2013-14 record: 51-31
Key Additions: Shaun Livingston, Brandon Rush, Leandro Barbosa
Key Departures: Steve Blake, Jordan Crawford, Jermaine O’Neal
Projected 2014-15 Lineup: PG: Stephen Curry SG Klay Thompson SF Andre Iguodala PF David Lee C Andrew Bogut
The Golden State Warriors had a relatively successful season until they met the Clippers in the 2014 playoffs. Even then, they were up against a clearly better team and took it to seven games, so it was a bit confusing when coach Mark Jackson was fired.
Obviously Curry is the superstar here, though he would be on just about any NBA team. He was second in the West for wins above replacement, with his 12.2 trailing only Chris Paul. I really think he has the potential to win the MVP this year. I’ll get into it more in my upcoming MVP odds breakdown, but I’ll say that he’s the guy with the least working against him. If he can average better than 24 points and 8 assists again, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be in the conversation.
Curry and Thompson combined for a 55% effective field goal percentage last year, the best mark of any backcourt that took more than 35% of its teams shots since 2000.1 Thompson can score in bunches, as he’s one of the best three point shooters in the game. Not only has he shot 41% over the course of his three year career, but he’s shot 46% on the corner three. Which is why you’ll often see him camped in the corner, waiting to snipe down another basket.
Both those guys played much better defense last year than they did earlier in their careers, but neither is a guy I would feel confident having lock down the likes of Derrick Rose or Westbrook. And Mark Jackson was a hugely defensive minded coach. We can’t say for certain Kerr won’t be, but there are few rookie coaches who are going to be as focused on that side of the ball as Jackson was last year. Of course any defensive deficiencies by those two can be compensated for by Andre Iguodala.
Iggy has always been one of my favorite players to watch, as he’s explosive on both sides of the ball without giving up effectiveness. Last year he didn’t score much, but he did have a solid 103 defensive rating and gobble up a fair share of rebounds. The problem is, as he ages his numbers have been on the decline. There’s been talks of him playing behind Harrison Barnes, and like the veteran he is, he’s said he’d be fine with that move. Regardless, he’s going to play as many minutes as his body will let him, and the Warriors will be that much better when he’s on the floor.
Three guys in the starting lineup are over 30 (Iguodala, Lee and Bogut) meaning this team is going to have to contend with diminishing effectiveness and potential health issues. 30 may be the new 23 in the business world, but that’s not the case in the NBA. If any of these guys miss significant time, they’re going to be in trouble. When it comes to reserve bigs, Green can get the job done, but beyond that it’s a heap of guys with negative WAR ratings and names I can’t pronounce.
Regardless of how great they may look on paper, this team is still a relative unknown considering they’ve got a first year coach, an aging starting lineup, and a core made up of guys who are so dependent on the outside shot. If the shots are falling, this team will be unstoppable. But a few cold streaks here and there and they could find themselves in some major trouble.
X-Factor: Draymond Green
Harrison Barnes underwhelmed for much of last year, but that was made up for by the play of Draymond Green, especially in the playoffs. In his second season, he was still playing limited minutes, but he would have averaged something around 10 and 9 had he been playing 36. In the playoffs he did average numbers around that level, with a 12 and 8 line in his 32.6 minutes. He won’t be playing quite that much during the regular season (barring some injury) but if he’s able to keep up that level of productivity, he’s going to become the main guy for the second unit.
Who Has The Most To Prove: Klay Thompson
This offseason was abundant with cries that Thompson is the best two-way SG in the league. I’m not even sure what that means. Either you’re the best two guard or you’re not. If you’re the best two-way player, then you’re the best player, since basketball is played two ways. But anyway, if we really want to disqualify Harden from the conversation due to his defense allergy, I’d still say that DeRozan and Hayward are better all-around players than Thompson. Thompson really didn’t do that much last year outside of score. His rebound numbers were low (3.1), his assist numbers terrible (2.2), and he wasn’t that much more efficient than either of the aforementioned guys on offense. Now he’s supposedly not getting offered the max deal he wants and he’s having a problem with it. I’ve seen nothing from his game to indicate that he’s worth more than $11 million a year. If he really thinks he should be getting $15 million, then he needs to move away from such a one-dimensional game.
Why They’re Worth Watching:
Regardless of everything I just wrote above, they do have two of the best three point shooters in the nation, and one of them happens to be my second choice for MVP this season. They’ll be splashing in threes all season long, and hopefully their coach, the greatest three point shooter of all time, can find a way to make them even better.
Best Case: The team stays healthy, Curry plays an MVP-caliber season, and Kerr doesn’t let up in the defensive department. 58 wins.
Worst Case: The lack of depth down low is exploited, Thompson is too preoccupied with his paychecks to play quality basketball, and the team defense regresses. 51 wins.
Projected Record: 55-27