With only 15 days until the start of the National Basketball Association (NBA) regular season, expectations for the Golden State Warriors remain high, based on recent success.
Coming out of a solid 51-win 2013-14 season riddled with injuries to key players and an offseason of strengthening the supporting players, the future looks bright. It may not be possible to contend as the best in the Western Conference, as the Spurs, Thunder and Clippers remain dominant forces, but the Dubs will strive for the fourth spot in the west.
Training camp has gone well. Working under first-time head coach Steve Kerr, the team has focused on fundamentals. Kerr plans to speed up the offense and reinforce the importance of movement, as the Warriors had the highest offensive efficiency rating in the league when three or more passes were completed, according to Kerr. With two premier guards, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, and two good passing bigs, Andrew Bogut and David Lee, the passing should come naturally.
In addition to a new coach, the team has added depth — something it lacked last season — with the acquisition of Shaun Livingston and Jason Kapono. Both guards will allow more time for Curry and Thompson to rest, keeping them healthy and energized, and provide a spark off the bench for the reserves. Livingston is a seasoned 10-year NBA veteran that averaged 8.3 points per game last year and will help get the struggling bench play in good offensive form. Kapono was most recently playing professionally in Greece but has played 9 years in the NBA and ranks fifth all-time in three-point field goal percentage, according to NBA.com, and will help create spacing offensively for the bench. With the addition of Kapono, the Dubs should rely even more on their three-point shooting, having Curry, Thompson and first ranked three-point percentage shooter in the league last year, Andre Iguodala.
As long as the Dubs can stay healthy, a luxury that has been unobtainable in recent years, the starting five of Curry, Thompson, Lee, Bogut and Iguodala is one of the best in the league along with a solid bench. With reserves to back up Lee and Bogut in the frontcourt, defense at the rim should be much improved as as should fluidity and motion in the offense.
One of the biggest questions for Kerr is how he can manage the team’s bench efficiency while on the floor. The Warriors were one of the most dominant offenses when Curry was playing, but as soon as he got a rest, it was as if there was a cap on the net. Along with defensive woes without Iguodala, Kerr must find a way to make the bench players step up another level in their gameplay.
This is the major limitation of the Warriors, as every other elite team has a phenomenal back-up unit, it is hard for starters to get rest in important games when the bench’s plus/minus is at -16.4, according to NBA.com. This means that when starters rest, they will have to make up for the lost production while they were not on the floor. Kerr must find a way to improve bench production on both ends of the court for the Warriors to have a legitimate chance at going deep in the playoffs.
The last major off-season occurrence was the major trade rumors for Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star power forward Kevin Love. The proposed deal would have sent Thompson and Lee to Minnesota for Love and guard, Kevin Martin.
The front office for the Dubs was torn whether to give up Thompson for Love, but to most in the NBA community, it would have been an obvious net gain for the team. A Curry and Love pick and roll would have been deadly, but this opportunity came and went. At least for the Warriors, Love went to the eastern conference, making the west minimally easier.
With a lot to prove, this young team is up to the challenge and ready to fight to make a playoff appearance for the third straight year, while making a statement in the difficult western conference. Obviously, the Warriors have lots of potential that is simply waiting to be used, and having a new coach like Kerr added to the franchise should bring even more energy. The Warriors look like they could be a team that is seriously competing for a championship. Hopes are high, and if the conditions are right, this season could be one to remember.