As the regular season nears, Golden State Warrior fans are eagerly awaiting an encore to the second round playoff appearance of last year. Last year was exciting as a young Warriors team gave a Spurs’ team (that almost beat the Heat in the Finals) all they could handle. WIth the beginning of every season there is hope, this year more than most, but there are also questions. The three burning questions that will decide the fate of the season of the Warriors this year are:
Who are the starters and will Barnes or Thompson be effective off the bench?
As soon as the Warriors signed Andre Iguadola and failed to get Dwight Howard, the question became who will come off of the bench, Barnes or Thompson. I spent an article this summer detailing the advantages and disadvantages of both, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out during the season. It will be interesting to not only see who starts but who finishes, who is trusted when, can Barnes or Thompson dominate second units and will Green, Bazemore, Douglas, Speights, O’ Neal and Ezeli provide the Warriors an advantage over second units. If the answer is yes the Warriors may be an elite team in the West. If the answer is no, they will be fighting for a playoff spot.
Will Andrew Bogut be healthy and how does a healthy Bogut elevate this team?
With the talks of a Bogut extension, it seems like the Warriors are counting on a healthier Bogut. For stretches, Bogut gave this team everything they needed: a huge defensive presence inside, passing from the low and high post, an enforcer, a dominant rebounder and a monster dunker. However, these stretches were few and far between and yet the Warriors excelled. Bogut was dominant in the Nuggets series and the Warriors won in six. He faded during the Spurs series and the Warriors struggled. If he can put a season together the Warriors may be fighting with the Thunder, Spurs, and Clippers as the top team in the West and a championship contender, if he continues to miss games or play at half strength, they will find themselves battling the T-wolves, Suns, Mavs, and Pelicans to sneak into the playoffs. The gap between these levels in the NBA is huge and the giant Aussie is the key to bridging it.
Will the young core continue to improve dramatically or will they plateau?
Steph Curry is finally coming into his own but the Warriors carry a ton of youth, which have flashed brilliance as well as frustrating incompetence. When David Lee went down Harrison Barnes looked like an all-star forward, but most of the season he seemed to just blend in, hesitant to let his natural abilities dominate the opposition. Klay Thompson has one of the sweetest strokes in the game and he can be a smooth playmaker, but also takes the most ill advised deep two-pointers on the team. Also, his layup shooting is much like NBA 2k from a few years back, there is no reason for him to miss but yet he finds a way. Draymond Green was another player to shine when Lee went down with his injury, but even in the same series he seemed to disappear. While he doesn’t force bad shots, he misses far too many wide open threes. If he can improve his jumper and continue to rebound and pass out of the post, he will be an incredible stretch four off of the bench or he can be a cheerleader, racking up minutes on the bench. Festus Ezeli is a raw big, who showed incredible timing with his shot blocking but struggled whenever he touched the ball on offense. He will be out half the year, but when he comes back, taking the next step as an offensive player would give the Warriors a great advantage over most backup centers in the league.
How will these questions be answered this season? No one could tell you in October, but these questions will help define who the Warriors are in 2013-2014. I like the odds of them turning out in favor for the Warriors and the W’s giving the Thunder, Spurs and Clippers all they can handle. Miami better be ready for a June trip to a rockin’ Oracle!