Will Curry be number one or two?
The Golden State Warriors have finally showed off their talent in the preseason, after the high anticipation following the blockbuster free-agent signing of Andre Iguodala. The Warriors remained healthy throughout the summer, and each player now has a chance to prove his worth.
Since the Warriors are chasing their first division title in almost 40 years, the players have heightened expectations and a more realistic goal than finishing with a winning record. The Warriors are now the “it” team with their exciting brand of basketball under coach Mark Jackson and 17 nationally-televised games to boot.
Each Warriors player brings his own skill set to the table, and Steph Curry and Andre Iguodala are currently getting the most attention. However, Andrew Bogut is now healthy with no restrictions and Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson are fighting it out for the final starting position.
The rankings are based on the players' overall value to the team coming into the start of the regular season. They factor in injury concerns, the station on career arcs and how each player benefits the Warriors.
So, let’s take a look at this year’s Golden State Warriors player power rankings.
Kent Bazemore is returning to the Warriors roster, and his blossoming skills are showing it is a wise choice. Instead of being the defensive stopper and all-time bench celebrator, he is working on shortening his stroke and working on his ball-handling skills.
He wants to be on the floor more this season, and he will look to improve upon the 2.0 PPG, 0.4 RPG and 0.4 APG in only 4.4 minutes that he put in last season. With his wingspan and athletic ability, coach Mark Jackson will look to insert him into more meaningful spots this season.
Nemanja Nedovic looks to bring his game to the NBA.
Ognjen Kuzmic is coming over for his first attempt in the NBA after he was drafted by the Warriors in the second round of the 2012 NBA draft. He has potential, and his biggest strengths are his shot-blocking and rebounding abilities.
He is coming off a left ankle injury, but he is healthy enough to show his wares. Because of the injury to Festus Ezeli, Kuzmic could be getting some minutes as the third-string center.
Festus Ezeli earns the lower spot here, because he had knee surgery and is now forecast to return sometime between January and March of next year. He is frustrated, because he was building upon a solid foundation.
Ezeli received extra playing time last season because of the extended ankle injury to Andrew Bogut, and he was looking to increase his rookie totals of 2.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 0.9 BPG.
Now, he has to recuperate and try to overcome knee problems early in his career. He will need to develop on the offensive side of the ball on his return, as he is very limited outside of three feet.
Nemanja Nedovic finally made it to the United States, and he will help with the depth at the guard position. With his 6’3” body, he has the ability to play both guard spots and has the quickness to create.
The Warriors' management thought he was a pretty special talent, as they found a spot in the 2013 NBA draft to snag the “European Derrick Rose.” It will take him a while to assimilate into the new league, but I think he will receive more quality minutes as the season stretches out because of his playmaking abilities.
Jermaine O'Neal will try to provide depth behind Andrew Bogut.
Jermaine O’Neal was the easy choice to fill the hole created by the injury to Festus Ezeli. O’Neal has found continued success over a career that started all the way back in 1996.
O’Neal is agile for a big man, and he will maximize the 10-15 minutes that he receives on a nightly basis. There are a lot of options on this team, so it will be difficult to match or build upon the 8.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG and 1.4 BPG that he averaged last season with Phoenix.
Don’t get me wrong, O’Neal will be a very valuable player for the Dubs. O’Neal will use his post-up skills on offense and make a few timely swats on the defensive side of the ball.
Toney Douglas is looking for a home. He is hopeful that he found the perfect fit after joining his fifth team in five NBA seasons.
Douglas won’t have all the pressure on his shoulders, as he can fill the backup position behind Steph Curry. Douglas is a solid defender and can also distribute the ball effectively.
His biggest weakness is shooting the ball, where he shot only 40.3 percent from the field last season and 38 percent from behind the arc. He needs to find areas where he can consistently score the ball and build confidence.
Draymond Green is only entering his second year in the NBA, but he feels like he already belongs. The hard worker with the high basketball IQ knows how to handle himself when he gets his minutes on the court.
He is a leader, and he will stand toe-to-toe with anyone, including the game’s biggest superstar, LeBron James. He isn’t afraid, and he puts himself in advantageous positions to score or help out his teammates.
This year, he is coming in with a completely different physical look, as he lost some extra pounds in order to be quicker on his feet. I expect Green to be the guy who outworks opponents at both the small forward and stretch-4 position and makes the necessary plays.
Winning is his number one goal.
