen Curry, David Lee, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes—are locked into the foreseeable future, and it's easy to see this success sustain itself for the long haul.
With Curry and Lee on the verge of All-Star berths, a series win over the Los Angeles Clippers, a 6-1 road trip, Bogut's impending return and Mark Jackson's continued positive growth as a head coach, the Bay Area is looking up (and not just because of the San Francisco 49ers).
With all that good news being said, there are players who can play better during the second half of the season. With any team, especially a young team, there needs to be a consistent growth from players up and down the roster for the team to keep succeeding in terms of wins, playoff appearances and, ultimately, championships. For teams like the Boston Celtics, this may allude to something like chemistry because, let's be honest, there isn't any more room for growth from Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
With the current Warriors team, most, if not all, the players can get better simply by playing more and reaching their potential. It is these players whom we try to figure out what they can do to reach that potential and the postseason.
The 6'8" freshman out of North Carolina starts for the Dubs but only averages 25.4 minutes per game. The reason? Barnes has shot decently from distance (38.1 percent) and provides solid defense on a team without very much one-on-one stoppers, so the answer isn't there.
Simply put, Mark Jackson is much more comfortable playing Jarrett Jack in late-game situations and likes keeping him in to handle the ball. With Curry and Thompson both excellent shooters and always running through screens, Jack is an excellent fit in that lineup.
However, once games start to blend together late in the season, the Warriors will need Barnes to display his athleticism on offense—on a team devoid of such. His recent three-point shooting success, plus and expanding post game, will allow the Warriors another presence if they play him with the second unit.
His aggression, or "killer instinct," will need to pick up if the Warriors want to keep winning during the stretch run. Too often, Barnes comes out in the first quarter shooting only to disappear the rest of the game.
He has all the tools and raw talent. It'll be up to him to enforce his will upon the league. With Richard Jefferson somehow waking up from his hibernation and actually playing well the past couple games, it would behoove Barnes to play much more aggressively.
For all of Klay's known great shooting touch and great size as a 2-guard, his play hasn't reflected as well on the team. When Klay is on the court, the offense is neutral, and the team gives up 2.6 points more per 48 minutes, according to 82games.com.
His defense has gotten better in the past couple games, playing solid defense on Tony Parker, and he seems to be Jackson's go-to man as the key defender on opposing teams' best players. His three-point shooting is also a solid 38.7 percent. So, what is the reason for his struggles?
It is all about decision making. The mental side of Thompson's game isn't totally there yet, as he has stepped out of bounds on drives (a la Mickael Pietrus) multiple times in the past couple weeks. His two turnovers a game is exacerbated when noticing his 2.6 assists per game. His off-the-dribble game is coming along better, as he is taking the ball to the basket more, to drive and to shoot, but he needs to be more consistent in order to help the offense.
His propensity to shoot almost anything at any moment in time has led to his dismal 40.7 percent shooting. Too often he has shot the ball straight off an offensive rebound without waiting to set things back up. This is good when it goes in, but it often has led to more transition opportunities for the opposing team.
Unlike Barnes, Klay may need to tailor his aggression a bit for the sake of efficiency.
Like Jefferson, just when people were beginning to lose a little hope (a ton in Jefferson's case), he comes back to play three straight solid games. His defense is getting better and better as his instincts and quickness allow him to be able to stay in front of defenders and disrupt passing lanes.
But, as evidenced here, it is his shooting touch that has caused a bit of a damper to his otherwise successful early NBA career. It isn't the bad shooting so much as the way he is missing his shots: banging off the side of the rim, off the backboard, layup misses and even air balls.
It wasn't until recently that he made a three and a couple jumpers, and seemed to shoot it with confidence. As stated earlier, the Dubs don't have many good one-on-one defenders besides Barnes and perhaps Curry(surprise!)/Ezeli, so Green is an integral part to the team-defense approach that Mark Jackson preaches.
Defense comes first for Green, but if he can exhibit the shooting touch and passing instincts he had as the captain and Big Ten Player of the Year at Michigan State, the Warriors can unlock another aspect of their promising core.
Simple stuff, really. That is how Bogut can step up. It was posted recently that Bogut was running sprints before the game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
His presence alone will invigorate the center position in a way Dubs fans haven't seen since...Adonal Foyle. And that's just defense. The last time someone had his blend of offense and defense on the Warriors? Robert Parish, anyone?
How many wins does a Bogut return around the All-Star break account for?
Let's take a look at one area where Bogut can help, more specifically, a play. Often used in crunch time, or at any time, for that matter, the play the Warriors love to run include a five-some of Curry, Klay, Lee, Landry and Jack. In that play, they run Curry and Klay in figure-eight circles around screens set by Landry and Lee on opposite sides of the wing.
If that play breaks down, they then immediately set a pick-and-roll with either Landry or Lee. That usually leads to a Jack iso-jumper (been successful this season, but for how long?) or Landry post-up on a smaller player.
The play in itself is extremely effective and hard to stop, as Curry and Klay are nearly automatic as shooters, and Lee is lethal as a pick-and-pop shooter as well. But let's toss in Bogut in Landry's position and orchestrate the play again.
Not only is Bogut a better screener, due to his size and knowledge of angles (Landry isn't a slouch himself), but he is also a far superior passer on the low block (2.3 assists per game to Landry's 0.8). A true pass-first big man, Bogut's ability to see the other players diversifies the offense in a way that Landry's tendency to become a black hole simply can't mimic.
Now, not only do defenders have to worry about Curry and Klay running off screens, but they also need to recover correctly or else Bogut finds either one for an open jumper. Let's also not forget that Bogut owns a decent post-up game himself as well.
Oh, and I forgot to mention how Bogut's defense not only surpasses Landry's but would help cover for Lee's deficiencies.