Last season, the Golden State Warriors got off to a hot start, winning 20 of their first 30 games. Although a mid-season slump slowed their momentum, Golden State rediscovered their defense by the end of the season and finished with a respectable 47 wins and 35 losses. Their effort was enough to land them the sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs – only their second playoff berth in 19 years.
With the aggressive moves that the team has made this offseason, (ditching $20 million in dead-weight contracts to the Utah Jazz and signing Andre Iguodala) the question is whether or not the Warriors can break 60 wins.
The franchise record for Golden State is 59 wins (in 1975-76). That year, the Warriors made it all the way into the Western Conference Finals before falling to the Phoenix Suns. Hitting the 60-win mark is not an easy feat. Excluding the 2011-12 lockout shortened season, in the previous five 82 game seasons, on average, only two teams per season win 60 or more games.
To hit 60 wins, the Warriors will need to win 13 more games this year than they did last season. While that task may seem daunting, it is certainly not impossible. In fact, the moves that the team has made this summer should fill some holes in Golden State’s game.
During last season’s slump, the issue was not an inability to score, the problem was their lackadaisical commitment to defense. During the Warriors’ seven-game losing streak in February, they still averaged 99.8 points per game, but they gave up an embarrassing 117.5 points to their opponents.
The addition of Iguodala will go a long way towards shoring up the team’s occasional lack of defensive discipline. The hope is that Iguodala’s skill and aggression on defense will be contagious.
Klay Thompson showed real improvement on defense last year and the likely sixth man, Harrison Barnes, should continue to grow on both of ends of the court going into his second year in the NBA. Let’s not forget that Mark Jackson preaches defense, defense, defense to his players and won’t settle for a mid-season meltdown this year.
The loss of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry off the bench will sting a bit, but is largely mitigated by the additions of Marreese Speights, Jermaine O’Neal and Toney Douglas. Not to mention that Barnes will be coming off the bench, providing the spark of energy and chemistry with the starting unit that Jack was so effective at providing last season.
If the Warriors can improve upon their defense and if the bench is as productive this year as it was last year, then I would expect the Warriors to win at least five to eight more games this season. I would put the over/under at 52 or so wins.
Can they break the franchise record and pull off a 60 win season this year? Perhaps. If teams start tanking at the end of the season in an effort to be in the best possible position for the stacked 2014 NBA Draft, then 60 wins may not be as elusive as it seems.