How Golden State Warriors Can Replicate Last Year's Team Chemistry

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How Golden State Warriors Can Replicate Last Year's Team Chemistry
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There was not a more cohesive unit in the NBA last season than the Golden State Warriors.

Management was on the same page with a perfect mix of players in the locker room. From a complementary coaching staff to an unselfish offense and an "I got your back" defense, the 2012-13 Warriors had better chemistry than Walter White.

It's no coincidence that this group became the first Warriors team to make the playoffs since 2007, and the second since 1994.

This would appear to be a great sign for the team entering 2013-14 season. The problem with chemistry, however, is that the same mixture of elements doesn't necessarily continue to cause the same reaction after a period of time passes.

I'm no science expert, but think of it in terms of a baking soda and vinegar volcano. Although the exact same elements continue to interact after the "eruption," the result is far less impressive.

In other words, the best thing the Warriors could have done to maintain a high level of team chemistry was to significantly alter what made them so successful last year.

That is exactly what they did.

 

Last Year's Perfect Potion is No Longer

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Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry were vital to Golden State's loose locker room and cohesive style of play last season. 

The rest of the roster was young, lacked playoff experience and was short on leadership. This made Jack and Landry of the utmost importance: Each was a vocal veteran role player who was talented enough to lead by example yet not so good that he impeded on the development of the team's up-and-coming stars.

Jack and Landry's specific skill sets also fit the roster perfectly. Jack had the ability to create his own shot and set up others, allowing youngsters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to play off the ball. Landry was a ferocious offensive rebounder and inside scorer, which drew attention away from the youthful backcourt.

The coaching staff featured a similar dynamic. Assistant coach Mike Malone was the strategic leader of the staff, his defensive brilliance greatly complementing head coach Mark Jackson's role as a motivator and mentor.

Jack is now in Cleveland, while Landry and Malone are in Sacramento. Also gone are Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson, traded to the Utah Jazz.

Those three made little to no impact on the court, but the latter two seemingly had a significant role in the team's success. Rush's ACL injury served as motivational tool for several players, while Jefferson was the team's elder statesman and token washed-up bench veteran (seriously, every good team has one and most bad teams do not).

Despite the contributions that these six men brought to Oakland, the Warriors were right to let them all go.

Malone's departure was inevitable, as he had been the best assistant coach in the league for several seasons. Landry and Jack were no longer as crucial from a leadership standpoint, and both were coming off what was likely their peak seasons, physically.

Throwing a combined $53 million at the two (Jack got $25 million from the Cavs; Landry got $28 million from the Kings) would not have made any sense for four years of declining on-court performance and a dwindling need for their intangibles.

Trading Jefferson and Biedrins was a no-brainer when the opportunity arose due to their combined $20 million in dead salary, and throwing Rush in was a small price to pay considering what the Warriors got back.


New Faces Will Fit Right In

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The Warriors offseason can be broken down bit by bit, but the quantum move that was the difference between improvement and regression was the sign-and-trade that brought in Andre Iguodala.

The 29-year-old wing is obviously a huge addition due to his raw abilities alone. He's an elite defender at two positions, an all-world finisher at the rim, an excellent rebounder and passer, a tremendous transition threat and a superb slasher.

All superlatives aside, though, Iguodala's addition is about so much more than his skill set. It's about not only replacing but revamping the chemistry of Golden State's roster.

Iguodala instantly fills in for Jack as a great secondary ball handler and facilitator that can get Curry and Thompson the ball in catch-and-shoot situations. He unseats Thompson as the team's best perimeter defender, which will allow the young shooting guard to save more energy for the offensive end.

He ostensibly replaces Harrison Barnes as the team's starting small forward, in turn allowing Barnes to become one of most dynamic, if not the most dynamic, sixth men in the NBA. In fact, Barnes' ability to shoot and create his own shot, attack the rim, post up, run the floor, rebound and defend are reasons to believe that this year's Golden State sixth man will be almost as good as the two they had last season combined.

The presence of Iguodala on the roster and salary-cap space opened up to get him—five spots and over $35 million in a 2013-14 ptojrvyrf salary—allowed the Warriors to fill out their bench exactly how they wanted.

The combination of having an incredibly strong top six, a player's coach and money to spend helped the Warriors add Marreese Speights, Jermaine O'Neal and Toney Douglas. Whereas most teams must settle for whatever mediocre players are willing to accept the minutes available to them and the roster around them, the Warriors were able to hand pick three guys who not only fit in perfectly on the court, but whose personalities will play a big role in formulating elite team chemistry.

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

O'Neal is essentially an improved Jefferson. The 35-year-old big man is certainly a shell of his former self, but his former self was an All-NBA power forward. He can still defend the rim, rebound and score inside better than most backup centers in the league.

Perhaps more importantly, O'Neal is extremely wise, experienced and well spoken. If Jack and Landry were no longer needed as leaders because they had already raised the team up to their level, then O'Neal is the perfect guy to take it a step further as he's enjoyed far more individual team success over the years than Jack and Landry combined.

Douglas and Speights may not be huge locker room presences, but that should be a positive chemistry wise.

With David Lee, Curry, Iguodala and O'Neal in line to become the clubhouse leaders of this team, adding role players who simply help the team on the court is the best option; too many voices can become problematic.

 

Repeat Elite Cohesion?

The Warriors were one of the most active teams during the offseason, adding and subtracting five new and old players, respectively.

The reason that the team again looks to have a great mix of players both on and off the court is a coaching staff, front office and ownership that all have excellent chemistry themselves.

Mark Jackson knows exactly what type of players he can coach up and effectively use in his rotations. Talent evaluator Jerry West can determine what players will and won't fit what Jackson is looking for.

General manager Bob Myers can then go out and strike a shrewd deal to bring in the right guy, and owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are willing to dish out the dough as they completely trust their front office.

Team chemistry can be somewhat unpredictable, of course, and one ill-fitting element can cause devastating reactions.

Still, there's no reason to believe that the 2013-14 Warriors will have on-court or locker room issues, not with the abundance of talent, complementary skill sets and positive personalities they have left and right.

On the contrary, this year's team may have even better chemistry than last year's. After all, the procedure for concocting the winning formula is simple: Form bonds, win, strengthen bonds, win more, strengthen more, etc.

The key ingredient there is winning—something a team with Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes is likely to do an abundance of.

 

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