The six-to-eight month grind that is the NBA season is just around the corner. Until then, nothing but blissed-out positive vibes will continue flowing through Oakland.
The good moods and smiles are due to the most successful season that the Golden State Warriors have had in two decades.
Just to recap the team's phenomenal 2012-13 campaign:
- 47-35 record
- 2nd in Pacific Division
- 6th in Western Conference (first playoff appearance in six years)
- Made Western Conference Semifinals
The momentum of last year's team carried into the summer, where Golden State had one of the better offseasons in the league.
Soon, though, every Warriors player and coach will have to wipe off their grins and start kicking it into gear. Training camps open on Sept. 28, and while this is a valid cause for excitement, there is plenty of work to be done.
Even repeating last season's success will be hard enough. All-world three-point shooting can still be expected, while a strong field-goal percentage defense should only get stronger due to some key personnel changes (more on that later).
However, the biggest factor in getting the 2012-13 Warriors into the playoffs was arguably their rebounding. The team was first in the NBA with a defensive rebounding rate of 75.5 percent.
Retaining that kind of dominance on the boards will be difficult, but another playoff run won't be possible without an encore performance.
If an encore isn't enough for the Warriors—and it shouldn't be—there are also areas in need of significant improvement. While the front office did everything it could to fill every hole this summer by adding size, athleticism, defense and depth, the team's biggest weakness remains: turnovers.
Golden State committed the third-most turnovers in the league last season (14.8 TOPG) and had the second-worst turnover differential.
The team was able to make up for the lost possessions by draining threes on offense and preventing offensive rebounds, but winning four playoff series with such serious ball management issues is completely unrealistic.
This matters because winning four playoff series is this team's goal, whether the mass media believes it's possible or not.
There seems to be a divide entering training camp between the national media's and the team's ideas of what Golden State's season outlook is.
Nationally, the storyline is that Golden State had some huge additions, but those additions are to be offset by some key losses, a regression to the mean after a somewhat fluky season and an improved field of competition.
The players themselves don't see it that way.
So, while the Warriors will be facing far more pressure than they did entering last season, that pressure will be mostly self-applied.
Regardless of who is providing the expectations, they are there. Throughout the season, a running narrative on who the Warriors truly are—an explosive, dangerous sleeper yet again or a true Western Conference power—will be present, with the answer to that question constantly changing.
Key Additions & Losses
There are a half-dozen concrete reasons that the Warriors think so highly of themselves.
Over the summer, Golden State signed small forward Andre Iguodala (four years, $48 million), power forward Marreese Speights (three years, $11 million), center Jermaine O'Neal (one year, $2 million), point guard Toney Douglas (one year, $1.6 million) and drafted point guard Nemanja Nedovic.
They also added Brian Scalabrine and Lindsey Hunter to the coaching staff.
Of course, these additions were only possible due to several losses, including the departure of point guard Jarrett Jack (four years, $25 million with Cleveland Cavaliers) and power forward Carl Landry (four years, $27 million with Sacramento Kings).
In the Iguodala trade, shooting guard Brandon Rush, small forward Richard Jefferson and center Andris Biedrins were shipped to the Utah Jazz. Also gone are assistant coaches Mike Malone and Bob Beyer.
Biggest Addition: Andre Iguodala
Every addition the team made this summer will have an impact, but none half as big as that of Iguodala.
The 29-year-old swingman will improve the Warriors in a multitude of areas, including transition offense/defense, perimeter defense, dribble penetration/off-ball slashing, ball-handling and playmaking ability on the wing.
He'll essentially replace Jarrett Jack as the Warriors backup point guard, the primary difference being that the Warriors won't have to give up size and defense to take Stephen Curry off the ball.
Iguodala also fills a hole in the locker room. Jack was arguably the Warriors' off-court leader last season, and Iguodala's experience, excellent personality and ability to lead by example will be as valuable to the young Warriors as his on-court talents.
Biggest Loss: Carl Landry
The Warriors led the NBA in three-point percentage last season, and shooting was clearly the backbone of their offense.
However, the Dubs would not have won 47 games without a tough interior presence to right the ship when things became too perimeter. Landry filled that role exceptionally for the 2012-13 club, averaging 10.8 points and 6.0 rebounds in just 23.2 minutes while shooting 54.0 percent from the field and 81.7 percent from the line.
Speights will fill Landry's role as an offensive rebounder, but does not score inside nor get to the line at the rate Landry does.
While Jack is widely seen as the bigger loss—Curry's ankles require an elite backup—the fact is that a Curry injury come playoff time would end this team's title hopes regardless of who the backup point guard is. If Curry is healthy, the Warriors will feel the loss of Landry far more than that of Jack (as detailed in the Iguodala section).
Depth Chart Breakdown and Training Camp Breakdowns
The highlighted players above may make it seem as though the Warriors improved their starting lineup while weakening their bench this summer. That's also the common belief held by most of the national media and explains why the Warriors are generally not expected to make a huge leap this season.
Take one look at the projected depth chart, though:
|PG||Stephen Curry||Toney Douglas||Nemanja Nedovic|
|SG||Klay Thompson||Kent Bazemore||Seth Curry|
|SF||Andre Iguodala||Harrison Barnes||Draymond Green|
|PF||David Lee||Marreese Speights|
|C||Andrew Bogut||Jermaine O'Neal||Festus Ezeli|
This is not an exact preview of what the rotations will look like. Iguodala will play more shooting guard than Bazemore, and guys like Barnes and Green will play at both forward positions.
It's also not set in stone by any means.
