April 09, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors bench of starters stand up for the final seconds of the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 105-89 to clinch a playoff berth. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Can The Warriors Contend With Their Current Roster?


So here we are, post-Decision 2.0. I held off publishing this until LeBron James made his announcement because I knew the dominoes would start falling once he did.

I waited day and night for it, and when it finally happened, I was asleep (due to the time difference) and only read about it six hours later – in fact, it was my girlfriend who broke the news to me.

The announcement sent ripple effects throughout the league. The most notable of which for the Warriors is Kevin Love reportedly being interested in committing to the Cavaliers. The Cavs were rumored to be linked in a draft day trade for Love, only for it to fall apart when Love refused to re-sign. It seems like that is no longer an issue, especially now that the King is back home.

As it looks more and more likely that the Warriors will lose out in the Love sweepstakes, here’s the sobering question all Warriors’ fans must ask themselves: can the Dubs really contend without Love?

Last year, after signing Iguodala, the Warriors were some analysts’  dark horse pick to reach the NBA Finals. While many fans were excited, I was skeptical; were the Warriors’ really that good?

The season started and the Warriors were off to the races. They surprised many with their highlight reel plays of Andre Iguodala dealing behind-the-back passes, Stephen Curry showing an improvement in his passing ability, and Klay Thompson being deadly as ever from the 3-point line. However, as the season dragged on, the Warriors lost some of their energy and began suffering disappointing losses to teams that they should have beaten. The Warriors’ offense struggled at times, reverting to isolation plays as the shot clock wound down. Their bench play was almost non-existent, as sixth man Harrison Barnes struggled to be the primary option. Injuries to Iguodala, Andrew Bogut and David Lee didn’t help either.

One NBA season later, the Warriors find themselves out of the first round of the playoffs. And up until now, the only free agency addition the front office has made is Shaun Livingston. Can we really expect this roster to challenge for the crown, especially when the other teams in the West are either improving with the addition of new players (Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers) or through the improvement of young players (Oklahoma City Thunder, New Orleans Pelicans)?

My answer? No.

If we were being realistic, the outlook is grim. On the surface, the problems are still there – the lack of quality bench production, the possible decline in defensive efficiency, the lack of a secondary ball-handler in the starting line-up, and the questions surrounding first-time head coach Steve Kerr.

All that being said, I am hoping I’m wrong.

I’m hoping that Kerr disproves the doubts surrounding his coaching credentials. I’m hoping that Barnes bounces back from his sophomore slump. I’m hoping that Curry plays his way into the discussion for best point guard of the league. I’m hoping that Thompson vindicates the front office’s decision to keep him.

I’m hoping that against all odds, the Warriors come out and make Warrior Nation proud.

They say a little bit of optimism goes a long way…

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  • Lanny Rose

    Actually, I believe our bench will take a major jump this season with the addition of Shaun Livingston and with Ezeli hopefully making a comeback from his injuries. I beleive we still need to add an additional big man for the backup to Lee and Bogut, but I feel we will be much better than last year. Of course this always depends on injuries, but that would be true even if adding Love to the mix. Good article by the way.

    • Greg Chin

      Thank you for your kind words!

      Im still on the fence on Ezeli. Hopefully he regains his health and is able to contribute as he has the skills and size to be a good shot blocker.

    • methuselah46

      Very much hoping that Jermain O’Neal signs up for 1 last season in hopes of getting his championship. He’d be great as the 3rd center & great locker room influence.

  • Thomas Donovan

    Lack of secondary ball-handler in the starting line-up: Andre Iguodala functions very well as a point-forward and has excellent handles and passing abilities. You even mentioned his behind the backs in the opening paragraph!

    Potential Defensive Decline: This is a more valid point, however I believe under the tutelage of Ron Adams, our roster will continue to be able to play excellent defense, especially with the addition of Shaun Livingston offering the potential for a “shut-down” line-up of Livingston, Thompson, Iguodala, Green and Bogut. That’s a line-up that should strike fear into any team. However, with a 6’7 power forward, rebounding would be a significant issue. We can only hope that Draymond’s 3pt shot develops enough to at least eclipse 35% this season, thus providing the floor spacing to allow Bogut enough room inside to dominate the glass. Additionally, with such exceptional perimeter defense, he would be able to focus more on putting himself in position for boards.

    Lack of quality bench production: Another very serious concern. Mark Jackson’s much maligned hockey rotations can be blamed for much of the drop off, as should his miscasting of Harrison Barnes as a go to scorer. I hope that smart rotations that mix starters in with our bench can help overcome much of this problem. Furthermore Green’s offensive emergence in the play-offs, Harrison Barnes being able to function in a role that suits him alongside Livingston, Livingston’s own ability to finish around the rim, get to the line, and (I know it’s a scary word around here) post-up in isolation plays (he’s actually one of the best in the league in these situations). Beyond that, we can hope Nemanja Nedovic can finally blossom into the Derrick Rose-type he’s been billed as for so long, or at the very least provide some floor spacing when Livingston is out there.

    Steve Kerr: For me, this is the biggest question mark. There’s always an adjustment period with a new head coach, but for someone who is new to the team AND new to head coaching that period could be a while. Throw in the relationship Mark Jackson had with his players and all the drama that occurred, there seems to be many potential problems afoot in this regard.

