Diagnosing Golden State Warriors' Remaining Roster Flaws

Simon Cherin-Gordon@SimoncgoContributor IIIAugust 16, 2013

Let's just hope this never happens again.
Let's just hope this never happens again.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors will enter the 2013-14 season as an NBA-title contender for the first time since the early 1990s.

After having what was arguably the best offseason in the league, the team is expected to improve on last season's 47 wins.

However, the sixth-seeded Warriors did make the second round of the playoffs. They deserve credit for doing so, but it must be noted that they beat a Denver Nuggets team that is historically awful in the playoffs and—after Danilo Gallinari's ACL tear—was not a particularly strong No. 3 seed.

In 2014, even if the Warriors return to the playoffs with a better record and seeding, getting to the second round and beyond will be harder than it was last year. The competition has gotten tougher yet, and flaws still remain in Oakland despite the team's sweeping success of an offseason.

Recently Filled Holes

To criticize the Golden State roster before first illustrating just how well it's constructed would be unfair. It would also make me come off as grumpy.

The Warriors thrived during the 2012-13 regular season due primarily to their three-headed monster of a backcourt (Stephen Curry, Jarrett Jack and Klay Thompson) as well as their ability to always have an offensive rebounding and scoring force at power forward (David Lee and Carl Landry).

Still, the holes were multiple. The team lacked a premier defender on the perimeter (and inside during the 50 games that Andrew Bogut missed). They also lacked the athleticism to break down the defense through penetration, and the bottom-of-the-bench guys hardly ever contributed positively.

If not for relatively good health and an extremely strong record in close games—the team's Pythagorean win-loss record was 44-38—the Warriors may not have been a playoff team.

GM Bob Myers was certainly aware of this, as he made the unpopular yet gutsy decisions to let super-subs Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry walk in free agency.

He then traded Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush for Andre Iguodala, before later filling out the roster with free agents Marreese Speights, Jermaine O'Neal and Toney Douglas (along with draft pick Nemanja Nedovic).

On paper, Golden State completely cured its perimeter defense with Iguodala and Douglas, improved its interior defense with Speights and O'Neal and added an explosive slasher and penetrator in Iguodala.

With these additions, rotation players such as Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli become lower-bench guys, thus upgrading that area dramatically.

Remaining Weaknesses

In correcting several roster flaws this summer, the front office was extremely active. After adding six new players last summer, Myers nearly repeated the feat by bringing in five fresh faces.

It should go without saying, but the five additions had to be offset with five subtractions. The losses of Biedrins and Jefferson don't actually hurt the roster while Landry should be pretty much accounted for by Speights, but Jack and Rush did leave some holes that have yet to be filled.

The Warriors were the best three-point shooting team in the NBA last season (40.3 percent), but were only eighth in threes made. Three players—Curry, Jack and Thompson—combined to drain 566 triples, all at over 40 percent efficiency.

The rest of the team hit only 92 times from deep and did so at a 30.3 percent clip.

Even before Jack's departure, the Warriors' lack of shooting depth hurt them in the postseason. Their primary shooters were also their go-to scorers and therefore found themselves tired and well-defended in big moments.

They didn't have a Derek Fisher; a Robert Horry; a Ray Allen.

Rush returning from his torn ACL looked like it'd cure that problem—he's a 41.3 percent three-point shooter for his career—but the issue is only larger now that both he and Jack are gone.

It doesn't matter that Curry and Thompson are the two best shooters in the NBA; elite playoff teams will force others to take the biggest shots. Douglas (35.9 percent for his career) and Iguodala (32.9) are not the solution.

Jack's departure also creates what is currently a non-issue but eventually could become a fatal flaw: the lack of an insurance policy behind Curry.

If the weak-ankled Curry was to go down all season or during the postseason, the Warriors would be done no matter who the backup was. He's that valuable. However, if Curry was to miss three or four weeks midseason, the presence of a capable starter like Jack would keep the Warriors from falling too far in the standings.

If Douglas has to start 15-20 games this season, it's almost impossible to see the team improving on last season's record.

There is one other significant roster flaw, but it's one that was not created this summer. While Bogut, O'Neal and Ezeli are tentatively one of the best center trios in the league due to their ability to protect the rim and rebound, they all have a glaring lack of lateral mobility and health concerns.

The health part is simple. Either Bogut or both O'Neal and Ezeli (once he returns) must be healthy at all times for the Dubs to avoid getting clobbered inside.

The lateral mobility part seems like a minor detail, but the fact is that the Western Conference is stacked with versatile big men who can shoot, drive and jump. No one on the Warriors roster is suited to guard a player like Anthony Davis, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, etc.

This problem is subtle and won't fully manifest itself until the postseason, but like shooting depth, elite teams must have a defensive answer for all types of players.

Solutions Coming?

Since the Warriors have a fairly sturdy 12-man roster in place, these flaws are unlikely to be fixed this offseason.

Given that, the shooting depth is the most patchable hole. There's a chance that Nedovic—who shot a combined 39.2 percent from deep in three different leagues last season—may provide the team with a situational striper. There's also the chance that Douglas will become more selective in a smaller role this season, thus upping his percentages.

The best bet, however, is the growth of Harrison Barnes.

After draining a decent 35.9 percent of his three-point attempts during his rookie year, the 21-year-old forward has had a season to adjust to NBA range. Moreover, his increased confidence after his breakout postseason will help him eliminate the indecisiveness that appeared to cause many of his misfirings a year ago.

Unless Speights is a revelation on defense, Bogut plays like he did before his injuries mounted, O'Neal plays like he's 27 or Lee plays decent defense (those possibilities are listed in decreasing likelihood), Golden State will still struggle to defend shooting, rolling or slashing big men.

Al Jefferson joining and Josh Smith staying in the Eastern Conference is the best news they'll get on this front all season.

As for insurance on Curry, a Jack-level backup PG will come at a high cost. The only way the Warriors add one is if a severe Curry injury forces their hand.

There are certain situations in which you hope a flaw is not addressed.


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