Let’s do an experiment.
First, go outside and pick up a rock. Choose a small one – you want something around the size of a golf ball or a baseball. Next, look up at the sky and see if you can find the moon. Use a telescope if you have to (you shouldn’t have to). Aim for that and throw your rock as hard as you can.
The likelihood of the Golden State Warriors winning an NBA title in 2014 is only slightly better than the likelihood of your throw defying God, gravity and the upper confines of the atmosphere to connect with the lunar surface. You could do it in theory if your arm were strong enough (or if you had the wherewithal build a shoulder mounted rocket contraption like a modern-day Jake Gyllenhaal in October Sky). But you’re not and you don’t, so you’ll probably have to explain to your neighbor why you were throwing rocks into their yard.
I’ve been wrong before, and that ridiculous analogy really doesn’t do the Warriors’ recent achievements justice, but this team has a lot to accomplish before it can enter the conversation for possible title contenders. Lest we forget, Golden State finished with a 23-43 record only two seasons ago. Even with the major strides the squad took last season, the Warriors are far from perfect. Their defense remained troublingly inconsistent whenever center Andrew Bogut sat or was injured, the offense struggled against dominant frontcourts and the ankle problems that plagued Stephen Curry late in the playoffs are worrisome.
Even with those flaws, Golden State posed the only real challenge to the San Antonio Spurs leading up to this year’s NBA Finals. And with Curry and Klay Thompson locked up for the next couple of seasons, the Warriors own one of the most terrifying backcourts of recent memory.
Perhaps most importantly, the Splash Brothers’ supporting cast has improved dramatically from two seasons ago. The Warriors will enter the new season with David Lee coming off an All-Star effort, a (hopefully) healthy Bogut and high-upside talent in Harrison Barnes, who has proven his worthiness of the 2011-12 tankjob Warriors fans endured to secure a lottery pick.
The starting five will also benefit from young and veteran role players coming off the bench, all of whom have demonstrated an ability supplement weaknesses in Mark Jackson’s defense-first system (Draymond Green, Brandon Rush, Festus Ezeli). By any measure, the above constitutes a solid foundation on which the franchise can build for the next two or three seasons.
Unfortunately – unsurprisingly – it won’t be enough. Golden State will likely enter the 2013-14 season in need of a backup point guard (Jarrett Jack, an unrestricted free agent, will command more money after his 2013 campaign) and possibly a backup power forward (ditto for Carl Landry). Finding effective replacements for one or both of those players should be a top priority for the front office, though that will be difficult given the salary cap constraints management faces with Andris Biedrinsand Richard Jefferson still under contract.
Furthermore, even with the inevitable personnel and coaching shake-ups, the West remains the dominant NBA conference. In order to secure a Finals berth, Golden State would have to claw their way past established powerhouses like the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers, all while fending off other upstart franchises like the Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets.
As of June 10, Linemakers had the Warriors at 25-1 odds to win the NBA Finals (behind the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets), and their odds to win the Western Conference Finals sit at 11-1.
Those are better odds than shooting the moon, but it’s still a long shot.