The Golden State Warriors won a modest 47 games in last year’s regular season but ended up having a better year than most could have imagined. After reaching the playoffs as a sixth seed, the Warriors soundly defeated the third-seeded Denver Nuggets in six games to win their first postseason series since 2007. In the Western Conference semifinals, Golden State gave San Antonio all they could handle, too. They lost in six games, but two contests went to overtime and four of the six games were decided by ten points or less.
When you consider the team was also missing All-Star David Lee for much of the playoffs and added Andre Iguodala to this year’s roster, it’s easy to see why the future is bright for the franchise in 2013-14.
Points Per Game: 7th
Points Allowed Per Game: 19th
Rebounds Per Game: 2nd
Notable Additions: Andre Iguodala, Marreese Speights, Jermaine O’Neal, Toney Douglas, Nemanja Nedovic
Notable Losses: Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry, Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush
Point Guards: Stephen Curry, Toney Douglas – Grade: A-
Steph Curry had his breakout party last year in the postseason, leading the way for the Warriors’ emergence. There’s little question that he’s the star of the team and averaging 23 points and seven assists last year, Curry proved he should be around for a long time in the league. He hustles all over the court and for a 6’3” point guard that shoots so much from the outside, his four rebounds per game last year are nearly as impressive as everything else he does.
One significant change here is the replacement of reserve Jarrett Jack with Toney Douglas. The move was clearly made with a look towards defense as Douglas isn’t the scorer that Jack was off the bench. While Jack gave the team 17 points off the bench per postseason game, he still turned the ball over more than three times each night. Douglas won’t score as much as Jack did, but he will play better defense and takes care of the ball a bit more.
Shooting Guards: Klay Thompson, Kent Bazemore, Nemanja Nedovic – Grade: B-
The second half of the Warriors’ incredible backcourt is Klay Thompson. Paired with Steph Curry last year, the duo made life miserable for opposing teams. Thompson had a strong sophomore campaign, scoring 16.6 points a game and was able to pick up the slack a bit on the rare nights that Curry struggled. Thompson could be a little more consistent shooting the ball and he regressed slightly last year, making only 42 percent of his shots to 44 percent in his rookie season. Still, he’s an exciting player to watch and as he proved in the monster Game 2 against San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals (34 points and 14 rebounds), he’s utterly capable of putting a team on his back at times.
Kent Bazemore has a year of experience on the rookie Nemanja Nedovic, but the team seems to like the latter quite a bit. The two will battle it out for backup minutes here.
Small Forwards: Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green – Grade: B
The Warriors made a sizeable offseason splash, acquiring guard Andre Iguodala. With so much talent in the backcourt, Iggy is expected to potentially start at small forward for the team, essentially giving them a three-guard rotation. Swapping out Harrison Barnes for Iguodala is an improvement and ultimately makes the team deeper. Iguodala isn’t the scorer he was in his earlier days with the 76ers, but he’s still capable of providing more of a punch than Barnes.
Barnes needs to work on his shooting a bit (43 percent in 2012-13) but overall, had a decent rookie campaign with 9.2 points and 4.1 boards per game. Green had a subpar regular season, but was significantly better in the playoffs. Barnes will certainly get his fair share of minutes, but Green may not with the addition of Iguodala.
Power Forwards: David Lee, Marreese Speights – Grade: B+
If healthy, David Lee could be the difference between the team advancing an extra round in the playoffs and going home early. Averaging a whopping 18 points and 11 rebounds last year, his loss was a big one for the Warriors. The team was able to overcome it due to some excellent production from the backcourt, but Golden State was clearly a bit thin up front against the Spurs as he played limited minutes in that series.
As for Speights, he was one of the team’s many offseason additions. The young forward isn’t a star by any means, but will provide a bit more toughness and depth to the frontcourt. Speights’ addition is nice, but if the Warriors are going to reach the Conference Finals, chances are they’ll need a healthy Lee to do it.
Centers: Andrew Bogut, Jermaine O’Neal, Ognjen Kuzmic – Grade: C+
With a couple of unknowns and an aging veteran, this unit really comes down to Andrew Bogut (and David Lee potentially backing him up). Bogut is an above average defender, but also saw a dramatic decrease in his scoring last season when he joined the Warriors. Averaging more than 12 points a game over his career, Bogut tallied fewer than six in Golden State. On a team with so much firepower elsewhere in the starting lineup, that was probably to be expected. Bogut’s rebounding was down, too, though, for the second straight season and connecting only 45 percent of his shots made him a liability at times. The center also played only 32 games due to injury and has only topped the 70-game mark twice in his career. Safe to say that injuries are a concern here.
Because of that, the team brought in a bit of insurance with Jermaine O’Neal. O’Neal’s career is nearing the end, but he can play a limited backup role if needed. If he plays any more than 15 minutes a game, though, that will likely be a sign that the Warriors are in trouble. O’Neal hasn’t played a full season since 2009-10 and after 17 NBA seasons, isn’t able to take on a big role.
Coach: Mark Jackson – Grade: B+
Jackson coached ‘em up last year and you can expect more of the same this season. As a former point guard himself, he certainly is a benefit to his two young backcourt stars Curry and Thompson. Jackson guided the team to a winning season last year, pulled off a first-round upset, and played the Western Conference champions tough – mostly without one of his best players in Lee.
Team Grade: B