The Golden State Warriors are a whole lot of FUN. Of all of the teams we have covered so far, this specific Warriors squad is widely considered by countless NBA enthusiasts to be the most entertaining team to watch so far, through a quarter of the NBA regular season. Coming off of an impressive run in the playoffs last year in which they knocked off the #3 seeded Nuggets and gave the #2 seeded Spurs all they could handle in the Western Conference semi’s, Golden State was a team that the majority of experts picked to make some major noise in the NBA this year. While they have been extremely competitive in all but a few of their games, with their record currently standing at 12-10 and finding themselves one spot out of the playoffs at the moment, the Warriors aren’t anywhere near the level of success that they had expected from themselves at the twenty-two game mark of the regular season.
REASONS FOR THE AVERAGE START:
– INJURIES: Key players getting injured early on in the season is of course always going to affect a team negatively, especially a team in which the core group of players have never had a full NBA season together. Andre Iguodola being signed by the Warriors was one of the biggest off season acquisitions in the NBA, as he fit the Warriors scheme and style so perfectly. He is able to play and defend four positions if needed, and is a rock of stability from a defensive perspective. A major hamstring injury to Iggy, paired with a short absence from Steph Curry and extended injuries to bench players with key roles, has really depleted a roster that already had initial depth issues coming into the season. Which leads us to the next subject..
-DEPTH: One of the Warriors biggest strengths last year, is now their glaring weakness. When they brought in Iguodola this off-season, the financial side of the deal handicapped the front office to a point where they couldn’t retain their top two bench players from last season’s roster in Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry. When the team is fully healthy, they have one of the best sixth men in the league in Harrison Barnes, but behind him it gets pretty murky. It’s pretty hard to get excited about a bench of Jermaine O’Neal, Draymond Green, Toney Douglas and Marreese Speights. While it is somewhat manageable to mask your depth issues in the regular season, come April, if these four guys are playing as many minutes as they are now, the Warriors will have a tough time duplicating their deep playoff run from last season.
-LACK OF EXECUTION AGAINST PLAYOFF TEAMS: Of the twenty-two games the Warriors have played so far this season, eight of them have been against teams that are currently in the top eight of their respective conference. Their record in those eight games is 2-6, with the only wins coming against Oklahoma City and an below average Detroit team. Losses to the Clippers, Spurs, Trail Blazers, Rockets, Thunder and Mavericks (along with two losses to the Grizzlies who directly trail them in the standings) is pretty deflating early in the season for a team that had plans of being mentioned along with those same teams in that elite tier. With a continued difficult stretch in the next fifteen days in which five of their eight games come against current playoff teams, the Warriors will surely know by the end of December if their struggles against the NBA’s best are a true part of their identity or just a case of early season speed bumps.
REASONS TO BE OPTIMISTIC:
THE SPLASH BROTHERS: Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, or as some might call them “The Splash Brothers”, are absolutely lethal. When the Warriors drafted Klay Thompson and then shortly thereafter traded Monta Ellis to the Bucks for Andrew Bogut, a lot of Warriors faithful were baffled by the decision, as Monta and Steph seemed to pair together to create an electric and at times unstoppable backcourt. Little did we know that what the Warriors front office had in mind was something twice as deadly. The thing about shooting the rock is that it plays at any level. If you can shoot, you can shoot, it’s as simple as that. In regards to perimeter shooting, Steph and Klay combine to make one of the most devastating backcourts of all time. And simply because of that dimension, the Warriors can never be counted out of a game, evidenced by the unbelievable 27 point comeback against the Raptors last week in which they went on a 36 point swing in 24 minutes (see video below). As long as the Splash Brothers are healthy and avoid injury, the Warriors are a threat to any team at any time.
AN ELITE STARTING LINEUP: As mentioned before, the Warriors definitely have some depth issues that need to be addressed, but when healthy, their starting five is quite possibly the best starting unit in all of the NBA. A finally healthy Andrew Bogut paired with double-double machine David Lee in the front court, is as versatile, shifty and stable of a duo in the paint that you will find in the league. When Iguodola returns (which is expected to be very soon), coupled with the unconscious combination of the Splash Brothers, the Warriors have to be considered as, if not the best, one of the best starting five in the league. If the bench can help keep the Warriros in games going into the fourth quarter, Golden State will almost always have an advantage on their competition in the last 12 minutes of games just strictly based on the collection of talent between those five guys.
THE MARK JACKSON FACTOR: Mark Jackson is a very special coach for a whole lot of reasons. Of course his success in the NBA as a player is well documented as he played seventeen years for seven different teams and was widely considered as one of the smartest point guards to ever step foot on the hardwood. But, he is also a pastor and leader of the people at his church which has given him a whole other dimension to his coaching methods and philosophies. His mental fortitude, positive spirit and the ability to convey those specific strengths to his players in unparalleled. A self proclaimed born leader, he accepted the job in Golden State in the midst of the franchise being in a low spot coming off of two horrendous seasons where the routines, practices and habits of the players were not of NBA caliber. Speaking in confidence on the task ahead of him, he proclaimed that “We are not going to accept mediocrity”. Coach Jackson instantly implemented a welcomed culture change throughout the whole organization which has resonated and strengthened every year he has been at the helm. His players love him and love to play for him, and during the lengthy duration of the 82 game NBA season, that bond between players and coach can be one of the most important aspects to a winning team.
While the Western conference is a gauntlet of highly skilled teams with playoff hopes, the elite talent at the top of the Warriors roster, paired with great coaching and one of the best fan bases in all of sports, should inevitably put this team back on the right path in the near future of this young season. If they can avoid any other major injuries, and they don’t stray from their rousing style of play, the Warriors should be gearing up for another competitive run in the NBA playoffs come April.