Coming into this NBA season, there were a wide variety of predictions for how the Golden State Warriors season would go. Several pundits predicted a first round exit for the Warriors, while others wondered if the Warriors had a legitimate chance to represent the Western Conference in the NBA finals. Despite having slightly over half a season in the books, the varying opinions on the Warriors season still continue.
Sitting at 26-16 after a victory over the New Orleans Pelican’s on Saturday night, the Golden State Warriors are two games out of first place in the Pacific Division and in the sixth seed of the Western Conference. Depending on your perspective, you could either be happy or disappointed with this result.
From the glass half-empty perspective, there are concerns about this team and its playoff potential. Despite adding Andre Iguodala and having a healthy Andrew Bogut, the Warriors have an identical record as last year through 42 games. They are on pace to finish in the same seed as last year as well, indicating the team may not have improved as much as one would hope.
Meanwhile, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry are both tied for the fifth most minutes played per game in the league. Thompson has run almost 109 miles this season, the most of any player in the league, and there isn’t much guard depth behind the starters. The arrival of Jordan Crawford should help, but there still are not many ball handlers on this team and the teams offense has struggled when the starters sit.
This increase in minutes has contributed to the Warriors being one of the worst turnover teams in the league, led by Curry’s league leading 4.3 per game. While other good teams turn the ball over a lot as well (such as Houston), it is still a worrisome trend that could doom the Warriors come playoff time.
However, the most concerning part in this season has been the lack of production from the bench, specifically Harrison Barnes. The whole bench has been a struggle all year, but Barnes had the highest expectations of the bench group. Coming off a strong playoff run, Barnes was expected to come in as a sixth man, but has struggled in that role, shooting just 37 percent from the field in December and January and often disappearing in games.
Despite all of the above factors, there are still plenty of reasons to be excited about this Warriors team. They are coming off of a great 10 game winning streak, and despite struggling since returning home, still find themselves right in the middle of the playoff hunt.
The problems of heavy minutes for Curry and Thompson are a concern, but there is help on the way. In the beginning of the year when Andre Iguodala was healthy, Curry and Klay were averaging fewer minutes and getting more rest. However, since Iguodala has returned from injury, the Splash Brothers minutes haven’t quite dropped yet, so there is optimism that as Iguodala get healthier, their minutes will return to their lowered levels. Plus, the addition of Crawford will provide ball handling that Toney Douglas did not possess, allowing more opportunities for rest for the starting guards.
More rest for Curry should help his turnover numbers, as he will be less tired on the court and may decrease lazy passes. Curry has shown the ability to keep his turnovers down when playing along another ball handler (such as Jarrett Jack last year and a healthy Iguodala this year), and Crawford should help that situation as well.
Meanwhile, the Warriors have played one of the hardest schedules in the NBA. They have played the most road games of any team in the league, and are tied with the Phoenix Suns for the most games against the daunting Western Conference. That amounts to a lot of home games against the Eastern Conference, where the Warriors have had a lot of success this year.
Whether you are optimistic or pessimistic about the Golden State Warriors, there are factors you can use to support your case. Regardless, the Warriors are right in the middle of the playoff hunt and have shown the ability to play with anyone. For the first time in years, the Warriors now have expectations; time will tell to see how everything unfolds.