The national audience seems to be enamored with the Golden State Warriors and truthfully, it makes all the sense in the world.
The Dubs have a top-15 player to boast on the roster and play an exciting brand of basketball predicated on 3-pointers and getting out in transition. In addition, the emergence of Harrison Barnes during the 2013 playoffs made him one of the league’s most intriguing young players heading into the 2013-14 campaign.
Put it all together and they are the top-rated NBA League Pass team.
Indeed, Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe ranked the watchability of all the teams in the league and the Dubs finished at the top of the standings over at Grantland. Here’s a quick excerpt of their back and forth:
Bill: It’s not my fault you live on the wrong coast. The Warriors also have lineup flexibility — they can go big or small. Plus, they mixed it up from last season by adding Iggy, which gives them a different feel from last year and opens up engaging questions like “What’s their best lineup?” and “Is this setting Harrison Barnes back?” I think they’re a top-10 team and a fringe contender, but they aren’t good enough to win at home by going on cruise control — that means we’re getting their best every night. And best of all, they have one of the league’s best “TURN THIS GAME ON RIGHT F—ING NOW!” guys. What am I missing? Don’t be ashamed, Zach Lowe. Follow your heart.
Zach: Curry was the guy who really swung this. I’m not sure exactly when it started — maybe the 54-point game at MSG, maybe earlier — but he is crashing the top of the “change the channel, this guy is going crazy” rankings. I mean, who else is up there? LeBron, Rose, Kyrie, Durant, Curry … is that it? Maybe a rejuvenated Dirk? Other guys can take over games, but they either need someone to pass them the ball (Griffin), or they are more clinical than stylish/explosive/insane (Chris Paul, James Harden).
There is simply no other way to say it: the Warriors have arrived.
Once upon a time, Golden State was simply entertaining to watch in defeat. However, they have since morphed into a unit that is both exciting to watch and expected to win games.
Not that gambling is legal or anything, but odds making service Bovada.LV set the over under win total for the Warriors at 51.5 (quick disclaimer: info only provided for recreational purposes). Clearly this suggests on some level that Golden State will be in the playoff discussion and perhaps even land a top-four spot in the Western Conference standings.
Granted, there seems to be some internal divide at Warriors World over the fate of the team in the playoffs as evidenced by ESPN.com’s 5-on-5 post on the outlook of the Dubs.
When pressed on how far Golden State’s season will go, here were the answers submitted by Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Jack Winter and yours truly:
Poulard: First round and out. The Warriors will face the Houston Rockets and lose in a fantastic seven-game series loaded with treys. The tandem of Iguodala and Bogut will give James Harden and Dwight Howard all they can handle, but the Rockets’ superstars will end up carrying them to the second round.
Strauss: I’m leaning toward 51 wins and a second-round exit. The Warriors’ biggest flaw on offense is that they can’t draw fouls. I predict this flaw becomes (eventually) fatal, but not before an exciting, mostly successful season unfolds.
Winter: The Western Conference semifinals. Golden State is among that cluster of teams sitting just below San Antonio and Oklahoma City in the conference pecking order. The Warriors could win 55 games and even knock the Clippers from their Pacific Division throne, but it won’t be enough for tangible playoff progress on last season. Maybe next season.
This is certainly welcomed anticipation for a team that had been chasing a playoff berth since the 2007-08 season. Joining the postseason dance is no longer good enough though. Instead, that has been replaced with second-round playoff expectations.
The Warriors obviously possess the talent to drop the People’s Elbow on most of the Western Conference, but the trepidation stems from two factors: Harrison Barnes and team health.
Andrew Bogut returned to form during the 2013 playoffs and seemingly submitted a monster defensive performance in each playoff game. Mind you, he missed 50 regular season games and often looked incredibly rusty when he was available.
This makes his contract extension talks incredibly fascinating on its own. He is clearly a dominant player defensively, but his health had made it difficult for the team to consistently rely on his presence.
In addition, there will always be concerns over Stephen Curry’s ankles. Given that he has appeared in north of 70 seasons in three or his four seasons, it may be tempting to say it’s a bit overblown. Then again, the sharpshooter missed 40 games during the 2012-13 season.
In the event that Curry and Bogut are out of the lineup, that complicates things for the Warriors. One could say that every team will struggle without their best players and that clearly rings true. But in the case of the Dubs, the players in question have occasionally had issues remaining on the hardwood and consequently it’s almost assumed that they will not.
With that said, if both are available for the bulk of the 2013-14 campaign, the Warriors are in serious business. They will be a team to be reckoned with, especially if Harrison Barnes shows some improvement.
The swingman bulked up during the offseason in order to play a vital role in Mark Jackson’s small-ball offense. After seeing him take advantage of mismatches during Golden State’s 2013 postseason run, many figured that same player was going to come back and cause an Armageddon for the rest of the league.
Not so fast. Barnes has played with a great level of confidence during the preseason but he has terribly struggled as well. Unlike in his playoff showings, Barnes has been matched up against players his size and they have limited his production.
Remember, Barnes flourished in late April against defenders that simply had no shot at guarding him. He was defended either by bigger and slower players or smaller defenders that switched onto him as a result of a pick-and-roll. That was the source of his success.
This is the biggest reason that forced me into asserting that he was better off as a second-unit player. As the designated Warriors’ sixth-man, the coaching staff can incorporate him into the game and immediately downsize the lineup.
They have not had a chance to get a clear look at such a five-man group during the preseason because Barnes has been sidelined with a foot ailment, but it bears keeping an eye on going forward.
These factors will determine the calendar date at which Golden State’s season ends. Yet and still, the rest of America might just be paying attention throughout the course of the Warriors’ ups and downs.
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