With the NBA season kicking off on Christmas Day, the Golden State Warriors, like almost all other teams, have only a few days left to finalize their roster before opening their 2011-12 campaign at home against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Dubs currently hold 16 players on their training camp roster, but only 15 spots are available once the NBA season commences. The Warriors will decide the fate of that final roster spot very shortly; but, of course, the last cut is the most painful. Who will it be?
A closer look at the Warriors’ roster shows a who’s who of who-are-yous? Behind the familiar starting lineup is a supporting cast of newbies and new blood—the entire bench save for one player, Ekpe Udoh, was not with Golden State last season. As such, first-time head coach Mark Jackson will be relying heavily on the starters throughout the season.
Fortunately for Warriors fans, the starters are recognizable, and all five of them return from last season’s squad: point guard Stephen Curry, shooting guard Monta Ellis, small forward Dorell Wright, power forward David Lee and center Andris Biedrins.
Though the starting five have combined for 28 total seasons in the NBA, none of them are older than 28 years old. It’s would be nice for Jackson to lean on some deeper experience during this strike-shortened season.
After all, the Warriors’ bench depth is going to be a concern. Golden State made tiny ripples in the free agency pool during the abbreviated offseason, signing veterans Kwame Brown, Dominic McGuire and Brandon Rush.
The remainder of the roster is completely raw. In fact, the combined number of NBA seasons for the 11 current bench players is 19 seasons. They include six rookies or players with no NBA experience whatsoever and two second-year pros. That greenness will play a factor in the compressed stretches of the season. Golden State’s bench unfortunately does not provide the leadership or sage experience that a young team needs.
The Warriors were (un)fortunate to select three players from the 2011 NBA draft—Klay Thompson, Jeremy Tyler and Charles Jenkins. All three rookies are locks for the opening day roster. But behind them are Tommie Mitchell, Ish Smith, Edwin Ubiles and Chris Wright.
It seems that no matter who inches ahead and snatches the last roster spot, the Warriors will be babysitting a very inexperienced unfledged group of youngsters. And with the most experienced player being Brown, the Dubs will have even further lack of guidance among the second string.
To be sure, the Warriors will have to depend heavily on their starters to get them through the season, especially with Coach Jackson’s new mantra of instilling a defensive presence. The lack of a true preseason, along with the shuffling of players through the small free agency window, will make it difficult to gel on the defensive side of the ball.
Yes, Thompson is seen as being thoroughly ready to contribute to the team, but defensively, he’ll have to learn the nuances of a tough, fast and dynamic NBA.
After all, defense requires more repetition than does offense, where natural skill and instinct take over during new partnerships and team acquisitions. That is why Jackson will lean on his veteran starters tremendously if they are to see their postseason dream ripen to fruition. Thompson and the rookie class may look nice in relief roles on offense, but during the key stretches of games—of the season—Golden State will have to depend on the starters.
And that’s why it’s going to be a long and difficult shortened season for the Golden State Whos.
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