In August of 2005, Sports Illustrated placed then rookie sensation Jeff Francoeur on the cover of the magazine. The headline read, “The Natural” with the subtitle, “Atlanta rookie Jeff Francoeur is off to an impossibly hot start. Can anyone be this good?” Francoeur appeared to be “The Natural” after his first 37 games, hitting .360 with a 1.067 OPS, but he soon fell back to normalcy, finishing the year batting .300 with 14 home runs and 44 RBI’s.
Since that point, Francoeur has been nothing special, never eclipsing the kind of production that he displayed in the first 37 games of his career. He has always been one of the top fielding outfielders in baseball and won a gold glove in 2007, but his overall repertoire is not as good as it was once projected. While he appeared to be the next best baseball player in the world, a future star for years to come, he never reached the top of the mountain many thought he was capable of climbing
So, what does this Jeff Francoeur moment have to do with the Golden State Warriors in 2013-14?
After the Warriors’ magnificent breakout playoff performance, they have been declared one of the perennial favorites to win the Western Conference next season. ESPN.com ranked them fifth in their future power rankings and noted that they were the highest risers in their rankings from 19th to fifth.
The Warriors’ backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson was coined as the “Splash Brothers” or the “Super Splash Bros.” Bill Simmons of Grantland.com slotted as Curry number three in his trade value column, just behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant. In front of the likes of James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul.
The Warriors ran the Denver Nuggets out of the postseason and challenged the San Antonio Spurs, eventually falling to them in six hard fought games, where it appeared the biggest weakness the Warriors had was their youth and inexperience, not an issue of X’s and O’s.
Curry emerged as a superstar, showing the world that he is more than just an elite shooter. Harrison Barnes played his pants off and came out of his shell he was hiding in all season. Center Andrew Bogut displayed to the world he still knows how to play the game of basketball. And as a team, they proved to be more than just a bunch of elite shooters who run really fast and are fun to watch.
But in 2013-14, the Warriors, who now look poised for a step up in the NBA, could easily step down, much like Jeff Francoeur stepped down after his ultra-hot breakout performance in July and August of 2005.
Here are five reasons how the Dubs could look more like Jeff Francoeur post-August 2005 or the Sacramento Kings after the 2002-3 season instead of looking like the Oklahoma City Thunder of present, or the Warriors pundits expect them to be next season.