Marreese Speights has made a favorable impression with coach Mark Jackson during his first three preseason games. He especially stood out over the rest of his teammates in the loss to the Utah Jazz on October 8.
He is not projected to be as capable as Carl Landry, but Speights brings a major skill set to the table. He is a good shooter from mid-range, and he is a very physical player.
Speights will need to improve around the post and increase his rebound total per game. He will be able to contribute in sizeable quantities, as he tries to improve upon the 10.2 PPG in 18.5 minutes that he registered after being traded last season to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
David Lee’s name is mostly associated with either double-doubles or bad defense. He is trying to rehabilitate his reputation by improving upon a solid year that earned him an All-Star outing.
Lee dominated the double-double category last season, but he has so much more in his offensive game. He can handle the ball, make great passes and shoot with either hand.
His biggest problem, which lowered him to the No. 6 ranking, is his defense. After having offseason surgery, he believes that he is in the best shape of his career.
With quicker feet, Lee better use that skill to learn how to defend. It won’t hurt that he is surrounded by Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala on both sides of the frontcourt.
Harrison Barnes inched down the scale because of an inflammation in his left foot. Barnes will let the injury heal and will take it relatively easy during the preseason.
He started the first two preseason games, so coach Jackson could get a better feel of how he would work with Andre Iguodala. It was a very small sample size, but the two will be paired together later in some of the remaining preseason games.
Barnes dominated in his first playoff appearance, and he would like to build upon that success. He had a very inconsistent rookie regular season, and he would like to start where he left off at the end of the year.
Barnes will use his athleticism to play both forward positions and will look to hone his skills with such a talented roster around him. He will most likely start the year as the sixth man, and he will need to bring instant energy to the team.
Klay Thompson must have disliked the news that Harrison Barnes was starting the first two preseason games ahead of him. He came out with a fire that the coaches had not seen before.
Thompson made great use of his summer if the first preseason games are any indication. Instead of the classic “Klay-up”, Thompson finished at the rim with authority.
As he really honed his defensive skills the previous offseason, Klay made sure to work hard on developing his offensive game. He is no longer limited to the catch-and-shoot, and he can dribble effectively now.
He still needs to learn how to find a way to the free-throw line, but progress is progress. I expect Thompson to be more consistent this season and even rival Curry as the best guard on the court some nights.
Andrew Bogut has no restrictions on his ankle. He wanted to make that abundantly clear.
This season is a contract year for Bogut, and he should be playing at a level that fans have not seen in several years. Bogut will be bringing the highs of both his offensive and defensive game.
Bogut is primarily known for being a solid defender in the post, and a guy who can prevent teams from setting up their normal offensive sets. He likes to take down the hard rebound and swat away a shot in crucial moments of a game.
The part that most fans forget about is his offensive abilities. Yes, he can finish strong at the rim, but he is also a good ball-handler and knows how to dish.
He is their lynch pin in the frontcourt and playoff success will be determined by how big of a factor he can be. If he can avoid getting injured, the Warriors should be a difficult opponent this season.
Warriors fans finally got to see Andre Iguodala live in person, and he lived up to expectations. He has shown that he is the missing piece to the puzzle for both the Warriors offense and especially the defense.
Iguodala is a slasher, as he can make plays by both driving to the basket and dishing the ball off to an open teammate. He will also free up the remainder of the Warriors lineup as defenders will be cheating to stop his penetration.
Andre is going into his 10th NBA season, and even though his statistics have peaked, he is a reliable contributor. His biggest problem is his free-throw shooting, which dipped down to 57 percent last season.
Iguodala will have the role of clamoring down on the opponent’s top perimeter player and teaching his defensive techniques to his teammates. With Iguodala on board, the team looks to be a prominent player in this season’s playoff picture.
Steph Curry enters the season with the biggest burden on his shoulders. He is the face of the young and dynamic Warriors team, and he is looking to take the Warriors to the next level.
He enters the first year of the 4-year, $44 million contract extension that he signed last year, and it looks like the Warriors received a major bargain. He takes complete control on the court and now has a floater for defenses to try and defend.
The national buzz began with his lights out 54-point performance at Madison Square Garden in a loss to the New York Knicks. He should continue that success with a projected 50-plus win season for the Warriors.
His only major downfall is the amount of turnovers he gives away, but he is working to improve that this season. Curry is on the way to becoming an elite player in the NBA, and a guy who is defining a new Warriors future.