It’s going to happen.
While they try to win as many games as possible, if they can improve their defense and integrate Andrew Bogut into the lineup before the start of the postseason, there is no telling how far they can go.
The worrisome part, their defense is still struggling. The quick fix to that would be a healthy Bogut, but the trouble with that is, they appear a lot better without him on the floor.
The Warriors are a very good team without No. 12 (that is his number, right?), but if they want to be a great team, they need him healthy.
Golden State hasn’t played nearly the same defensive effort that it showed in the first couple months of the season. The defense that the Warriors started out with led them to a 6-1 road trip that included a win against the defending champions Miami Heat.
A team that once saw itself in the top half in the NBA in points allowed is now ranked 25th with 101.4 points allowed per game. Even worse, Golden State gave up 108 points to the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers! That’s almost two games worth of points for them.
Blame Bogut on the disruption of chemistry if you want, but when the Warriors were the talk of the NBA, during a 20-game stretch over the first three months of the season, they had a plus-86-point differential.
Over their last 17 games, the Warriors are minus-70 in point differential.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where their defense has faltered. But whatever has happened, this kind of performance is completely unacceptable for a playoff-bound team.
This is an obvious lapse in defensive judgment, execution and whatever else you want to call it. That’s why it is vital to get a leader on the defensive side of the ball. Right now, there isn’t one, but that’s why Bogut is on the team.
Time will only tell when he gets back to playing, but despite their record with Bogut, they will never be the best they can be if he doesn’t play. When he does return, the mission for the Warriors is to figure out how to best use him.
With Andrew on the floor, the Warriors offense hasn’t exactly clicked. That should be expected. With a seven-footer in the middle of everything who would like to see the ball, that changes things up a bit. It messed with their chemistry.
However, if he gets healthy in time, this group is good enough to make it work with him. Since Bogut’s 2013 return, the Warriors failed to score 100 points only once. The only time they didn’t was against the Memphis Grizzlies. And their defense makes the 93 points they scored against them feel like 110.
So the offense can work with Bogut in the lineup.
Finding the best role for him will be key. Whether it is in limited minutes, in a limited role or even by just being a better version of Andris Biedrins, whose 1.6 shot attempts per 36 minutes is the lowest since the merger, maybe they could just have him play as hard as he likes without shooting?
Getting any kind of production from him without disrupting what they have going on offense is the ideal situation when he comes back and till the playoffs start.
But when will that be?
The latest report, according to Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle, has Bogut coming back anywhere from two-six weeks.
Where does that leave the team?
In that same article, David Lee put it best: “The biggest thing for us is to make do with the guys who are available to play. We need to go out there and continue to put up great efforts. He's a big part of what we're doing moving forward, but I'm excited about the guys we've got playing right now."
Really, what else can they do?
If the Warriors can keep winning while they work Bogut into the lineup, whenever that is, it will help solve their biggest problem right now, the defense. But by now it should be realized that they can’t count solely on him coming back to fix everything. They were playing good defense without him, and they should be able to do it again.
As is, the Warriors are good enough to at least get into the postseason. However, they have the talent to set a goal even higher than that. They just need to fix the defense. A healthy Bogut may be the answer, but getting back to the defense they were playing earlier in the season, with or without him, should be goal No. 1.
As the final months of the season wear on, coach Mark Jackson needs to get this team playing solid defense while he handles Bogut and his never-ending injuries.
If he is able to do both and the Warriors perform like their talent suggests, not only will they make the playoffs, they will make for a tough out in any round. Not just in the first one.