Golden State Warriors: 5 Bold Prections for the Warriors' 2011-2012 Season
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The Golden State Warriors led by new head coach Mark Jackson have made it clear that a new defensive culture will be put in place, a concept that has been an afterthought for so many seasons. Emphasizing the need for improved team defense and a playoff mindset will be Jackson's mission objective from day one of training camp.
It will be up to the talented but undersized backcourt duo of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry to lead the way, along with a trio of talented prospects added to the mix.
Despite the team’s long draught of playoff appearances, this Warriors team appears poised to make the leap they haven’t made since 2007, when they bounced the then-No.1 seed Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs.
With this in mind, here are my bold (but realistic) predictions for the Golden State Warriors 2011-2012 season.
No. 5: Klay Thompson Will Emerge as a Top 3 Rookie in This Year's Class
Thompson brings much needed depth to the Warriors' rotation.
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
The Warriors' lottery pick has comparable skills to starting point guard Stephen Curry, with the added benefit of being four inches taller than the 2009 Rookie of the Year runner-up.
Scouts have begun comparing him to another tall and lanky shooting guard with unlimited range-Reggie Miller. If Thompson has anywhere near the impact of the sharpshooting Miller, look for him to leap to the head of this year’s weak rookie class, much like the aforementioned Curry in his first season.
If he does, the Warriors will also have a great insurance policy in case Monta Ellis decides he wants out of Oakland.
No. 4: Rookie Second Round Pick Jeremy Tyler Will Become the Starting Center
Tyler will be a center of attention for the Warriors
Several teams considered taking Tyler in the first round, and for good reason. Tyler has the size and skills that leave NBA scouts drooling. Tyler impressed many scouts with his pre-draft interviews, where they raved about his level-head and new-found maturity. Several scouts pegged him as a likely first round pick. Luckily for the Warriors, Tyler was available early in the second round where he seemingly fell right into their laps. His draft rights (No.44 overall) were eventually purchased from the Charlotte Bobcats for $2 million, courtesy of the deep pockets of owners Gruber and Lacob.
Although the pick is considered a gamble, Tyler's talents will quickly overshadow his perceived flaws. Sure he will likely struggle at first as he must adjust to the speed of an NBA game.He will no longer be the tallest and most athletic player on the floor at all times, and must prove he has the skills to compete against the Andrew Bynums and Dwight Howards of the world.
Something tells me the 20-year old will be able to pull it together and finally figure it out. And when he does? Watch out! As Tyler will seize Andris Biedrins' starting spot sooner rather than later.
No. 3: Monta Ellis Will NOT Be Traded
Some in the organization belive the team can win with a small backcourt featuring Ellis
The drafting of shooting guard Klay Thompson has led many observers to believe that Monta Ellis is already half way out the door. However, I believe that key members of the front office and head coach Mark Jackson see things otherwise.
The newly crowned NBA champion Dallas Mavericks have shown that an unconventional backcourt relying on talented albeit undersized guards can be successful. Some within the organization believe that the Warriors can use this same blueprint and achieve similar success. If that ends up being the case, expect Ellis to be a key member of the team's long-term plans, as he is a lethal scorer and budding star on the defensive end (highlighted by his 2.1 steals per game last season, good for third most in the league).
Whether or not they want to admit it, the team’s success hinges on the tattooed shoulders of the explosive 6’3” Ellis. As Monta goes, so do the Warriors.
No. 2: Mark Jackson Will Improve the Warriors' Record by 10 Wins
Hand Down, Man Down
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Last season, former head coach Keith Smart improved the team’s record by 10 wins. New head coach Mark Jackson is poised to take the team to even greater heights, thanks to a deeper bench and the support of a highly successful brain trust.
The 46-year-old Jackson is a natural born leader who has played the game and succeeded on its highest levels. He brings 17 seasons of NBA experience playing for hall-of-fame coaches such as Pat Riley, Larry Brown, Jerry Sloan, and Lenny Wilkens among others.
As a point guard, Jackson was an extension of all his former head coaches while he was playing in the game. Now out of the broadcast booth and onto the sidelines, he must prove he can lead a team without the ball in his hands.I predict him to have a similar impact as Celtic's head coach Doc Rivers, who led Boston to a title in 2008.
No. 1: The Warriors Will Make the Playoffs
The Warriors could be headed back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-2007 season
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Yes, you can quote me on this: “The Golden State Warriors will make the playoffs in 2012!”
This statement may be shocking to many observers out there, and for good reason.
The team has only one lone playoff appearance in the last 17 seasons, but appears primed to make significant improvements. The make-up of the team has already changed for the better since last season's disappointing finish, and even more acquisitions appear to be in the works.
If the organization is as committed to winning as they say they are, look for the team to improve on both ends of the floor, propelling them back into the postseason for the first time in five years.