Welcome to another edition of Warriors World Q+A. This edition focuses on the Western Conference Finals.
1. Who was the MVP of the Western Conference Finals and why?
Jesse Taylor (@JesseTaylor74)- While it would be fun to go with someone different who played very well in the series, like Harrison Barnes or Festus Ezeli, if we are talking about the true MVP, it can be none other than Steph Curry. Without him the Warriors are a great defensive team that struggles to score points. A notch above a team full of Tony Allen’s. Okay, maybe not that bad on offense where they are making fans under the basket run for cover to avoid the shattered glass from their awful shots. But you get the point. Without Steph Curry, the Warriors are average. With Steph Curry, the Warriors are an elite team. Steph Curry makes his teammates better. Steph Curry makes the Warriors fun. Steph Curry created Riley Curry, who turns mind-numbing post-game press conferences into Def Comedy Jam level entertainment. Steph Curry makes one-handed behind his head half-court shots. Steph Curry made the Warriors cool again. Steph Curry makes the Oakland A’s cry just by attending a baseball game in San Francisco. Steph Curry is the Warriors MVP in every game, every series, every season.
Daniel Leroux (@DannyLeroux)- As crazy as it sounds considering his last game, I think James Harden was the most valuable over the five games in question. It ended on one of two bad notes for him in the series but Harden had three simply excellent games, which coincided perfectly with Houston’s three best performances. While Stephen Curry certainly played well and served a pivotal role, Harden was the alpha and the omega for the Rockets offense and the team went nowhere without him. Heck, as I said in my series wrap-up, Houston basically fought the Warriors to a drew with Harden out there and got outscored by an eye-popping 45.9 points per 100 possessions when he sat.
Jared Williams (@jaredqwilliams)- Stephen Curry. Here is a question: what do Stephen Curry, a pet dog, and your credit rating all have in common? The answer: you will never full appreciate them until they’re gone. Steph was indescribably good against Houston. During the series he averaged close to what Draymond and Klay averaged together with 31.2 points per game, while shooting an absurd 49.1% from three. Not only was he offensively unstoppable, he helped force the steal that won Game Two and collected five steals in Game Five. The only thing that worries me about Steph Curry is that we do not appreciate his magic enough. But in a sense, it is almost impossible to appreciate him enough –he has been that good.
2. What player’s performance surprised you the most?
Jesse Taylor (@JesseTaylor74)- Harrison Barnes. I have given up on him becoming an above average player probably like 1,000 times since he was drafted three years ago, which is the same amount of times I’ve regained hope in him becoming an above average player. To see him dominate in the stretch run of a Western Conference Finals clinching game was equally shocking and exciting. It is not always necessary that Harrison play that well but it sure is fun. It is like found money or a new E-40 song that is actually good: You don’t expect it, but you’ll take it.
Daniel Leroux (@DannyLeroux)- Shaun Livingston’s first half of Game One. In almost 600 NBA games, he has only scored 14 or more points 64 times and had that many in the first half alone. When the Warriors could not get any offense going early, their backup point guard helped keep them afloat in a game where they ended up needing every single point. Livingston did not keep up that scoring assault but continued to bring value and changing the substitution pattern by using him to complement both Steph and Klay helped make the difference.
Jared Williams (@jaredqwilliams)- While my confidence in him has not wavered, I must admit that I was underwhelmed by Andrew Bogut’s performance against the Rockets. Bogut’s play during the series can be best described as a net-neutral: he did not hurt the Warriors but outside of a couple moments in Game Two I never felt like he had a huge impact. His mediocre stat line of five points per game, nine rebounds per game, and a plus-minus of zero for the series, reflects how “meh” Bogut was. Bogut’s usage as a high post passer has decreased and he was passed over in the rotation when Festus Ezeli turned Game Five into his personal coming out party. I am still waiting for peak Bogut. I know it’s there.
3. If you could pick any Rocket other than Harden or Howard to add to the Warriors, who would it be?
Jesse Taylor (@JesseTaylor74)- The Warriors really do not need much outside of a back-up shooting guard. But if I can’t take Harden, I do not want any of the Rockets twos. So, even though he did not play in the series, I would go with Patrick Beverley. Shaun Livingston is a smooth, post-up style point guard who is solid on defense. Beverley brings a completely different style with his fanatic water bug ways that drive opposing point guards insane. He is the kind of guy you love when he is on your team and hate when he is not. As we know with Draymond and Bogut, those guys are fun.
Daniel Leroux (@DannyLeroux)- For this season and the NBA Finals, I would take Trevor Ariza. His defense and shooting would add even more depth to the perimeter rotation. Long-term, Clint Capela and the injured Patrick Beverley would have to be heavily considered as well. The rookie big man did a pretty nice job in this series and the playoffs in general while having Beverley would be a useful luxury for a Golden State team without a ton of primary ball-handlers.
Jared Williams (@jaredqwilliams)- Clint Capella! Someone alert Roger Federer, Capella’s coming for the title of Switzerland’s best athlete. In all seriousness, Capella would be a dream to acquire. He just turned 21, and has the unfair advantage of explosiveness around the rim and the foot speed to competently defend pick and rolls. Not to mention his 7’4.5” wingspan provides him a standing reach of 9’.25” -that’s equal to Andrew Bogut’s standing reach. Finally, Capella’s locked into his rookie deal for the next two seasons; a deal in which the highest his salary will reach is $2.34 million. Does Capella fit perfectly into the Warriors’ current roster? No, but the value he provides is too incredible to pass up.
4. Excluding the fact that they moved one step closer, did this series make you more or less confident that the Warriors will win the championship this season?
Jesse Taylor (@JesseTaylor74)- More confident. They really did not play all that great and still won in five. Steph and Klay never got hot together at the same time in the same game, and it did not matter. Harden was a huge challenge, as was Howard at times. I am as pessimistic about the Warriors as they come, but this is an amazing team and nothing I saw in the Houston series caused me any worry.
Daniel Leroux (@DannyLeroux)- On the aggregate, yes. Fortunately, it looks like Klay Thompson will be able to play in Game One of the NBA Finals, which makes this easier. The Warriors showed that they can handle an elite perimeter talent and Dwight Howard played well defensively despite suffering a knee injury in Game One. The Cavaliers will pose a different challenge than any of Golden State’s Western Conference foes but dispatching a quality opponent in just five games shows just how good they can be.
Jared Williams (@jaredqwilliams)- After watching the San Francisco Giants win three rings in the last five years, I’ve learned that you need production from unexpected places to win a title. Unexpected production isn’t limited to bench players producing, it’s simply players positively affecting the game in ways they typically don’t -like Madison Bumgarner coming in for a five inning save. The Warriors’ 4-1 series victory over the Rockets was full of unexpected production: in game one Shaun Livingston dropped 18, in game two Steph was integral in a game winning defensive play, and game five was defined by Happy Festivus and playoff Barnes. It is these unpredictable contributions which shape a championship run. The Warriors are receiving that unexpected production – I’m more confident.