Post-All-Star Break Predictions for the Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors roll, slide and crawl their way into the All-Star Break on the heels of a five-game losing streak. Any other year and that would be a sign of distress and panic for the fan-base and the general manager. With the trade deadline coming up in less than a week, that usually means fire-sale or salary cap relief trades.
But this isn't like those other years. With 52 games now gone and the Warriors heading into the second half, they are in excellent position to earn their first postseason berth in four years. But enough of the background information, no matter how surprising.
There is no quantifiable segment of a season, hence arbitrary endpoints and contrived narratives, but the All-Star Break could not have come at a better time for a team running on fumes and limping towards the first half finish line. With 30 games left on the schedule, the jousting in the playoff seedings become much more important for a team with elevated expectations.
Because they are 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies and two games behind the surging Denver Nuggets, the Warriors may be fighting for the 6-8 seeds in the Western Conference. Facing the potential 1-2 seeds of the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder is as ideal as getting in the path of LeBron James.
Predictions are usually wrong but with a bit of statistical forecasting, we can qualitatively make our best educated guess on the most significant seven predictions for the Warriors in the second half.
No Team-Changing Trades
According to general manager Bob Myers, the team isn't looking to make any drastic moves because he wants to assess the team at full strength.
Usually this is just GM-speak because the team doesn't want to give stuff away and hand leverage out to other teams. Want to wonder why the Toronto Raptors are having so much trouble trading away Andrea Bargnani?
But in this instance, the team's success coupled with their impending sign of good health (except Brandon Rush), it isn't hard to believe. Even though the Warriors are a little bit above the luxury tax, don't look for them to make a Josh Smith-type deal before the trade deadline.
With Andrew Bogut still trying to get to 100 percent, that's as good of a trade anyone can ask for.
The More Minutes for Harrison Barnes, the Better
I've been one of Harrison Barnes' biggest supporters this season, and it's hard to argue against his limitless potential on both sides of the ball.
Unfortunately, Jarrett Jack's excellent play off the bench has pushed Mark Jackson to play the five-player lineup of Jack/Stephen Curry/Klay Thompson/Carl Landry/David Lee/ Center. As a matter of fact, that's been Jackson's go-to lineup in the closing minutes of many games.
Even with that being said, Barnes has played an extremely low 25.8 minutes per game, 11 more than that of Draymond Green.
Barnes' numbers aren't great percentage-wise, but it's solid enough to warrant more time as the slasher/mismatch nightmare the Warriors so crave on offense. The problem appears to lie in the aggressiveness in Barnes' game. Even in the Rookie/Sophomore game in the All-Star festivities over the weekend, Barnes appeared hesitant to provide some kind of stamp on the game.
He has all the proverbial tools in the toolbox, but his three-point shooting (36.6 percent) and Bogut's presence as a passer on the offensive end should up his production on a per-minute basis.
Klay Thompson's numbers have been quite horrid in the fourth quarter and with the Dubs needing to provide more defense than they've had the past couple weeks, expect more Barnes the rest of the season, for the better.
More Carl Landry, Less David Lee
David Lee was the first All-Star for the Warriors since Latrell Sprewell.
A notoriously terrible player on the defensive end, David Lee had been a net zero on the defensive end, according to 82games. Even with those improvements, his shooting touch and passing, Lee wore down near the end of the first half of games and was visibly tired at the tail-end of contests.
And with that, we bring in Carl Landry, who has seen his playing time cut down with Bogut's return. Even though Landry has been a part of the crunch-time lineups—in two of the top three lineups in minutes played—for Jackson down the stretch, it's obvious the team could use more Bogut on the defensive end.
But with Lee's minutes becoming a factor, Landry will have to play more down the stretch to save Lee for the playoffs (barring a total collapse).
Landry is a very different player from Lee, in the same way that Walter White and Jesse Pinkman are different people. But Bogut would function as the drugs for the two players. Be it Landry or Lee, they should mesh quite well as long as Bogut can man the center position.
Lee can't finish the way Landry can, but Landry can't pass and shoot the way Lee can. With Bogut working as the constant between the two, look for more Landry (24.8 minutes) and less Lee (37.2 minutes).
And it won't matter as much as one would think.
Top 10 Defense Statistically
The excellent start was partly because of the Warriors' revamped pick-and-roll defense that calls for extreme hedges, which led to poor three-point shooting from other teams, but it's been a three-fest the past several weeks. Even if it appears that other teams have figured out the Warriors pack it into the paint, the addition of Andrew Bogut should be able to counteract the regression, and then some.
Because of Bogut's ability to lay back and protect the paint, it allows Lee a little more leeway (pun intended) on the boards and even on cuts. Health is key, and with Bogut coming off his restrictions limit, the defense should improve as he gets acclimated.
Even better timing is the Warriors' stretch of home games at the end of the season, with 16 of their last 22 games coming at home.
Look for the defense to keep improving behind Bogut and for them to capitalize on the late season stretch to catapult themselves into a top ten defense.
Curry Three Better Than Curry Two
Logic states that a player should shoot the ball better when said player is closer to the basket. This hasn't been the case for Curry. Oddly enough, he is shooting better off the dribble from distance than driving directly to the basket.
Stephen Curry is shooting an otherworldly 44.7 on threes this season.
Conversely, he is shooting 43.4 percent on shots from all over the court.
What should be attributed to this anomaly? Perhaps it's Curry's ankles that hinders his ability to forcefully shoot without thinking about them falling apart. Or maybe he's just forcing more shots because of the increased commentary that the Dubs need more slashers to open up the offense.
Whatever it is, don't look for Curry to suddenly make more contested layups and floaters more than halfway through the season.
But weirdly enough, the Warriors will probably want this trend to keep going because that would mean Curry will keep shooting well from behind the arc, opening up more space for an excellent high-low post combo of Bogut and Lee.
Oracle Arena: Best Arena in Basketball
This isn't as much of a prediction as it is an assessment that has been kept under wraps for a couple years. The less national publicity the Warriors get—about a million times less than Kim Kardashian's skirt on a Thursday afternoon—the less people know about the great fan atmosphere by the Bay.
What's more surprising is the Warriors' attendance the past few seasons. Their record in that timespan? 114-198. That's a cool winning percentage of .365. And they have somehow ranked fourth, 11th, 10th, and 10th in attendance from 2009-12, respectively.
That's a fan base that will stop at nothing to watch their team, through the tough times and the good times. And even though they will boo their owners during a ceremony for the great Chris Mullin, there is no disputing the heart and soul of the Warriors fans.
Look for Oakland to re-establish themselves as one of the best home-court advantages in the NBA.
Seven-Game First Round Series
If the playoffs started today, the Dubs will play the Los Angeles Clippers for a hotly contested first-round series.
So far this season, the Warriors have beaten them three out of four games, including a game where Mark Jackson didn't take so kindly to the Clippers' showboating at the end of a blowout. On the other side of the spectrum, the Clippers weren't happy at the Warriors bench—Bazemoring—making fun of Blake Griffin.
The Warriors match up well against the Clippers because they can run up-and-down with them and provide enough defense to win a couple games. With several home games at Oracle Arena, the Warriors should extend this to seven games.
Granted, regular season matchups don't really account for anything, as games get ramped up another level in the playoffs, but the Warriors match up much better against CP3 and Blake Griffin than Tim Duncan/Tony Parker, Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook, and Marc Gasol/Zach Randolph.
If these two teams face off, look for the Warriors to keep this entertaining all the way to the seventh game, and ultimately falling to this guy.