The Warriors’ roster is all but set. They’ve added size. They’ve added defense. They’ve added depth.
But have they added enough?
The Warriors are invested in this squad for the next two seasons. As it stands now,
Andrew Bogut, Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and Stephen Curry come off the salary cap after the 2013-14 season. That means this season will be vital in determining which direction Golden State heads in the future (who gets an extension, who becomes a free agent). So there is no question, the Warriors are gearing up to win now.
Is this team good enough to make the playoffs?
I say yes.
Warriors general manager Bob Myers did all he could to stop short of saying this is a playoff team. But based on the talent, depth and combination of youth and experience, I think this team should make the playoffs. And not making the playoffs would be a huge disappointment.
Obviously, health is the big question mark. But that’s the big question mark for every team. Any team in the league would suffer a drastic decline if they lose a star player. So let’s just presume health. If Andrew Bogut, Stephen Curry and David Lee are healthy, and they’re all expected to report to camp healthy, this team had better make the playoffs. They’re out of excuses.
This team should win 45 to 48 games. If they don’t, it’s because somebody didn’t do their job. Probably multiple people.
Certainly, the Warriors have some holes. The most glaring for me is they don’t have the athleticism you’d like on the perimeter. Jarrett Jack should help their ability to get into the lane. But the Warriors don’t have an electrifying athlete, someone who can physically get the upper hand on a good defender.
Also, there are still questions about their defense, especially in the backcourt, though I think a healthy Bogut will help tremendously.
Youth is also concern. The Warriors are relying heavily on a second-year shooting guard. They’re also needing for at least two rookies to be part of the rotation (Festus Ezeli and Harrison Barnes).
And coaching is still a question. Jackson has shown he can get his players to play for him. But he and his staff are unproven in meaningful games. It’s a different ballgame when you have talent.
Still, the Warriors have some noted strengths.
They are highly skilled in the starting lineup. Their four penciled in starters (Bogut, Curry, Thompson, Lee) are all multifaceted in their skill set. Bogut and Lee may be the best pair of passing big men in the league. Curry and Thompson are probably the best shooting backcourt in the league. They should present some serious match-up problems.
They’ll have an experienced trio coming off the bench with bankable attributes. You know what you’re getting from Jack (defense, leadership, penetration). You know what you’re getting from Landry (inside scoring, offensive rebounding, energy). You know what you’re getting from either Brandon Rush (defense, outside shooting) or Richard Jefferson (slashing, spot-up shooting), whichever is not the starter. That’s pretty good depth without even mentioning the three rookies.
The Warriors have the tools to play halfcourt, a weakness over the years. I don’t think they’ll be nearly as good a running team because they don’t have the Monta Ellis type to push the ball and make something happen. But with good ball movement and unselfishness, they should be able to have a solid transition game.
What’s more, the Western Conference playoff teams aren’t as scary as they once were. The top five are formidable no doubt: Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Lakers, Clippers and Memphis. But after that, eehhhh.
Denver, Dallas and Utah were the last three teams in. Houston, Phoenix, Portland and Minnesota were the other four teams ahead of Golden State.
Denver is still solid though didn’t do too much to improve (adding Anthony Randolph and drafting Evan Fournier). Ditto for Portland (adding rookies Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard). I like Utah’s trade for Mo Williams (not moved by Jazz addition of Marvin Williams). But Mo Williams doesn’t vault the Jazz too high.
They’ll all be good teams. But if the Warriors aren’t better, or at least as good, that’s an indictment on the Warriors more than a testament to these other teams.
Dallas was looking bleak for a moment but re-tooled nicely. Still, adding Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo hardly makes them invincible.
Minnesota got better, adding Chase Budinger, Andrei Kirilenko and fellow Russian baller Alexey Shved. They should play some good team ball once Rickey Rubio gets back.
Houston and Phoenix may have gotten worse. Other than the top four or five teams, who makes you say “the Warriors have no chance at finishing ahead of them?”
Playoffs should be an expectation now, not a wish, especially since this group has a short window to prove itself. And I don’t mean if everything goes right, and they pull off a magical run, they should get in. If everything goes normal, this team has enough to make the postseason.
If they don’t, they should be on their way out.