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Thursday, November 27, 2014

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 11. Golden State Warriors

Overall Win/Loss Record :  51-31  second place Pacific Division

2014/2015 Projection: 48-34, second place Pacific Division, seventh place Western Conference

Projected 2014/2015 Finish

Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored:  104.3 (10th)
  • Points Allowed: 99.5 (10th)
  • Team FG%: .462  (9th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .436 (4th)
  • Team FT%: .753 (19th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .380 (4th)
  • Rebounds per game: 45.3 (5th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 43.3 (20th)
  • Turnovers per game: 14.9 (27th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 14.5 (11th)

Returning Individual Statistical Leaders

  • Scoring (ppg): Stephen Curry (24.0)
  • Rebounds per game: Andrew Bogut (10.0)
  • Minutes per game:  Stephen Curry (36.5)
  • Assists per game:  Stephen Curry (8.5)
  • Field Goal Percentage:  Andrew Bogut (.627)
  • Free Throw Percentage:  Stephen Curry (.890)
  • Three Point FG Percentage:  Stephen Curry (.424)
  • Steals per game:  Stephen Curry (1.6)
  • Blocked Shots per game:   Andrew Bogut (1.8)
Projected Opening Day Starters Based on Past Performances and Potential Impact:

Key Reserves Rank Based on Past Performances and Potential Impact::
After years of futility, Warriors fans can now celebrate that their team will no longer be a perennial cellar dweller in the NBA after two straight playoff appearances as well as its first 50+ win season in twenty years.  Unlike most Warrior teams who would simply make the playoffs once in a blue moon, this one looks as it is here to stay thanks to a solid and competent front office which is completely in sync with the coaching staff and the players on the court--something that the team has not had in eons.  For the first time in its history, Golden State finally has built a winning culture based on the continual pursuit of excellence where simply just making the playoffs and losing in the first round--something that the organization would have been satisfied with just a few years ago.  What the Warriors organization want now is a championship and even though it enjoyed one of its best winning stretches in its history, that was simply not enough in their eyes, especially since they following such an excellent regular season run with a first round elimination by the +Los Angeles Clippers. That is why they parted ways with the previous coach, Mark Jackson, the man who had actually brought the Warriors to where they are in the first place replacing him with rookie head coach Steve Kerr because sticking with Jackson would have meant remaining at the status quot.

Unfortunately, despite their best intentions, simply changing the coaching staff is simply not enough for this Golden State team to take the next level earning that elusive championship dream and Kerr might just find himself in the same situation as Jackson.  The problem with the Warriors is that save for their dynamic back court duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, there is virtually nothing else on that roster that can maintain a consistent presence on the court long enough for it to reach its potential.  Come playoff time last season, Golden State had already lost two of their starters, Andrew Bogut and David Lee, to season ending injuries thus making them completely unavailable for the entire post season thus leaving the team severely shorthanded upon its arrival in the post season.  When they are on the court together, no one can argue that both Lee and Bogut make one of the league's most imposing front courts with Bogut's ability to crash the boards, block shot and protect the rim while Lee balance them out with his effective and efficient scoring in the paint; however over the past couple season that has not been the case.  Neither have been able to play a full season, let alone be ready to carry themselves and their team through to the playoffs and with them being owed nearly 40$ million for the next three years, the Warriors are essentially stuck with them unless they can find a sucker to take at least one of them of their hands.

Add both Lee's and Bogut's contracts to that of the Curry's (30$ million over the next three years) and the fellow "spalsh brother"  Klay Thompson's 70$ million extension that will begin next season and will last for the next four years, the Warriors are pretty much capped out.  Even with the salary cap looking to encroach to nearly 80$ million next season thanks to the NBA's next new television deal, Golden State will basically have its hands tied for the next two or three years. Curry's, Klays, Bogie's, and Lee's contracts will take up approximately 60$ million of the Warriors' cap space for the next three years which is not too bad since in theory; however, add the nearly 13$ million the Warrior's invested this season and the approximate 27$ to 30$ for the next two in an underwhelming Andre Iguodola, that pushes the cap number to about 73$ million.  Last, but certainly not the least, let us not forget the recently signed Shaun Livingston, whose comeback season with the +Brooklyn Nets earned him a three year deal at around 6$ million per year, the Warriors have essentially locked themselves to 79$ million of salary essentially tying its hands for the next three years for players that are either not reliable enough to play through a season without being struck with a season ending injury, or simply is vastly overrated to be deserving of the money they got signed to.

Andre Iguodala can be considered as the perfect example of a player who has had both the perception of his value as well as his ego over inflated for his entire career and despite all his accolades has failed to live up to them each and every time.  After an amazing four year stint where he produced a amazing 18 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and two steals per game, Iguodala's offensive production dropped significantly to 14 points and has consistently dropped for the next three years.  Unfortunately, despite his significant statistical drops, he still carries the undeserved moniker of an "All Star" and major impact player as well as the huge price tag that comes with the recognition even though he has not played up to that level in four years.  In his Warriors' debut, Andre got paid an All Star's salary of 12$ million, but on the court, he produced a measly nine points, five rebounds and five assists per game in 32 minutes of playing time thus making him potentially one of the biggest free agent blunders in NBA history.  What is worse about this situation is that he is still on the hook for another 36 million for three year and if last season was a sign of what to expect, then Iguodala will look to become the most expensive role player to ever play in the league.