    Another potential problem: This offseason has strengthened the already supremely difficult Western Conference even more. Contending for the Warriors becomes that much difficult by remaining stagnant in free-agency.

    That being said, there’s plenty of reason for optimism. Ezeli’s return, Livingston’s addition and the continued development of Green, Barnes and even Nedovic offer reason for hope. Also, keep in mind that we have yet to even seen a playoff run at full-strength. Two years ago it was David Lee, last season we performed admirably against two of the most dominant bigs in the game without Bogut. Maintaining the health of our roster will be a crucial task for Steve Kerr, but if we can make it to the play-offs at full strength and remain that way, I see no reason for anything but genuine optimism.

    • Greg Chin

      Hey Tom, thanks for your thoughts!

      1. Iggy has a penchant for the flashy and they are certainly flashy (his behind the back mid air pass comes to mind). But as a point forward and secondary ball handler, he has regressed in the previous few seasons. He is no longer the player he was in Philly. Hopefully, this is an effect of MJax’s tactics, because the Warriors need a steady hand to steer the offense when teams are double-teaming and denying Curry the ball.

      2. That “shut down” line up sounds scary. Green may be an undersized 4, but at 5.0 rebounds per game (8.2 per 36), he rebounds like a monster. Scoring will be an issue though. I really liked Green as a floor spacing option – often teams would leave him open and he would punish them.

      3. Nedovic has had a couple of seasons to show us what he can provide – but has unfortunately failed to do so. I will be watching summer league closely for his play. Hopefully he gets more opportunities in the second lineup this season.

      4. I do have some doubts about Kerr, but after listening to his interview after he was announced as the head coach, I feel more comfortable. He seems like hes been preparing for the role for the past season – taking notes of other teams when he has had the chance. He’s also been taking (literal) notes since he joined the league – under Phil Jackson’s advice. He wont be an instant success, but the transition will not be as rocky as some imagine.

      4. I whole heartedly agree with you. Dallas signing Parsons would be scary – an older version of the 2010-2011 Mavs. The Suns have also been making moves, signing Isaiah Thomas (a player I thought the Dubs should’ve gotten). The Lakers have significant cap space to make more moves, the Kings will be a lot better as well. The Dubs will just have to rely on old fashioned coaching to succeed this season.

      I think we had a lot of luck heading into the 2012-2013 postseason. Drawn against a Denver team who had just lost Gallinari, and a team who struggled defensively as well. Yes, we’ve had injuries, but we’ve been lucky as well (Sterling saga definitely affected Clippers).

      • Affirmativelee

        The real issue is health. If Bogut and Ezeli are healthy I think we beat the Clippers. And who knows how a healthy dubs would have done against OKC? we certainly played them tight in the regular season.

        Livingston will be a huge asset to the bench. Barnes, Green, and Nedo will be much more effective with less isolation and point guard who can run the offense that relies on motion and passing. Ezeli/O’Neil should be able to protect the rim for the second unit. Better rotations that mix starters with the second unit will make the collective better.

        Also Nedo, has only been with the team one season and he was banged up for most of that. It’s a little early to ascertain what he’ll be able to contribute. His jump shot has to improve for him to play a lot of minutes with Livingston, But we’ll add a back up two (B-Rush?)

        This team can compete, I’d love to see B. Rush come back and possibly Udoh at the min. A lot has to happen in terms of continued player development and with the new coaching staff i like the likelihood of that happening as Kerr brought in a lot of sharp guys.

        But the real key will continue to be health. If Lee can play like 2012 All Star Lee, if Bogut stay healthy, if Andre can stay healthy and of course if Steph’s ankle remains intact…their stellar backcourt gives them a puncher’s chance in just about any series.

      • Rob L

        The Warriors with the current lineup is definitely in play to make a deep run this next season and its all dependant on 2 factors. One Steve Kerr and his staff, 2nd overall health of the major players in the lineup.

        Think about this, Mark Jackson won 51 games with very limited offensive plays or half court sets. Jackson mostly won with talented players who rebounded and ran the ball for 3pt shots. Most of Mark Jackson’s half court offensive was finding mismatches and isolate with postups. Now think about Steve Kerr and his very very experienced assistant coaching staff who also played on championship teams with championship offensive systems.

        Steve Kerr being first year coach will make mistakes, however his transition to being a head coach is helped along with what many in the NBA say are allstar assistant coaching staff of Alvin Gentry, Ron Adams, and several former NBA players who’s plays on championship teams like the Lakers and Spurs.

        Unlike Mark Jackson who refused to build a decent coaching staff after Mike Malone took Kings head coaching job, Stever Kerr and head office went out and spent $$$ on Alvin Gentry and Ron Adams combine for over 45yrs of experience. Alvin Gentry is known as offensive guru from his days as head coach with Suns and Steve Nash. And Ron Adams is known as defensive guru which is great because Ron will have plenty of defensive minded players to work with and make the Warriors defense even better..

        Overall, I believe even with Steve Kerr being an inexperienced head coach, if the Warriors stay healthy, their talent alone can win enough games to get into the playoffs. NOW consider what Ive said about the coaching Staff and how efficient they can be on offense and defense. We dont need Kevin Love, all we need is this talented coaching staff to apply what they know about running successful system and Warriors players to stay healthy..Enough Said…