Klay Thompson and Steph Curry look to dominate next season.
The Golden State Warriors have six starters to plug into the starting 5 next season, but the early predictions have Harrison Barnes taking over the sixth man role that Jarrett Jack provided last season. The free-agent acquisition of Andre Iguodala is causing the ripple, but the Warriors are a lot deeper team going into next season.
The regulars are back in place and hopefully each player will be a lot healthier. The last thing that Warriors’ fans want to hear is any story about potential injuries to Steph Curry or Andrew Bogut’s ankles or David Lee’s hip flexor.
Klay Thompson is the only returning starter to stay healthy, and he is finding success during the USA Basketball Men’s National Team mini-camp this summer. He is looking to build upon what he accomplished at last year’s camp and during the season.
The new starting five are set, so let’s take a look at what they might accomplish next season.
Steph Curry broke through to the national scene with his lights-out performances in last season’s NBA Playoffs. The third quarter was his usual arena for opponent punishment as he lit up the scoreboard like a pinball machine.
Curry is the captain of this Warrior’s ship, and he now has a new and more experienced weapon on his side with Andre Iguodala. That addition, along with the seasoning of the younger veterans, should lead to higher assist totals and more spacing for Curry to execute his moves.
He is currently on the edge of becoming a top-5 NBA player, and he needs to prove his worth again this upcoming season to show the doubters that he is in fact a legitimate star. He also wants an All-Star appearance that coach Mark Jackson felt was unjustly taken away from him last season.
Curry does have some room for improvement as he occasionally turns the ball over foolishly, and he averaged 3.1 turnovers per game last season. He tied for 39th place amongst point guards in that category.
He needs to play better on the defensive side of the ball. He also has to use his body to work his way to the foul line in order to earn more free-throw attempts.
Ankle injuries have always been a key problem for Steph and have slowed him down intermittently during his whole career. He has to strengthen both of his ankles, so that he is not taken off the floor for any significant time.
I see him earning the All-Star invite, getting the Warriors to the playoffs for at least a second-round appearance and earning a few MVP votes. He will also mesh well with this new unit and make the Dubs a household name around the Association.
2013-14 Stat Line Prediction: 25.2 PPG, 7.3 APG and 4.3 RPG
Klay Thompson took one step closer to stardom when he scored 34 points and corralled 14 boards in the Game 2 playoff victory versus the San Antonio Spurs. The clouds had opened up with that performance, but he disappeared for most of the remainder of the series.
Thompson will improve upon last year’s season because he has another year of experience with standout guard Stephen Curry. He will use his beautiful stroke to hit the open jumpers and three-point shots, but he will also occasionally drive to the basket.
One of the most glaring weaknesses of Thompson is the “Klay-ups," where he can’t finish easy layups at the rim. He also needs to become a better ball-handler so that he can be in control as he uses the dribble-drive option.
He has a large, lanky frame that could easily draw more foul shots if he tried. Compared to other shooting guards, he was last in the league in free-throw attempts.
He needs to start faking the jumper and put the ball on the floor in order to draw the foul. He is a very solid shooter from the charity stripe, where he hits an average of 84.1 percent of his attempts.
Klay was invited back to the USA Basketball Men’s National Team mini-camp this summer, and he can improve upon those skills by working against elite talent.
I predict that Thompson will continue to be a lock-down defender and benefit from the help of Iggy by his side. He will gradually improve his ball handling skills and make himself a more versatile weapon that Curry and company can depend on consistently.
2013-14 Stat Line Prediction: 17.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 2.4 APG
Andre Iguodala is the prized free-agent acquisition that the Warriors finally put to ink and his Swiss Army Knife skill set is the biggest benefit to the new Warriors’ starting squad. Not only is he very skilled on the offensive side of the ball, but he is also one of the premier defenders in the league.
He will definitely open up the floor for everyone, but most importantly Steph Curry and Klay Thompson will benefit from the additional spacing. Iggy has the ability to handle the ball with ease, but he can also slash, set screens and move effectively to setup productive plays.
I expect him to play up to four positions on the floor as he can play point when Curry needs a breather, he is able to play the shooting guard for Thompson and he is capable of spelling Lee at the 4 spot. Coach Jackson will be using a variety of sets and Iggy can fit into every one of them.
Iguodala can penetrate off the dribble and use his athletic body to make plays at the rim. Sometimes, he is unselfish and will pass up too many open shots.
Even with all of the excitement, he does have some flaws that need improvement. His biggest weakness is his shooting percentage, both around the perimeter and at the line.
He will also have to improve upon not giving up the ball so easily. He is a playmaker, but there is no excuse for his turnover rate to jump from 1.9 per game in 2011-12 to 2.6 last season.
Iggy will adapt to the new lineup during the preseason games and make the Warriors a lot more explosive during the regular season. He will definitely be worth the 4-year, $48 million contract that he signed on July 10.
2013-14 Stat Line Prediction: 13.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG and 5.6 APG
David Lee is the heart and soul of the team-first concept that coach Mark Jackson lays out for the Warriors. He is a very hard worker, who doesn’t take anything from opposing players.
Lee was mostly remembered for averaging double-doubles in almost every game last season. He was tagged with the "Human Double-Double" by Shaquille O’Neal and led the league in that category by a large margin.
Lee became the first Warriors’ All-Star since Latrell Sprewell in 1997 and ended the ridiculous drought. So, everything was looking great for Lee.
Lee got injured in Game 1 of the first-round series versus the Denver Nuggets and was thought to be done for the season. He recovered enough to make Willis Reed-like entrances into games in order to pump up the crowd and his team.
However, while he was missing in action, the team won the first-round playoff series versus the Nuggets and almost got over on the San Antonio Spurs. Is Lee still a necessary part of this team?
He will bring his dynamic offensive abilities back to this team, and he will only take further advantage of opponents with his passing and rebounding skills.
He also formed one of the deadlier pick-and-roll combinations with burgeoning star Steph Curry. The duo was picked as one of the best pick-and-roll teams at the start of the last year’s NBA season.
Lee will need to enhance his defensive abilities, which are always pointed out as his greatest flaw. If he is surrounded by the great defensive group of Iguodala, Thompson and Bogut, Lee’s weaknesses should be minimized.
2013-14 Stat Line Prediction: 17.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG and 3.1 APG
Andrew Bogut was part of a disappearing act last season, as his much ballyhooed return was put off after just four appearances. His return was further delayed when we learned his ankle surgery was a lot more serious than first reported.
Bogut tried to appease fans by returning to the court too early and couldn’t provide the expected spark that the team desired. So, he pulled himself off the floor and didn’t return until his body physically allowed him to go.
When he did play in the playoffs, he was spectacular with his ability to clog the lanes, force opponents to play away from the key, block numerous shots headed for the basket and corral any rebound that he could.
He brings hope for this season as he is not suffering any pain and is getting needed rest in Australia. He believes that by healing his ankle over the offseason, he will bring back his offensive game.
Bogut is also playing out the last year of his contract, so he will have a chance to prove to the Warriors that he is the legitimate center that they have been missing for decades. He also wants to play all 82 games and shake the injury-prone moniker off of his reputation.
Bogut will have even more defensive firepower on the team now, which will help him focus on the area around the rim. On the offensive side, he will get many more touches, so he can drive to the hoop or use his ball-handling skills to make crisp passes.
Warriors’ fans will be excited, because they will finally get a glimpse of the real Andrew Bogut.
2013-14 Stat Line Prediction: 10.1 PPG, 10.3 RPG and 2.1 BPG