Golden State of Mind: Are the New-Look Warriors Prepared To Shine?
The 2007 season was the last time the Golden State Warriors managed to qualify for the NBA playoffs, but to the legions of fiercely loyal Warriors fans, those three years seem like an eternity.
It's a good thing that postseason included a historic first-round upset of the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks. At least it gives weary fans a positive memory to help erase some of the anguish from the more recent past.
Warriors fans have endured an incompetent owner, poor management, a coach with no defensive philosophy, and a team with no type of real interior presence.
Through it all, the fans have remained loyal and supportive of their team, and next season they may finally begin to see their patience rewarded.
Chris Cohan is out as owner, and the new proprietors of the team have promised that coach Don Nelson will follow him no later than the conclusion of the 2010-11 NBA season.
Those developments are promising enough in the opinion of many fans, but the Warriors also managed to upgrade their team in the offseason and address some glaring holes in their roster.
Enter former New York Knicks forward David Lee, whose 20 points and 10 rebounds per game should provide immediate help to a Golden State team that ranked near the bottom of the NBA in rebounding.
Lee's energy and athleticism are a great fit for the up-tempo Warriors, and his ability to score in the paint should alleviate some of the pressure from the perimeter players.
The Warriors were also able to sign former Miami Heat forward Dorrell Wright, whose length and defensive reputation could help institute a change from the Warriors' defenseless ways.
Golden State may miss the potential of Anthony Randolph and the perimeter scoring of Anthony Morrow, but Lee more than compensates for Randolph, and the same can probably be said for Reggie Williams as well.
Williams will see his playing time increase greatly due to the departure of Morrow to the New Jersey Nets, and although Williams' long range game is not as impressive as Morrow's, he is more of a complete scorer.
And make no mistake. Williams is a decent three-point shooter; but where Morrow's offensive game was limited to long-distance bombs, Williams is able to score his points in a variety of ways.
The return of Brandan Wright from injury should also help bolster the Warriors' front line, which could be one of the Western Conference's most athletic when you include Andris Biedrins.
The Warriors' starting backcourt of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry should be even better after a full season of sharing the same space, and Curry gained valuable experience competing with Team USA during the FIBA World Championships.
Curry, who finished second in last season's NBA Rookie of the Year voting, didn't garner much playing time this summer, but he was able to learn from the more experienced guards in front of him.
Hopefully some of Chauncey Billups' leadership abilities will rub off on Curry, and maybe he can get doses of Russell Westbrook's on-ball defense and Derrick Rose's aptitude for penetration as well.
Curry's willingness to learn and his feel for the game should help him progress nicely during his sophomore campaign, and when all else fails, Curry still has that beautiful jump shot to fall back on.
There was some speculation on whether or not the Warriors would attempt to trade Ellis during the offseason, but his immediate future on the roster appears to be safe.
Ellis and Curry formed one of the NBA's most exciting and high-scoring backcourt tandems, and Ellis's 25 points per game ranked among the league's top 10.
Scoring has never been a problem for the Warriors, as they ranked near the top of the league in offense, but if the team is really dedicated to progress it will begin on the other side of the ball.
Golden State led the NBA in steals last season, but that statistic is more a result of their frantic style than any real commitment on the defensive end.
Some observers feel the Warriors will never improve on defense unless someone other than Nelson is coaching the team, but in order to have any shot of reaching the postseason, they must at least show some effort.
The inability to get stops will always overshadow the Warriors' ability to score points in bundles, and to be honest, it's not like they have to become a great defensive team overnight.
A change of culture is needed in order to attain a defensive mentality, and for it to happen, Nelson must be willing to pay a little attention to that end of the court.
If the Warriors can show some improvement on defense, the other pieces may be in place to have fans thinking playoffs next May instead of the usual thoughts of NBA draft prospects.
The long-suffering followers of the franchise definitely deserve to root for a team they can believe in, and maybe next season, they will have a chance to do just that.
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