Warriors Preview: Development of Youngsters Will Make or Break Season

Keith Becker uosportsdude.comCorrespondent IOctober 20, 2009

The Golden State Warriors are the Oakland Raiders of the NBA. The similarities are eerie. And for any self-respecting Bay Area sports fan, that isn’t a good thing.

Train-wrecked front offices, apathetic coaching, and the love for a certain type of player that does nothing but look sexy in a uniform; I could continue, but I’m sure Warrior fans are well aware of the situation.

After languishing through 12 seasons wherein the team did not even get within sniffing distance of the playoffs, Warrior fans were repaid with arguably the most exciting month in franchise history.

Of course, the next season, Golden State went on to a set a record only to be expected by the most pessimistic of fan bases—compiling the most wins in the regular season, 48, without making the playoffs.

So now, after the obligatory front office dismantling of anything reminiscent of success, the Warriors are once again starting at ground zero. Or maybe lower.

Despite the curious offseason moves, the conclusion of last season left a lot for Warrior fans to get excited about. Monta Ellis started flashing his pre-moped quickness, Anthony Randolph and Brandon Wright emerged as legitimate frontcourt players, and Corey Maggette took the sixth man role to heart.

But once again, the Warriors managed to disturb the good will they had created when aptly named Captain Jack threatened to go all Al Harrington on Don Nelson. Jackson made a public request to be traded in August and later asked to relinquish his captaincy—Nelson obliged.

And if that weren’t enough, Jackson has been “taking it easy,” to say the least, during the preseason.

Jackson picked up five fouls and a technical in less than 10 minutes in a matchup against the Lakers earlier this month, and was sent to the locker room by Nelson following a testy exchange.

Jackson never returned and a two-game suspension that cost the ex-captain roughly $139,000 followed.

So where does all this leave the Warriors for the 2009-2010 season? They certainly have the talent to be a threat in the Western Conference, especially with the Pacific Division looking remarkably weak—aside from the Lakers.

Ellis, Stephen Curry, Jackson, Randolph, and Biedrins form an explosive fivesome. And with Maggette, Turiaf, Kelenna Azubuike, Anthony Morrow, and eventually Wright coming off the bench, the team even has nice depth to boot.

But Golden State is still facing the same problems they encounter every season: lack of size, lack of leadership, and too many guys who play the same position.

Once again, the Warriors will try to win by forcing the opposition into a fast-breaking score-a-thon, a strategy that has been sparingly successful in the NBA.

But if any team could do it, this might be the one. Biedrins and Turiaf are nice players, don’t get me wrong, but they’re no match for legitimate scoring big men like Tim Duncan or Amare Staudamire; especially if they find themselves playing Jackson, Randolph, and Biedrins at the three-four-five.   

Last season, the Warriors were the youngest team in the league. So what did they do to rectify the situation? They added a rookie to the starting lineup and took the fire out of the only person in the entire organization who offered any semblance of direction—including the head coach.

Who are the Warriors expecting to emerge as guides to the youngsters? Speedy Claxton? Mikki Moore? Not a good strategy.

The Warriors are on their third GM of the decade—Garry St. Jean, Chris Mullin, and now Larry Riley—and it seems like each one tries to outdo his predecessor in adding more swingmen to the team. Imagine this possible scenario in the front office:

Chris Cohan: Larry, Mullin has the franchise record with six. I don’t think you can beat that. A steak dinner on me if you do.

Larry Riley: I was hoping you would ask me about that. I’ve been spending the entire season thinking about it.

Chris Cohan : Great! I never bought into the idea of landing a legitimate star like Amare or Chris Bosh anyway. What are your ideas?

Larry Riley : Here’s an easy one. You know how Jamal Crawford can create a lot of points by himself? Well, we can trade him for two overpaid, below-average guards who can’t do anything.

Chris Cohan : Oh! I like it.

Larry Riley : Hold on, you haven’t even heard the best one. We can trade Belinelli, who emerged last season as a clutch shooter and a solid defender, for Devean George. That guy is in the playoffs every year!

Chris Cohan : And then I can draft another two-guard instead of big guy like Jordan Hill, meanwhile making Monta unhappy at the same time!

Larry Riley and Chris Cohan in unison: Excellent (evil laughing).

Although I absolutely love Curry, it will take him time to adjust to running the point, as he’s only spent one season playing the position in his career.

But there is no question that Curry is already the best point guard the Warriors have—not that he has much competition. Expect rookie struggles and slumps, but it will be worth the growing pains, however, because if Ellis and Curry make nice, that is one dangerous backcourt.

Overall, I think it will take a minor miracle for the Warriors to return to the playoffs, but if things break right—lots and lots of things—there is a possibility.

It’s a good thing Golden State fans care more about Randolph winning the Rookie Challenge MVP award than the Warriors playing meaningful basketball in April. Oh well, maybe next year.



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