Steph Curry looks to lead the Warriors to the next level.
The 2013-14 regular season is getting ramped up, and it is time to get the soothsayer’s hat out to make some bold predictions for the Golden State Warriors. The excitement level surrounding this season is bordering on all-time highs.
The Warriors have their best unit since they won their last NBA Championship in 1974-75. The team has depth, quickness and the ability to close out opponents on a consistent basis.
Big questions remain surrounding the potential of the Dubs. How far can they make it through the playoffs? Are they a legitimate Western Conference title contender? Will injuries play a major part in this season?
It is time to answer some of those questions and make some predictions of my own.
Steph Curry is on the borderline of stardom.
Steph Curry has evolved from a solid guard who could hit the three-pointer to a burgeoning superstar that now gets national attention.
He is known for the three-point record and his clutch shooting from the line, but he will be bringing out new tricks this season. He will be using his floater to draw out big men when he drives, and he can shoot the mid-range jumper.
Settle down three-point fans, he will still give you a large helping of treys when he is open. However, with the addition of Andre Iguodala, he is now that more potent and a highlight show staple every night he plays.
Andre Iguodala will be a deadly weapon this season.
Andre Iguodala is a playmaker and a slasher, who improves the team with his jack-of-all-traits style. He can handle the ball both in transition and as the backup point guard.
With Iguodala’s athleticism, coaches will try and force Iguodala to become the Warriors' main scorer. The problem with that strategy is that if he has the ball, he will create and dish the ball off to teammates for the open scores.
Iguodala will get his points, but he is a very unselfish player and likes to distribute the ball to teammates who have open looks. Steph Curry will improve upon his assist total of 6.9 per game of last season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Iguodala averaged over 6 assists per game, especially if he spends more time as the backup point guard.
Klay Thompson will be much more than a shooter.
Klay Thompson has always been associated with potential since he was picked with the No. 11 pick of the 2011 NBA draft. Klay has always been a master at the catch-and-shoot, but he stepped up his defense last season.
By converting lay-ups, Klay will earn some more spacing when he has the ball. This will free him up to make a jumper or drive to the rim for a bucket with the potential to get fouled.
Andrew Bogut will look to stay healthy this season.
Warriors fans received a partial look at Andrew Bogut’s potential, when he dominated at less than 100 percent in the playoffs. He made great defensive plays, pulled down tough rebounds and finished on the offensive end.
He is now playing at full strength, even though he suffered back spasms while playing the second game of their overseas trip. He is also in the midst of contract negotiations, where the Dubs are trying to extend him three more years.
Bogut will demonstrate his normal over-the-top defensive style of play, as he will average over 10 rebounds and two blocks per game. However, his offensive game will shine this season, as he will make the key baskets to go with his superb ball-handling and passing skills.
David Lee will look to improve on defense.
David Lee and defense are two words that don’t belong in any sentence. However, David Lee has his best opportunity to show that he can evolve as more than just a rebounder.
Lee is ferocious on the boards, but he gets beat and resorts to fouling instead of giving up the basket. With the surgery he had over the summer, Lee starts the regular season in the best shape of his career.
Lee will be teamed with two premier defenders in Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala in the frontcourt, so his responsibilities should be easier to maintain. If he can be quick on his feet, Lee can be better positioned and finish on defense.
If Lee can accelerate his learning curve on defense, the Warriors will be a very difficult team to score against.
The Warriors hope to have Steph join David Lee at the All-Star game.
The Warriors were exiled from the All-Star game for over 15 years. The Dubs became the laughing stock of the league whenever the game was mentioned and even worse, Latrell Sprewell was the last player to appear as an All-Star in 1997.
David Lee finally changed the Warriors’ fortunes by earning the nod in last season’s game. Steph Curry was very deserving, but he did not receive enough coach votes to join Lee.
This season, the Warriors have a new reputation as one of the most exciting teams in the league. The Warriors will also be in the spotlight more than any other team with 17 nationally-televised games.
Steph Curry is all but a lock to join the All-Star team, but who will join him on the squad?
David Lee will renew his membership, as he shows that his game has evolved on both sides of the ball. Joining Lee and Curry will be Andre Iguodala, who will show why he is improving the Dubs with his jack-of-all-trades style.
The Warriors will begin a long relationship with the All-Star game going forward.
Draymond Green will bring his strong work ethic to the squad.
Draymond Green is starting his second season in the NBA, but he treats it like he is a seasoned professional. He might not have the skill level of a top forward, but Green will outwork anybody in his way.
He has a very strong basketball IQ and a coach’s mentality. He understands the makeup of each offensive or defensive set and finds ways to maximize his efficiency.
Green will only receive about 15-20 minutes of play per game, but he will show his importance with his play on the floor. I expect Green to improve upon last year’s statistics and put up numbers similar to those in the playoffs.
He is a lot thinner coming into this season because of his new conditioning program and diet. He should be a lot quicker and even more comfortable behind the three-point line.
Mark Jackson will have a tough time with his lineups.
Coach Mark Jackson still has not finalized the starting lineup with the regular season knocking on the door. The lingering injury to Harrison Barnes has set him back in the competition for the final starting spot, but maybe Jackson will go with what he was thinking all along.
