NBA: Ranking the Golden State Warriors' Biggest Surprises in the Early Going

Joshua J Vannuccini@@jjvannucciniSenior Analyst IIIDecember 27, 2013

NBA: Ranking the Golden State Warriors' Biggest Surprises in the Early Going

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    The NBA is full of surprises, often making or breaking the interest from fans over the course of the season. While it's easy to keep track of as a whole, the surprises on a team-by-team basis require more habitual spectating. It can be a tedious task, despite the entertainment value of professional basketball, but no team makes you crave watching it play more than the Golden State Warriors.

    The Warriors' fast-paced offense and plethora of entertaining players makes tuning into every game worthwhile. Golden State went through a mini-overhaul in the offseason, leading to a few surprises thus far. They're not all roster-based, though, but the Warriors exhibit some form of marvel each and every night.

Stephen Curry's Emergence as a Superstar

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    This has to be the least surprising of all the surprises listed, but it's still noteworthy nonetheless. It's seemingly predictable that young players will develop and better their skills, but few could have foreseen Stephen Curry's jump to stardom. 

    Curry's numbers aren't all that different between last season and this season, averaging 22.9 points and 6.9 assists over 23.6 points and 9.3 assists, respectively. While the improvement is slight on paper, it makes a huge difference as a whole.

    A player can average 20 points per game, but a slight jump to 23 points per game puts said player in a whole new league of scorers.

    Another example is Golden State's own Klay Thompson. He went from 16.6 points last season to 19.6 points this season. Again, it isn't a huge leap, but it's still something to consider that realistically changes the perception of Thompson.

    The same can be said for Curry. He's playing on par with most of his production in recent years, but he's shown the ability to take over games at will.

    Whether it's distributing or scoring, Curry is able to dominate either facet and lead his team to victory. The Warriors' 17-13 record thus far isn't as successful as it could be, but it could be a lot worse had Curry not exerted himself to lead his team.

    As seen in the video above, Curry can take it upon himself and do whatever necessary to succeed.

    Few players can stop teams in their tracks, where entire game plans revolve around an individual. Curry has become more than a shooter and a passer; he is one of the best scorers in the league and must be accounted for.

    Curry's potential is scary if he can stay healthy, but he's already shown what's possible this season. Again, it's hardly as surprising given the expected trend of development from young players.

    But for Curry to cement himself as a top-10 player, few could have called it. 

The Decline of the Warriors Bench

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    The Warriors had a few personnel changes in the offseason, but it's a surprise to see their once-strong bench struggling like it has thus far. The video only centers on Kent Bazemore and his celebrations, but it's just about all Golden State's bench is known for this season.

    The first and foremost reason behind this is obviously the change of reserve players. Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry both moved on to other teams, namely due to Golden State's choice to pursue forward Andre Iguodala.

    Both were key pieces to the Warriors' puzzle last season, but their absence is noticeable among the reserves.

    Golden State's bench averaged 30.6 points and 16.2 rebounds last season, good for No. 19 in the NBA. This season, the Warriors reserves combine for just 21.5 points and 13.3 rebounds so far, which doesn't seem like a huge difference, but it's still a sharp decline.

    It ranks them dead last in points per game as well as efficiency, which forces Mark Jackson to play his starters longer than he should.

    All of his starters, save for Andrew Bogut, are playing more than 34 minutes per game. The core is young, so it isn't a real issue, but it's something that can become a problem late in the season and/or in the playoffs.

The Emergence of Klay Thompson as a Scorer

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    Klay Thompson took a big step forward last season, but he's taken another this season. 

    The 6'7" shooting guard is averaging 19.7 points per game this season, good for No. 19 in the league. Thompson is also shooting a respectable 45.2 percent from the field, in addition to knocking down 42.9 percent of his three-point attempts.

    His points-per-game average isn't a huge jump from last season (16.6 points), but his shooting percentages have increased (42.2 percent and 40.1 percent, respectively).

    Development goes without saying for most young players, but Thompson has made bigger strides than many expected. Warriors coach Mark Jackson even went so far as to call Thompson a "top-five (shooting) guard" in the league, per Bay Area News Group's Marcus Thompson.

    That initially sounds premature, but it rings true when you think about it. Thompson still has some room for improvement defensively, as well as some offensive versatility, but he remains one of the best guards in the NBA.

    His array of moves, as evidenced above against the Detroit Pistons, makes him difficult to contain offensively. Combined with Stephen Curry in the backcourt, the duo known as the "Splash Bros." is easily the best backcourt in the NBA.

    It might not be surprising for Golden State fans who saw Thompson's development game by game, but he's put the league on notice thus far.

Andrew Bogut Playing for His Contract

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    The Warriors took a gamble by signing injury-prone center Andrew Bogut to a long-term deal, but it's paid off so far.

    The deal, as reported by Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, was for three years with incentives that could push the value to as much as $42 million. Such clauses would no doubt include Bogut's ability to stay healthy, as he's been notoriously injury prone throughout his career.

    So far this season, the Australian big man has averaged 7.8 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. He's also shooting 60.8 percent, but his 39.5 free-throw percentage leaves a bit to be desired.

    Despite his struggles from the foul line, Bogut has provided the Warriors with a low-post presence, both offensively and defensively. He isn't routinely a focus of the offense, but he can hold his own in the low post.

    Defensively, Bogut is one of the best shot-blockers in the NBA when healthy. He's missed just a single game this season (suspension), which is terrific news for both Bogut and Golden State.

    It isn't a surprise to see his production for the Warriors, but it is considering his injury problems in the past. Many criticized such an expensive contract offer, mostly due to the aforesaid oft-absent spurts from Bogut.

    Yet despite this, he's been consistent and just what Golden State had hoped for. The video showcases a skilled pass by the big man, which is far from his best skill, but Bogut has been a defensive anchor for the Warriors.

Andre Iguodala's 3-Point Shooting

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    Andre Iguodala is more renowned as an athletic wing player than as an outside shooter, but he's making a case for both this season.

    Despite converting just 33.3 percent on three-pointers for his career, Iguodala is shooting 45.9 percent this season. In some cases, average shooters might convert a high percentage but make a small amount of actual shots.

    This hasn't been the case with Iguodala, as he's knocking down 1.6 three-point field goals per game. He's averaged exactly one per game for his career, but this season has seen a career high in that category.

    Iguodala's stint with the Denver Nuggets last season saw him shoot just 31.7 percent from long range, making 1.1 shots per contest. Whether it's been him working at his shot or a product of Golden State's offense, Iguodala has developed into a solid shooter for the Warriors this season. 

    Ironically against his former team, Iguodala's long-range spectacle against Philadelphia (as seen in the video above) solidifies his case as a shooter for Golden State.

    It's a nice consolation for the Warriors, in addition to signing Iguodala, but it's no doubt been a surprise to see him shooting like he has been.