Know thy Enemy: Golden State Warriors
Last Season: 29-53 (.354, 3rd in the Pacific Division, 10th in the Western Conference)
Key Additions: Drafted Stephon Curry. Also brought in Acie Law, Speedy Claxton, Devean George and Mikki Moore, but if any of those guys become "key," the Warriors will have officially crossed into a realm scary enough to be the setting for the next installment of Saw.
Key Subtractions: Jamal Crawford, Marco Belinelli
(You just think the lil' guy is watching Warriors highlights from last season... Amazing how the color palate matches, though.)
The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Joan and Christina Crawford. The Nazis and the French Resistance. All examples of relationships functioning at a more harmonious level than the Golden State Warriors. While the assembled hoards in El Segundo spent Media Day desperately trying to prove the circus had come to town in the form of Ron Artest's social media smorgasbord and Lamar Odom's E!-tastic wedding, the real McCoy was taking place upstate, short only dancing bears and bearded ladies. Monta Ellis welcomed Curry to the locker room by declaring the Warriors wouldn't be able to win says there's no way the Warriors can win with both the two of them on floor at the same time. Stephen Jackson wants out, because, and I'm paraphrasing only slightly here, it's exceedingly obvious the team is run by nitwits, and the chances of him ever being on a winning squad in Oakland appear as likely as Paris Hilton being named Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Hard to believe Captain Jack has already been suspended, thanks to his actions against the Lakers at the Forum. Two preseason games missed, something that, as an angry 10 year vet, I'm sure tore him up inside.
Of course, this is after the Warriors offered and Jackson accepted an extension ("Who's going to turn down that money? I'm not stupid.") that'll pay him over $10 million in 2013-14, when Captain Jack will be, if my math is correct, about 35. Good luck moving that for anything useful, Larry Riley.
All the discord is merely the second (maybe third, perhaps ninth) act of last year's mess of a season. Injuries played havoc with Don Nelson's rotations, not that anyone necessarily noticed given the often bizarre lineups he fielded and the way players entered and exited his doghouse. These were the semi-surprises to go along with what everyone knew going in: Golden State doesn't play any defense. 112.3 points allowed per night, most in the NBA, and the league's third worst defensive rating.
Also expected were big offensive numbers (108.6 ppg), but it wasn't like they had some finely crafted offensive plan. As John Hollinger notes in his season preview for ESPN.com (Insider required, sad emoticon), the Warriors may have scored a lot, but they didn't pass much:
Last season Golden State assisted on only 53 percent of its made baskets, the second-lowest rate in the league. While one of the main offenders of the me-ball attack, Jamal Crawford, was exiled to Atlanta, there are plenty of other single-minded scorers ready to take his place. Ellis played only 25 games a season ago, but he's a shoot-first point guard who needs a lot of work finding the open man. He'll often team with Curry, another guard far more accomplished at shooting and scoring than at seeing the floor.
Here's a shocking stat: Only three Warriors in this season's likely rotation finished in the top two-thirds at their position in assist ratio last season. Two of them were centers who moved the ball a bit better than their peers but had little impact on the team's overall assist rate. Only Jackson, who ranked fourth among small forwards, is a legitimately good passer. Wright, Ellis, Morrow, Watson, Maggette and Azubuike all finished in the bottom 15 at their positions in assist ratio, while Randolph didn't fare much better.
To re-enforce the point, Nellie's gang attempted 7,055 field goals (3rd in the NBA), made 3,231 (3rd again), but finished 13th in FG% (.458) and 15th in assists (1,711). Golden State's effective field goal percentage of .497 was 18th in the NBA. Basically, when the Warriors managed to get a rebound (they were dead last in defensive rebounding percentage), someone got up the floor super fast and chucked. It wouldn't surprise me if "Run up the floor and chuck" was actually what Nellie wrote on the white board before games. And, of course, since the Warriors lack both size and guys up the floor fast enough to grab them, they were a bad offensive rebounding team, too. The Warriors may have piled up points, but were very one dimensional in how they did it.
This couldn't have been what Ronny Turiaf signed up for.
The Warriors don't lack for good players. Ellis can score with most any guard in the NBA. Andris Biedrins averaged a double-double in only 30 minutes of burn a night. Need someone to draw fouls and get to the line (and not much else)? Corey Maggette is your man. Anthony Randolph showed incredible potential when given minutes and will likely start at power forward, whatever that position entails in a Don Nelson scheme. Anthony Morrow and CJ Watson were pleasant surprises. Curry looks far better as a pro than I thought he would. Overall, though, the parts don't fit together very well (everyone can score, not nearly enough dudes do anything else) and to say there's a lack of direction by the Bay is an understatement.
Add in shoulder surgery for up-and-comer Brandan Wright, on the same shoulder that forced him to miss 37 games last season no less, and the picture gets worse.
Golden State has too many explosive players to go completely into the tank and not enough or the right mix of them to make a serious run at the playoffs. Instead, they exist in a sort of basketball purgatory, except it's probably more like hell for their very loyal, very boisterous fans.
Prediction: 33 wins, 4th in the Pacific, 12th in the Western Conference.
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