Jackson will primarily stick with the same starting lineup, but he will be flexible by rotating Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and even Andre Iguodala in and out of the starting five. During the game, Jackson will run all sorts of lineups due to his depth and will matchup efficiencies against opponents.
The most important part of the lineup is who will be used in the final five minutes of the last quarter. Has Harrison Barnes done enough to earn the Jarrett Jack minutes of last season?
Time will tell, and Jackson will definitely put his best five on the floor, no matter who it is that evening.
Steph Curry will have to be wiser with the ball.
The Golden State Warriors’ biggest weakness last year in the statistical category was turnovers. The team ranked 28th in the league last season by giving the ball away 14.8 times per game.
On the defensive side, they only took the ball away 12.9 times. The addition of Andre Iguodala was one of the first steps to help the problem on both ends.
The offense will be more of a high-octane type this season, so Curry will have to be a quick decision maker and not make the typical mistakes. The team will give the ball away, but if the Dubs can cut the number down to 12 or even 13 per game, they will be in substantially better shape.
Kent Bazemore will be on the floor more this season.
Kent Bazemore earned a reputation last year, as the guy who could lay down the best celebrations in the NBA. As a result, NBA 2K14 picked him to be featured in their video game.
He will continue to celebrate this season, but his celebrations will more likely be on the court. He is working hard to shorten his stroke and practice hitting the mid-range jumper.
He has an absurd wingspan, and he will use that as a defensive stopper. However, Bazemore will use his athleticism to provide quality offensive possessions and a few memorable slams.
Iguodala has solid ball-handling skills.
The Golden State Warriors signed Toney Douglas as a player who could somewhat fill the role provided by Jarrett Jack last season. Douglas has a qualified skill set, but he hasn’t fulfilled his potential with his previous teams.
Douglas will play a key part in giving Curry minutes on the bench and provide quality defense. However, when the Warriors need to have a true backup point guard, Coach Jackson will rely more and more on Iguodala to fill that role in the middle quarters.
Iguodala can handle the ball very well for his size, and he creates mismatches when paired up against someone closer to six feet in height. As long as Andre is not tired out by the extra minutes, I see him as the best possible choice.
Nedovic will see more playing time later in the season.
Nemanja Nedovic was drafted because he was a player that the Warriors thought had tremendous upside, and he would be given time to grow as a player. Management liked his size and athleticism to play either guard position.
Coach Jackson has stated that he would prefer to see Nedovic play in the point guard position. However, the Warriors already had a deep reserve of players who can play at the point.
Since there is no pressure this season on Nedovic, I see him showing his skills in marginal minutes at the point and in practice. Coach Jackson will eventually want to use him more frequently, and he will switch him over to the 2 position.
Nedovic will increase his minutes by season’s end to nearly ten per game. The only way that happens, with the backlog at point, is switching him over to the shooting guard position.
Harrison Barnes will excel as the new sixth man.
Harrison Barnes has a lot of momentum going into this season. He is still fighting for a starting spot, and he wants to replicate the performances that he exhibited during the playoffs.
More likely than not, Barnes will accept the sixth man position and learn how to inject the team with energy coming off the bench. He can play both forward spots and has the athleticism to create and make plays on both sides of the ball.
After the current injury scare, I give Barnes about two to three weeks to get adjusted to his new role. Consistency is key, as he will try and play at a playoff level, instead of the up and downs he experienced during the regular season.
He will have to outwork his competition in the league, but Barnes is very young, has a high basketball IQ and knows how to position himself. If Barnes can average between 10-15 points per game and receive the key minutes in crunch time, he will have the résumé to battle the likes of Jamal Crawford, J.R. Smith and Tyreke Evans.
If Barnes can excel and get enough touches, the award has his name written on it.
Curry will look to lead the Warriors to a division title.
The Warriors have not had a sniff of the Pacific Division title this century. Their last title wasn’t even in the nineties or the eighties.
You have to go back to when Linda Ronstadt, John Denver and the Eagles were topping the charts to when the Warriors won their last division title. None of the current Warriors players were alive when the team won the Pacific Division title.
The biggest challenge for this team will be to fend off the Los Angeles Clippers, who are another up-and-coming team. The Warriors will need to win the series against them like they did last season, but they will also have to win all of the games they are expected to win.
I see this battle going down to the last week of the season, and the Warriors winning two games against the Denver Nuggets, one against the Los Angeles Lakers and another one versus the Portland Trail Blazers.
It is exciting to see the two former dregs of the division battle it out for a title and a key playoff position.
The Warriors have talent, but not enough experience.
The expectations of the Warriors are at a sky-high level, a place that they have not been since the team won its last championship in 1975. The Warriors do have a ceiling, but it has not been clearly defined.
The Warriors are in a boat similar to the Clippers last season. The Clippers outperformed expectations and advanced to the second round of the playoffs in 2011-2012.
The Clippers followed up that effort by posting their best record in franchise history, only to be escorted out in the first round by a team that provided a tougher matchup, the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Warriors will hope to avert that option and earn a trip to at least the Conference finals. A return trip to the second-round would be nice, but the Warriors want to continue to improve instead of settling or even underachieving.
The competition will be tough if the Dubs make it to the Conference finals. They have the depth, but they don’t have that level of experience.
The Warriors keep their “it” team label, but a title is still out of their reach.