Nedovic could push Douglas as the backup point. Seth Curry may or not make the roster. Iguodala could start at the 2-guard spot while Barnes slides in at small forward.
The latter is the highest profile battle. All three guys involved are big-name, high-ceiling players. However, Barnes, Thompson and Iguodala will combine to play most of the shooting guard/small forward minutes no matter who starts and who comes off the bench.
The most intriguing and important battle is one that may be flying under the radar.
Training Camp Battle to Watch
The battle of the "fringe-rotation guys" (Douglas versus Bazemore versus Green) may not appear like a battle at all when looking at the depth chart. All three are listed under different positions and at different depth slots.
When breaking down who will and who will not get minutes for the 2013-14 Warriors, it becomes more apparent why these three are in direct competition.
There are 240 minutes to go around in an NBA game. The five starters figure to eat about 160 of those (32 each), while Barnes will get no less than 26, Speights no less than 14 and O'Neal no less than 12.
That totals to 212 minutes, and those are all conservative estimates.
That leaves 28 minutes for the four remaining active roster players. Nedovic and Seth Curry will fight for the No. 12 spot, but neither figures to see much action.
So it's down to Douglas, Bazemore and Green.
The fact is that despite their differences in size and position, these three bring a relatively similar type of game. Each one of them is an excellent, active man defender, a capable distributor and a one-skill scorer.
Bazemore can create his own shot better than the other two, Douglas is the best perimeter shooter of the bunch while Green is an excellent board crasher and cutter.
The Warriors will be open to giving the bulk of the minutes to any of these three players.
While Douglas and Bazemore are technically backups and Green is a third-string guy, the fact is that Iguodala can back up both guard positions if need be, and the extra minutes this would create at small forward would be filled by Green.
Likewise, if Green loses, Iguodala will simply stay at the 3 more and let Bazemore and Douglas man the backup guard spots.
Who will actually emerge from this group? Douglas has the most proven game; he has established himself as a legitimate three-point shooter and elite point guard defender. Bazemore had an explosive summer league and is the best wing defender of the three. Green lost 20 pounds of fat this summer, and looks to combine much improved athleticism with his already second-to-none energetic and cerebral style of play.
Based upon that, expect Green to emerge with the most minutes out of the bunch.
His potential to improve is much higher than that of the other two since he already has the best mental game and is basically playing in a new body. He is also likely to work the hardest for the minutes in training camp.
With Green taking roughly 14 of the minutes, Douglas should be next in line. Bazemore's wing defense is no better than Thompson's or Iguodala's, and his offense is nowhere close, whereas Douglas can shut down point guards much better than Curry.
Douglas should see about 10-12 minutes a night, leaving Bazemore without a consistent spot in the rotation.
Harrison Barnes gave us the most simple definition of what an X-factor is during his rookie season.
When he scored in double digits, the Warriors were 25-9. When he did not, they were 22-26. When he grabbed at least seven rebounds, the team was 14-2. They were 33-33 when he failed to do so.
This is primarily because Barnes was the Dubs' most explosive player, and so an energized Barnes made things easier for everyone else.
This season, Andrew Bogut should be that guy.
Golden State is no longer short on athleticism, and they certainly are not short on perimeter shooting, scoring or help rebounding.
What the team does lack is tough interior defense, rim protection and low-post offense—that is unless Bogut provides it.
The Warriors barely experienced it last regular season, but got a taste of Bogut's offensive upside in the playoffs. The fact is that a healthy Bogut could make an even larger offensive impact, not only relying on his rolling and dunking ability but also on his potentially lethal post game.
If Bogut is scoring inside, the floor will open up for the Warriors boatload of knockdown shooters. If he is not, defenses can key in on Curry, Thompson and co.
Defensively, a flourishing Bogut means opposing bigs get fewer high-percentage looks inside while guards drive less, draw less fouls and opposing teams become much more perimeter.
Finally, if Bogut is controlling the defensive glass, it will allow the Warriors wings to crash the glass less and get out in transition more. If he's grabbing offensive boards, the Dubs will be able to tire out opponents and get easier looks.
Without a healthy or productive Bogut, the Warriors are looking at a high-40s win total and another semifinals appearance at best. With Bogut at 100 percent, the Warriors should make a real push at a championship.
Projected 2013-14 stat line
70 GP, 28.2 MPG, 11.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 2.4 APG, 2.1 BPG, 50.5 FG%, 55.8 FT%
Best-Case and Worst-Case Scenarios
The best potential outcome for the 2013-14 Warriors was just alluded to. If Bogut is healthy and productive, Curry stays on the court most of the season and into the playoffs and Thompson, Barnes and Green build on the strides they made last spring, the Warriors should win the Pacific Division and finish at least second in the West.
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A championship is not out of the question by any means, as a healthy Warriors team should be viewed as one of the top five clubs in the NBA.
The worst-case scenario begins of course with injuries to Bogut and Curry. If neither player can stay on the court consistently, the Dubs won't be able to gain much separation from the .500 mark and wind up as a No. 6 seed, losing in Round 1.
To project a "happy medium" would not be realistic; the Warriors will either be healthy and very, very good or not healthy and not that good.
The most fair, neutral projection would be to expect Curry to play about 75 games, Bogut to play 70 and the Warriors youngsters to trend upwards at a normal pace.
This should, when factoring in the team's improved starting lineup and bench, lead to a 56-26 record and a Pacific Division title.
If everyone's healthy come playoff time, the title's the limit. For now, no one needs to know that—besides the guys who will be reporting to training camp next week.