Which game are you looking forward to the most?
Sam Esfandiari: Christmas Day. That has to be everyone’s answer right? Before the schedule was released, every Warriors fan assumed there would be another Christmas day re-match. The flopping, the skirmishes, the ejections, every Warriors-Clippers game the last two seasons has had playoff intensity. Add the heartbreaking seven game series loss in the final minutes, the intensity should only be higher. The Warriors and Clippers do play once before this, but it is in the first week of the season. While that should be a good game, both teams will still be shaking off rust, getting into rhythm and testing out rotations. By the time Christmas rolls around, each team will have had two months of real games and will be gunning for each other. I for one, have already e-mailed the family and let them know, dinner must be finished by 7pm, because I have a date with my television.
Jordan Ramirez: January 9th against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Oracle Arena. LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving come to town for a Friday night ESPN matchup. This has all the makings for another classic LeBron James-Oracle Arena matchup and nobody forgets what the King did at the buzzer last season. The new look Cavs look take down the Warriors in primetime in a game that is ready for some fireworks and multiple Mike Breen microphone heroics.
Did I mention the Cavs also have Kevin Love? These Warriors almost had him. Should they have him? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, Love is now the final piece to the NBA’s freshest Big Three in Cleveland, and they’ll be more emotions riding that night in an ultimate “What could’ve been” game.
LeBron James vs. Andre Iguodala. Kyrie Irving vs. Steph Curry. Kevin Love vs. David Lee. David Blatt vs. Steve Kerr. Dion Waiters vs. basketball IQ. This game will have it all.
Danny Leroux: January 9 – the only time the Cavs come to Oracle this season. As someone who beat the drum loudly for a Kevin Love trade since that possibility presented itself, it will be interesting to see how Love handles his first game at what could have been his home building.
Beyond Love, this game also marks the first game LeBron James will play at Oracle since his buzzer-beating game-winning three last season. The King has had some fun games at Oracle and the crowd should be very into this one from the jump. I also like games a little later in the season because we should be seeing something closer to the final version of the teams which just makes it more fun.
Toughest stretch of the schedule?
Sam Esfandiari: The stretch directly after the all-star break. Off the bat, the Warriors have a rough stretch facing the Blazers, Clippers, Rockets, Suns and Spurs immediately after the opener and home opener vs. the Kings and Lakers. This could tie a Warriors team with a new coach into a 2-5 hole. However, even if the worst case scenario happens, with so many games left, the Warriors should be able to climb out of any early hole they may find themselves in. Immediately after the all-star break the Warriors host San Antonio before going on a season long six game road trip versus Indiana, Washington, Cleveland, Toronto, Boston and Brooklyn. The Warriors should be in the midst of a serious playoff battle in the ridiculously competitive and tightly stacked Western Conference. To add fuel to the fire six of those seven games should be against teams deep in the playoff hunt or fighting for playoff positioning. How the Warriors do on this stretch could define whether they are a top 4 seed or out of the playoffs all together.
Jordan Ramirez: After two winnable games to start the season (SAC, LAL) the Warriors embark on possibly their toughest stretch of the season. 10 of their first 16 games are on the road and nine of those first 16 games are against playoff teams from last season.
Oct. 29 at Sacramento
Nov. 1 vs. Lakers
Nov. 2 at Portland
Nov. 8 at Houston
Nov. 9 at Phoenix
Nov. 11 vs. San Antonio
Nov. 13 vs. Brooklyn
Nov. 15 vs. Charlotte
Nov. 16 at Lakers
Nov. 21 vs. Utah
Nov. 23 at Oklahoma City
Nov. 25 at Miami
Nov. 26 at Orlando
Nov. 28 at Charlotte
Nov. 30 at Detroit
Would you rather have the toughest part of the schedule early or late in the season? The Warriors will have the answer to that question once December hits.
Danny Leroux: From Friday, February 22 to Friday, February 27, the Warriors play five games in eight nights all against likely playoff teams and four of the five on the road. A home tilt against the Spurs followed by games in Indiana and Washington ending with a back-to-back in Cleveland and Toronto.
Honorable mention would go to Games 2-6, a similarly tough five game stretch (@ Portland, home vs. the Clippers, @ Houston, @ Phoenix, and then home vs. San Antonio) but there are more days off and one more home game there so I’ll go with the February run.
How many games do the Warriors win next season?
Sam Esfandiari: ESPN Forecast projected 49 wins, one less than their 2013/14 projections. A new coach and disappointing injury plagued seasons from Iguodala and Lee are likely the reason for the lack of optimism. Using win share metrics, if Iguodala and Lee played their average amount of minutes per season last year with their career average level production instead of Barnes, Green and Speights, the Warriors theoretically should have won 2 to 3 more games. Ultimately, I see this team finishing slightly better than last year’s 51 win total. Curry, Thompson, and Green should continue to grow. Barnes should bounce back of a very disappointing 2013/14 season. Assuming Iguodala, Lee and Bogut have plateau’d and produce around the same level as last season, the continuity of the players plus the additions of Livingston, Rush and a healthy Ezeli should be enough to produce at-least last years win total if not more. I’m going to say 53 wins and a 4 or 5 seed.
Jordan Ramirez: ESPN’s forecast listed the Warriors as the 7th seed with a finishing record of 49-33. While the record isn’t disappointing, the seeding is. 49 wins in a crowded Western Conference for a new-look team with entirely different principles wouldn’t be the worst outcome for this team. In fact, a playoff berth for Steve Kerr’s squad in this conference would be an accomplishment.
Now, I’m not saying they should be proud of said accomplishment considering the talent on this team and the severely upgraded coaching staff, but all things considered a 49 win season isn’t catastrophic. The 7th seed could prove to be catastrophic given the likely first round opponent (SAS, OKC, LAC), but this team can compete with anybody.
I don’t see Portland continuing their success from last season and the Mark Cuban hype train is in full swing for the Mavericks. This team’s success depends on its ability to learn Steve Kerr’s new system, injuries and Kerr’s own learning curve. Will he adapt and grasp the NBA coaching idiosyncrasies from the jump? How will Curry, Klay Thompson and others adjust? Can the bench improve leaps and bounds from last season?
I’ll say the Kerr led Warriors squad finishes 52-30.
Danny Leroux: 55 wins. The Warriors were better than their record last season but also got somewhat lucky that Curry and Bogut only missed a combined 19 games while Klay and Draymond only sat out one game between the two of them. An upgrade at coach and a slight improvement in talent coupled with a few more games missed due to injury for key players makes 55 my estimate.