In what has been a whirlwind three weeks, the Golden State Warriors have transformed their roster and identity as they approach the 2013 season. No longer NBA bottom-dwellers, expectations are sky-high for head coach Mark Jackson and company.
This is quite the turnaround for a team that has been mired in mediocrity for the past two decades. With that in mind, what else have we learned from Golden State over the past month as they continue their quest to the top?
Bazemore is more than a Towel-Waver
Through his first three games of the NBA’s summer league, Golden State’s Kent Bazemore put up numbers that don’t exactly reflect his diminutive role on the team last season.
Check this stat line: 15.7 PPG, 6 REB, 3.7 AST, 1.3 STL, 45% shooting.
Bazemore’s strengths are his slashing ability and defensive effort, so the points and steals come as no surprise. But this string of all-around performances show that the Old Dominion product is starting to develop a complete game that may force its way onto the court for the Warriors.
The play shown to the right is a perfect example. Bazemore shows off his patience and passing ability by finding Dwayne Jones off the pick-and-roll.
He’s also improved his already respectable defensive play. Tasked with guarding top-seven 2013 draft picks Otto Porter and Ben McLemore, he more than held his own, holding Porter to just seven points on 23 percent shooting and McLemore to 14 points on 30 percent shooting.
If Bazemore maintains these numbers, he’ll be remembered for his on-court play just as much as his sideline celebrations, adding yet another dimension to this Warriors squad.
Golden State is Officially a Desirable Destination for Players
Although Dwight Howard was impressed by Golden State’s pitch to join the team, he ultimately chose Houston as his destination for next season.
Such a decision had become all too familiar for the Warriors, who hadn’t reeled in a high-profile free agent in decades (unless you consider Corey Maggette or Dorell Wright high-profile. And you don’t). Here, Golden State had dumped massive contracts to acquire the big man, but ultimately failed.
However, the fact that Howard even considered the Warriors so late in the game is a testament to the new ownership, Jerry West, Myers, head coach Mark Jackson and the rest of the club. It put their name on the map for future free-agent classes (I’m looking at you, class of 2014).
Then, in a surprising turnaround, the Warriors pulled Andre Iguodala away from a larger contract offer in Sacramento as well as contender opportunities in Denver and Dallas. Iguodala instantly became the best free agent Golden State ever signed.
According to a report from DOTCOM Blog, general manager Bob Myers called the signing a “transformative moment” for the organization. He couldn’t have been more right, not only upon the signing, but just before and after it as well.
Not only was a star picking the Warriors on their own, Iguodala's decision also allowed the Warriors to lure several other key pieces to follow him to the Bay Area. Mareese Speights, Toney Douglas and Jermaine O’Neal will all play integral reserve roles next year and Golden State arguably got them all for cheaper than most would think.
If there wasn’t a way to successfully build a struggling franchise before, Golden State may have found a blueprint for one now.
The Deepest Team in the League
The Warriors are at least two players deep at every position. Don’t believe it? Let’s do a quick recap of the new Warriors members, courtesy of the Bay Area News Group’s Marcus Thompson:
Thompson didn't mention that Jermaine O’Neal, a six-time NBA All-Star, and Toney Douglas are planning on joining the Warriors’ roster.
In addition to having one of the best starting lineups in the league, Golden State will automatically get a sixth-man-of-the-year candidate in whomever they pick between Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. Both can score, defend and bring energy.
O’Neal can respectably hold down the backup center position while Festus Ezeli makes a full recovery. He had a bounce-back year in Phoenix last season, briefly putting questions about his durability on hold and showing flashes of his former self.
Douglas may not be a creator at the point guard spot, but with Barnes or Klay in the second unit, he won’t have to be. A reliable three-point shooter (39 percent last year) and an even more reliable on-ball defender, Douglas has a defined role the Warriors needed.
Add those two to Speights, who’s as close to a Carl Landry replacement as you can get, Green, a proven player from last year’s playoffs, who plays several positions, and the aforementioned Bazemore, and you, without a doubt, have the deepest roster in the NBA.
The Power Forward position is Their “Weakness”
With such a talented and deep roster, it can be hard-pressed to find a weakness on the Warriors at first.
Their offense is nothing short of high-octane. They now have one of the best perimeter defenders in Iguodala and one of the best post D-men in Andrew Bogut. As previously mentioned, depth isn’t a big issue any more.
If opposing teams want to beat Golden State, they better plan on getting a power forward who can score.
On paper, the team’s weakest link is David Lee’s defense. Take a look at this clip. Not even the poor quality of the video can hide his “Golden Gate” style of D.
Don’t expect Lee’s defensive intensity to pick up any time soon either, as the veteran’s role is defined by his offensive contributions. And while Speights is an upgrade defensively, he won’t be getting the same minutes as the opposing power forwards you’d want him to guard.
That being said, it probably is a weakness the Warriors can deal with based upon the way they’ve been managing the franchise this summer. The 2013 offseason has allowed Golden State to emerge as Western Conference contenders along with the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets.