3-on-3: Warriors Shadow Contenders for Title?
Grantland’s Zach Lowe wrote a terrific piece on the Golden State Warriors in which he reveals that the Dubs might be a shadow contender (seriously, give it a read). The article prompted the Warriors World staff to discuss some of the points he addressed in this most recent installment of 3-on-3.
1. What backup point guard should the Dubs be trying to acquire?
Jordan Ramirez: Nate Robinson. Denver’s other point guard has been in the middle of trade rumors this season, and while the Warriors have a vested interest in Andre Miller — Denver has a vested interest in trading him too — the former Warriors guard would be an ideal fit for the second unit.
He’s cheaper ($2 million this season, $2.3 million next season [player option]), eight years younger, knows the system and is the perfect scoring spark to ignite the bumbling bench. He doesn’t carry the explosion of a Kyle Lowry, the experience of an Andre Miller or whatever it is Kirk Hinrich brings you, but he does bring you instant offense, a genuine floor leader and a personality that this team could get behind and thrive from.
“Fan-favorite” sometimes has a negative connotation, especially for those that have departed, but Robinson was beloved not just for his small figure and incredible on-court emotion, but because he genuinely was a good basketball player and was the perfect fit for Jackson’s quirky, tank-laden first season. The Warriors have transformed into a contender in the two seasons since Robinson was let go, and now that his replacement has departed as well, the need for a backup point guard is as dire as ever.
Would he fit on this team? Well, Robinson isn’t your prototypical point guard given his size, but that hasn’t stopped Robinson from successful treks with Golden State, Chicago and now Denver. He averaged 11.2 PPG, 4.5 APG on 43% shooting and carried a AST/TO ratio of 3.08 (Stephen Curry carries a 2.12 AST/ratio this season) in his 51 games with the Warriors.
He won’t be asked to lead this team to the Promised Land, but instead spell Curry for however much rest Jackson desires and be able to lead the second unit out of it’s troubling, often annoying scoring droughts with his ball-handling and shooting. Given his cost, the Warriors should be looking at re-acquiring the 5’9’’ Robinson — Lil’ Nate as he was known at Oracle — more than any other available guard on the market.
Jesse Taylor: Whoever it is, you shouldn’t give away much for him. Realistically, you only need a back-up point guard for 10-15 minutes a game. Between Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala, most of the minutes are accounted for, especially in the playoffs. The ideal player needs to run the offense well and be able to get his own shot. The bench is going to give up runs and a player who can stop those runs by answering with big shots is key. Right now, there is no go-to guy off the bench.
Who can you get without losing Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green or Festus Ezeli? Not Kyle Lowry. Leandro Barbosa would have been nice but Phoenix snatched him up. Maybe Kirk Hinrich, Andre Miller may be available at a discount based on the issues in Denver with Brian Shaw. Miller is a veteran who can make an impact by running the offense well and hitting big shots with his crafty old-man game.
He still won’t get many minutes, but he’ll be on a winning team and 10-15 minutes is better than the DND-CDs he’s sometimes getting in Denver.
It’s a safe, boring pick, but I like the veteran presence of Miller on the Warriors.
J.M. Poulard: Kirk Hinrich. Many are infatuated with Kyle Lowry, but he is the starting point guard of a Toronto Raptors squad that is perhaps the third-best team in the Eastern Conference. Hence, he’s probably staying put.
Hinrich is part of a Chicago Bulls team that might be looking to cut costs and also, he is terrific backup guard because he can run a team, make a decent clip of his open shots and defend both guard positions. For what it’s worth, there might be a wildcard out there that few if any have mentioned: Shaun Livingston of the Brooklyn Nets.
2. True or false: Turnovers will eventually doom the Golden State Warriors.
Jordan Ramirez: False. The turnovers are a concern, and Stephen Curry leads all players with 157 –Jeff Teague is second in the NBA with 132 — but to say they will “doom” the team is farfetched. The Warriors biggest concerns are their need for a backup point guard and the injuries to their frontline.
How many of Curry’s turnovers are avoidable? Many are of the one-handed variety or simply miscommunication with his teammates, both of which are correctable and can be limited as the season progresses. Keep in mind the Warriors are still getting accustomed to Andre Iguodala and a healthy, revived Andrew Bogut. They are a team devout with willing and capable passers, and sometimes the extra pass is the worse pass. They’re learning, and I’m not overly concerned with how the turnovers will “doom” this team, especially come the postseason.
Jesse Taylor: False. If they add a decent back-up point guard, it gives Curry more time to rest so he makes less mistakes on the court. And if it’s Miller, he helps bring down the turnover ratio by being on the court. Because of the way they play and the risks their star player takes, the Warriors will always have turnovers issues. But they are not enough to doom them. I mean, do I wish they would stop? Of course. That would be nice. But they are still winning despite playing sloppy and I expect that sloppiness to clean up as the season goes on.
J.M. Poulard: True. This answer comes with a qualifier though. In Lowe’s piece, Draymond Green suggests that the team will be fine going forward whereas Klay Thompson disagrees. I’ll side with the 2-guard on this one because the Warriors have been quite careless with the ball at times.
It’s one thing if the miscues are a result of pressure, but in the case of the Dubs, they have simply formed sloppy habits, which will be problematic at some point. The combination of isolations and turnovers are enough to get them bounced early from the playoffs if not taken care of.
3. Will the Golden State Warriors win the Western Conference?
Jordan Ramirez: No, but the fact this is even a question shows you how serious this team is as a contender. The San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder will take the top two spots in the West, but after them it’s a baffling collection of capable teams.
It wouldn’t shock me if the Warriors dominate their home-heavy upcoming schedule and finish third, nor would it surprise me if the Houston Rockets make a run or the Portland Trail Blazers hold on to that third spot (they’re currently No. 2).
I had the Warriors finishing fourth before the season and I’ll stick to that prediction given the Warriors friendly upcoming schedule. It won’t be easy, and while their talent and recent play is indicative of a Top-two seed, the scary consistency of San Antonio and Oklahoma City will trump all others vying for one of the first two seeds.
Jesse Taylor: I believe they can, so I am going to predict they will. I’d hate to be that guy watching the Warriors make a run to the Finals and have this post be something people can point to as evidence of my idiocy. There are plenty of other things that prove that, so why add one more.
The odds are against them, and a trip to the Western Conference Finals alone would be a great season in my book. But screw it; I’m predicting a Warriors Finals berth.
Why? Draymond Green will keep getting better at both ends. Harrison Barnes will get his confidence back and start making an impact. And Andre Miller will steady the bench production.
Come playoff time, Festus Ezeli, Jermaine O’Neal and Mo Speights will help the frontline in limited minutes.
J.M. Poulard: Prior to the start of the season, I picked the Warriors to lose in the first round to the Houston Rockets. Mind you, they have done enough through the first half of 2013-14 to change my mind (the injury to Chris Paul certainly helps).
I still don’t necessarily believe they will win the West, but I do believe they can. The combination of stellar defense and emerging offense coupled with a few breaks here and there could lead them straight to the NBA Finals. The jury is still out though.
Bonus: What team poses the biggest threat to Golden State reaching the NBA Finals?
Jordan Ramirez: Houston Rockets. Call me crazy, but I’d rather play San Antonio, Portland or even Oklahoma City instead of Houston in the playoffs. Until proven otherwise, they just have the Warriors number. If these teams do meet in the playoffs, their rosters won’t be the same as the Warriors will surely acquire another guard and the Rockets would have dealt Omer Asik.
As of now though, I give the edge to the Rockets for their incredibly efficient offense, improving defense and Dwight Howard. Home court might change my prediction, but the Rockets will have the upperhand in that series and is the team I’m most weary of in the playoffs.
Jesse Taylor: I hope it’s the San Antonio Spurs for redemption purposes. Defeating the team that knocked you out the year before is always a motivating factor. Portland will fade. In a seven-game series, the defense of Bogut, Iguodala and Thompson can neutralize Dwight Howard and James Harden. The Thunder with Russell Westbrook are obviously a huge obstacle. But the smart, savvy Spurs have the Warriors’ number and will be the toughest wall for the Warriors to climb to reach the Final for the first time since 1975.
J.M. Poulard: The San Antonio Spurs. They defeated Golden State with their starters down in Texas (Steph Curry missed the contest) and then casually strolled into Oracle Arena without their top-three players and gave the Dubs the business.
The Spurs do a great job of capitalizing off turnovers and taking advantage of defenses with their motion offense. Until the Warriors demonstrate they can consistently challenge San Antonio on both ends of the floor, Tim Duncan and company will remain their fiercest competition.