Iguodala's presence has not hurt the Warriors' flexibility for the next two or three years, but it also has hampered the development of Harrison Barnes, who followed a promising rookie season with a less than stellar sophomore appearance as he come off the bench in favor for Iguodala.  It will be interesting to see what Golden State does once Barnes becomes eligible for a contract extension since they have essentially reached the limit on their salary cap and once they sign Barnes the will likely reach the luxury tax threshold and will be forced to pay twice for every dollar paid over the cap.  As for Lee, even though his contract expires at the end of next season, that has not garnered enough interest of any teams to facilitate a trade and with him being a regular on the injured list, the Warriors' depth in the front court is severely hampered as there is virtually no one that has shown capable to cover for him once he returns to wearing street clothes come mid season.  The only real option for the Warriors once Lee falls is an undersized Draymond Green who prides himself on his supposed versatility, yet neither has the size to matchup with the league other bigs or the speed and athleticism to play at the small forward.  The other option is an enigmatic Mareese Speights who has the size, skills and talent to take on any opposing big man in the league; however, neither his coaches, teammates or fans know what type of player will arrive come opening tip off as his ability to play at a consistent level game in and game out has been severly questioned.

Shaun Livingston was brought in to strengthen what can be considered as a rather weak second unit and will probably be a great asset with his size, athleticism and abilities as he can be inserted in either guard position as well as the small forward spot; however, he is no way a game changing player.  At best he will provide solid backup minutes behind Stephen Curry at the point guard position, plus may be also inserted alongside the Splash Brothers allowing both Curry and Klay to play off the ball instead of having to facilitate the offense themselves.  Altogether, as a team, the Warriors are a little to be desired with its roster that consists of dead weight contracts, less than spectacular bench, and very shallow front court depth leaving both Curry and Klay to be the sole consistent offensive producers.  If either one or both of them fall to injury during the season, then the team will be in plenty of trouble as there is virtually no one else who has the ability to pick up the slack on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor; plus, with their rather dire salary cap situation, the situation will not be changing anytime soon--or at least the next three or four years.  Fortunately for the Warriors, their new head coach has experience when it comes to teams that boast two superstar players followed by a hodgepodge of average role players to support them; in fact, he has played for such a team.

As a member of the 1996-98 +Chicago Bulls Championship team, Steve Kerr essentially came off the bench as the team's resident three point shooter playing off the greatness and riding on the coattails of +Michael Jordan and +Scottie Pippen.  So in terms of organizing an offense, he can probably utilize the same Triangle Offense in which his former coach and current mentor, Phil Jackson, using both Curry and Klay as the team's two key focal points on offense and have the rest of the team ride off their greatness.  He will certain not have implementing the strong defensive discipline which is often associated with team's that Jackson coached since his predecessor, Mark Jackson already set that mentality in stone; plus, being one of the top teams in the league in turnovers committed last season, Kerr's squad seems smart and disciplined enough to execute the Triangle to perfection.  The only problem he has, as with the case of his experience as a player, was the fact that if either  Jordan or Pippen were to fall to injury, then the Bulls would have not been capable of making the post season, let alone the championship dynasty it has ascended to at the end of the 20th century.  Plus, Steve Kerr has another problem which may lead him to same result that caused the departure of his predecessor and that is even though he has two superstar caliber players in Thompson and Curry, there is no way that they can ever hold a candle to two of the greatest players to have ever played the game in Jordan and Pippen.

So overall the Warriors still have the ability to remain as one of the top tier Western Conference teams falling shortly behind as such powerhouses as the +San Antonio Spurs+Los Angeles Clippers, +Portland Trail Blazers and +Oklahoma City Thunder; however, they are in no ways able to surpass any of these teams thus remaining as first round fodder for not only this seasons, but those that follow.  Golden State simply does not have the size nor roster depth to overcome any one of these teams in a seven game playoff series and those are most likely the teams the Warriors will have to go through in order to have a chance to reach its first NBA Finals since 1975.  They simply are not good enough with just Curry and Klay leading the charge, and with the way the salary cap situation looks for Golden State, it seems as if that situation will not change anytime soon.  That's  not a very good omen as two or three years from now, both Curry and Klay's contracts will expire making them unrestricted free agent and the Warriors will be hard pressed trying to convince those two to return to a team that has gone nowhere fast.  Short of a natural disaster such an earthquake swallowing up the entire Bay Area during a Warriors home game, expect much of the same with the Warrior being among the top five finishers in the West only to see them get eliminated for either the first or second rounds of the playoffs.