Know thy enemy: Golden State Warriors
Key additions: Corey Maggette, Ronny Turiaf, Anthony Randolph
Key losses: Baron Davis, Mikael Pietrus, Matt Barnes
I don't own a gaming system (making it silly to have a copy of NBA Live) but if I did, when I played it would always be as the Golden State Warriors. When they come before me on the magic picture box, I will always stop to watch the Golden State Warriors. Bottom line, this is an endlessly entertaining, high-octane bunch that is never, ever boring. It's like watching any of the Bourne movies. Things may not always make sense and the parts might not fit together perfectly, but they sure are a fun way to kill a couple hours.
Unfortunately, games aren't won on entertainment value alone. Therein lies the rub for Golden State.
Don Nelson's squad was already set for a difficult transition in the 2008-09 season after Baron Davis bolted to the Clippers. Yes, they replaced his scoring with Corey Maggette, who should fit in beautifully with Nellie's score in bunches/defend at your leisure approach and his attacking style could help cut down on some unnecessary triples from a team that launched with impunity last year, but Davis' influence went beyond simply putting the ball in the hoop. He was the center of a team that badly needed one, the focal point in difficult moments, and the organizer -- relatively speaking -- of an often frenetic scheme.
The transition would have been tough anyway, but now that Monta Ellis has been lost for at least the first 30 games -- do you think the Warriors would have suspended him for that long if they thought he might play sooner? -- thanks to his moped misadventures (what is it about Bay Area athletes and two-wheel transportation injuries?) things will be even tougher. Marcus Williams and CJ Watson will carry the brunt of the PG duties until Ellis returns, and unless they play well, the Warriors will be operating a dynamic spread offense without a quarterback.
There's a lot to like about the Warriors: Maggette is a good fit, Andris Biedrins is a highly productive player deserving of more PT than he gets, Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington, and Kelanna Azubuike are solid players, Brandan Wright showed some serious potential in his rookie season, and Turiaf is a great fit for their system. On the other side of the Great River, this is a playoff team. Out west, last year they missed the postseason tourney even with Ellis and Davis, and the conference is no easier a go this season.
The Warriors still probably will win more than they lose, but unless Nellie can iron out the guard play or someone steps up in Ellis' absence, they'll again be on the outside looking in come April.
PROJECTION: 44 wins, out of the playoffs.