The Golden State Warriors look to improve upon a 47-35 season by winning over 50 games, reaching the conference finals and establishing themselves as the team to beat going forward. The "starting six" give the Dubs tremendous depth, as well as a stronger defensive presence compared to last season.
The biggest changes to this season’s team are the free-agency acquisition of Andre Iguodala and the subtraction of money-guzzling Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson. The Warriors cleared out unnecessary spots on the bench and received a playmaker, who is one of the premier defenders in the Association.
In this video, Iguodala breaks down how to defend LeBron.
Yes, the Warriors did lose other key parts to last season’s squad. In the process of signing Iguodala, both Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry were forced to move on. Jack decided that he wanted to run with Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers, while Landry went to team up with former assistant Michael Malone and the Sacramento Kings.
The Warriors were quick to figure out their salary-cap limitations and made some quality frontcourt additions. They found room for Marreese Speights and Jermaine O’Neal to fortify the vacancies left by Landry and the injury to Festus Ezeli.
In the backcourt, Toney Douglas signed a one-year contract that puts him in the position to fill Jack’s duties as the backup to Steph Curry. He will need to improve upon his offensive abilities and his shooting percentage while he is being pursued up the depth chart by Kent Bazemore, rookie Nemanja Nedovic and possibly even Steph’s little brother, Seth Curry.
The starting six will be the key to the Warriors' success as Harrison Barnes transitions from the starting small-forward position to his new sixth-man role. Iguodala will become the playmaker and open up more possibilities for Curry and Klay Thompson as well as the frontcourt of David Lee and Andrew Bogut.
The Warriors' biggest strengths going into this season are shooting and rebounding. The Warriors have what coach Mark Jackson called the "greatest shooting backcourt in the history of the game," and they dominate from behind the arc.
The Warriors made a big turnaround in rebounding last season by jumping from 28th the previous season into a tie for second place. David Lee was a huge contributor, as he won the double-double title with 56 last season.
Here is an example of what David Lee brings to the floor on a nightly basis.
The addition of Iguodala, who makes plays and opens the floor, will only enhance the key competitive advantages of the Dubs. Expect Curry to improve in every offensive category, too.
As great as the strengths are, the Warriors have some significant areas that they need to improve upon this season, if they want to advance further in the playoffs.
The biggest concern starts with the health of the team. Steph Curry suffered minor ankle injuries in the playoffs after mostly avoiding major setbacks during the regular season.
Andrew Bogut is still a question mark for Warriors fans after he sat out over half of the season rehabilitating his ankle, as his surgery was a lot more intensive than previously believed. If he can stay healthy, he is a beast in the middle of the floor, but that is a big if.
The next area that the Dubs need to improve is turnovers. The Warriors ranked 28th last season and made a lot of key mistakes with the game still in the balance.
The team needs to limit the errors by cutting down that margin by at least one turnover per game. The mental focus has to be there, and the Warriors can’t afford to make rally-killing mistakes.
The final major weakness is experience, of which Golden State gained a significant amount by advancing to the second round of the playoffs. The team and all of the new free-agent additions need to learn to play with each other and gel.
The talent is there on this squad, and fans should expect the Warriors to take it to the next plateau. A Pacific Division crown is within their grasp, something that they have not won since the 1975-76 season.
Compared to the division rival Los Angeles Clippers, the Warriors have a stronger, closer-knit starting five with not very many holes. David Lee needs to improve his defense, and Klay Thompson has to continue to develop moves off the ball, but besides from those deficiencies, the team can run with about anyone.
The Clippers have arguably the best point guard in the game in Chris Paul, but Blake Griffin still has a lot of holes in his game. As you can remember last year, David Lee called out Mr. Kia for his flopping attempts.
The Clips traded away one of the best backup point guards, Eric Bledsoe, in order to acquire improvements to the starting lineup in J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley. The new NorCal-SoCal rivalry should turn out some pretty intense games, starting on Halloween in Los Angeles.
Both teams should end up with roughly the same records, but I see the Warriors as a deeper team that matches up well with the Staples Center’s best team. The Clippers will finish with a marginally worse record than last year by going 53-29.
Other major players in the conference include the Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Memphis Grizzlies and the Houston Rockets. As you can see, there are a lot of tough teams that will challenge the Warriors this season.
Even with the great summer additions, the Warriors are predicted to finish in the same spot.
The Warriors still have a lot to prove, and they can begin that process in the regular season. One of their first goals will be to win a regular-season game in San Antonio for the first time this century.
The other intra-conference games will show how the team has evolved, especially when playing teams like the Thunder, Grizzlies and Rockets on the road. Can the Warriors defense prevent the Rockets from putting on an aerial display again?
The Golden State Warriors will be very exciting with the brand of basketball that Coach Jackson preaches. The Dubs will play up to their new "it team" recognition by being featured in 17 nationally televised games.
The Warriors will finish one spot higher than last year's finish behind the likes of the Thunder, Grizzlies, Spurs and Clippers. Expect the Dubs to comfortably return to the playoffs and look to take it up another notch when they get there.
The team is still growing into the next juggernaut, but I wouldn't be surprised if it took at least a couple years to make it to the NBA Finals.