The realistic but somewhat lofty aspiration of this franchise is to win its first NBA title since the 1974-75 season. To accomplish that goal, the team needs to fill some holes on its current roster and improve upon certain statistical categories like turnovers and lack of free-throw attempts.
Those statistical areas are keys that the team needs to focus upon, but those groups are not the main focus going into the season.
The biggest area of weakness from last season’s squad was by far the lack of bench support. The team didn't have a reliable option to run the second-team offense, until Steve Blake was acquired late in the season.
Repairing the Bench Unit
Management saw the writing on the wall and signed Shaun Livingston to fill a huge hole at the backup point guard position. The 28-year-old veteran received a three-year deal, where he can provide quality support for All-Star guard Stephen Curry and also play beside him.
Livingston is a proven guard who can find his teammates in penetration or take it to the rack himself. The biggest benefits of the signing are that Curry no longer has to play 40 minutes a night and Livingston can generate an offense.
To complement Livingston, the Warriors recently signed free-agent shooting guard Leandro Barbosa to a one-year veteran’s minimum deal. The 11-year shooting guard still has excellent speed and knows how to find the rim.
Barbosa has playoff experience in his time with the Phoenix Suns and Indiana Pacers, so he should be another glue guy for this up-and-coming squad. He will also be able to give the Warriors brass another year to evaluate Nemanja Nedovic, who hasn't yet met expectations.
The Warriors also signed Aaron Craft, James Michael McAdoo and Mitchell Watt after being impressed with the trio during the summer.
Strong Going Forward
The Warriors are more closely identified by the Splash Brothers—Thompson and Curry—than anyone else on the roster. The team will keep that affiliation, because the price tag of Klay Thompson was too high in the pursuit of Kevin Love.
In that contemplated deal, the Warriors would have given up Thompson, but they would have also dispersed forwards David Lee, Harrison Barnes and maybe even Draymond Green. That deal could have stripped the Warriors’ cupboard of some of their most valuable pieces.
The remaining forwards left would have been Andre Iguodala, who was named to the 2013-14 NBA All-Defensive First Team, and Marreese Speights, who had an off year last season and was arrested for a DUI in the offseason.
As a result, the Warriors will move forward with the talent that they have and work to space the floor with Coach Steve Kerr’s new offensive system. There will be an intense battle for playing time at the 3 position with the likes of Iguodala, Green and Barnes fighting for key minutes.
Center of Discontent
With four of the five positions covered, center is the area in which the Warriors could be the most exposed. Last season’s seven-game series versus the division rival Los Angeles Clippers is proof that Golden State is vulnerable, if Andrew Bogut gets injured.
Bogut is healthy at the moment and should be returning in his best shape since joining the team. Coach Kerr already has a plan in place to get Bogut more involved in the game plan.
The San Jose Mercury News’ Diamond Leung summarizes Kerr’s outlook:
Warriors’ Steve Kerr wants Andrew Bogut more involved with new triangle elements of offense http://t.co/hBaeJVgo2n— Diamond Leung (@diamond83) June 18, 2014
If Bogut remains healthy, he should have his most successful season since 2010, when he severely injured his right arm in a horrific fall on a slam dunk attempt. The injury has made it difficult for him to consistently put up right-handed shots, even more than four years after it occurred.
The biggest question that remains is whether the big center can be healthy for a whole season.
Since Jermaine O’Neal is still considering retirement and has not re-signed, the first center off the bench is Festus Ezeli. He has not played since the 2012-13 season because of an injury to his right knee, for which he surgery in June 2013.
Ezeli was expected to return in February 2014 but instead missed the entire season, including the playoffs. He was forced to miss summer league, too.
Coach Kerr hopes that he will be back by October for the start of the regular season.
Ezeli is hard worker, who is spending a lot of time at the gym rehabilitating. However, will his game be that much improved compared to where he left off at the end of the 2012-13 season? At that time, he was a solid defender, but his offensive moves were few and far between. He has been playing pickup games over the summer to get his explosiveness back.
As the San Francisco Chronicle’s Rusty Simmons reported, Kerr will use Mo Speights as a backup center and pick spots for Ezeli to reacclimate himself to the NBA game.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said he views Mo Speights as a backup center and will adjust roles with Festus Ezeli according to opponents.— Rusty Simmons (@Rusty_SFChron) July 14, 2014
The other backup big man is Ognjen Kuzmic, who barely got his feet wet as a rookie for the Warriors. He spent more time with the Santa Cruz Warriors in the NBA D-League than he did on the floor with the big club and even missed time with a hand injury.
Kuzmic did have a successful run with the Santa Cruz team, as he led the league in rebounds per game, offensive rebound percentage and total rebound percentage.
Kuzmic will now have to see whether that D-League success can translate to the NBA. He will have to work on his offense and passing to fit into Kerr’s new system.
The Bottom Line
This year’s team is very explosive with great balance on both ends of the floor. The players should improve upon last season’s record, if they can successfully implement and adjust to Kerr’s system.
Klay Thompson is excited to return to the Warriors and for the prospects of the season, but in an article by the Mercury’s Marcus Thompson II, he states that health is a major factor.
Absolutely...I think a lot of it hinges on our health. Our ability to improve our offense. Me and Curry have another year together. Another year with Andre Iguodala. Another year under the belt for Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green. We know what we’re going to get from David Lee consistently. Andrew Bogut’s coming in healthy. If Festus comes back and play like he did his rookie year, that’s huge. We’d have another big body and we need that, especially in the West. It’s going to be a grind.
The linchpin of the team's potential progress is the center position. Warriors’ coaches and fans will cross their fingers and hope Bogut holds up, especially come playoff time.
If Bogut gets significantly injured or gets hurt at an inopportune time, GM Myers may have to find a trading partner to get an experienced backup. If the injury occurs at a time like last season, the team might have the same fate, depending on the postseason opponent.
It is a gamble, but with the team toeing the luxury-tax threshold, the Warriors will take that chance and see how far this roster can take them.