The All-star break weekend is going to end tonight and every team is looking to re-focus and have a strong second half of the NBA season and put the first half on the back burner.
Now lets asses the Warriors season up to this point.
The Golden State Warriors came into the season with high expectations after they’re incredible playoff run last year, expectations not only set by the organization themselves but by multiple members of the media and basketball analysts. Once the Warriors signed Andre Iguodala in the off-season that’s when the expectations and speculation rose to “possible title contender?”.
I guess if you had to choose a word to describe the Warriors season, it would be Inconsistency, The Warriors to this point in the season have not been winning the games that elite teams should win, especially at home, as the Warriors (known for having one of the best home crowds in the NBA) only boast a 16-10 home record at home. At one point the Warriors did have a 10 game win streak, but the up and down play lately has made that win streak seem so long ago. Another inconsistency has been the Warriors defense, and some of that had to do with a hamstring injury to Andre Iguodala but even when Iggy returned from his injury the Warriors lately have had a giant handful of games were they have allowed over 100 points per game, when they are on they are a very good defensive team, but when they are off their defense looks just flat out bad, it will be interesting to see the injury progress of center Andrew Bogut (who is one of the best rim protectors in the NBA) because he is a key in the Warriors interior defense which has always been very good.
One of the most underrated things people forget about when forecasting when a young team is going to “make that jump” , is how hard it is for that team to win, now that everybody knows who you are. Last year the Warriors were one of the more exciting and pleasant surprises in the NBA (wasn’t a surprise to me last year) catching teams by surprise. It wasn’t until the 2013 playoffs that everybody knew who the Warriors were and knew who Steph Curry was. If you have noticed this year teams are giving the Warriors their best shot in every game, Steph Curry’s pick n roll plays are being blitzed on nearly every screen (no matter how far behind the 3 point line the play takes place) in fear of his deadly shooting, which is something I have never seen before, and players from the Warriors are now on the scouting report in many locker rooms as they are now often attacking the Warriors weakest links on the court. All of this is a learning process for a young team, how do you win when everybody is giving you their best shot?
Lets look at some more bright spots and concerns for the Warriors
- Steph Curry’s elevated game: Steph Curry has somehow elevated his game to a new level, despite shooting a career-low 41.5% from three (still amazing but low by his standards) he is becoming a better play maker averaging a career high 9 assists per game (2nd in the NBA) and his driving abality has gotten better now that he is pretty much double teamed on all screen and rolls he is involved in. Voted as a first time all-star (as an all-star starter to boot) after being completely robbed last year, and this year his ankles have not been a problem (knock on wood)
- Warriors are 2nd in rebounding: It was a little shaky to start the season but with David Lee playing this season paired with a healthy Andrew Bougt, the Warriors rebound game isnt an issue at all. It also helps when everyone else can rebound really well for their respective positions as a bonus.
- Andre Iguodala has been as good as advertised: Arguably their most important player, Iggy has always been described as a glue guy on every team he’s been with, and it’s no different on this Warriors squad. He has been a great defender always guarding the teams best perimeter player, can handle the point forward roll which allows Steph Curry to play of the ball, and he can score a little bit as well and adds another athletic dimension to the team, which is what the Warriors expected from him when they locked him up on a 4 year contract. An early hamstring injury set things back a bit, but he has been playing very well, though he has cooled off in the scoring department every since he came back from the hamstring injury.
- Playoff seeding: Normally the Warriors record right now would give them a decent seed, but because of the insane depth of the Western Conference the Warriors are fighting to hold on to a 8th seed, with the Memphis Grizzles just right behind them, and they have switched positions with the Suns and Mavs who are both the 7th and 6th seed respectively, even though they are a good team they have a chance to miss the playoffs and be a victim of Western Conference depth.
- Home Court advantage?: As mentioned earlier, the Warriors are surprisingly up and down in Oracle arena this season, as they just have a 16-10 home record, but the issue is some of the teams they have lost to. They’ve lost to the Bobcats, Wizards, Nuggets, Timberwolves, and the Spurs (who rested Tony Park, Manu Ginobli and Tim Duncan). If the Warriors want to lock up a playoff spot they need to capitalize on the 15 remaining home games, not only that, they need to beat the teams they are suppose to beat.
- The Bench: The bench for the most part has been sub-par and on some nights just flat out awful, Harrison Barnes has needed time this season to adjust to his new role as a 6th man, and beyond that the bench has a hard time scoring points for most of the season, They have struggled to score so much that they sometimes actually run post plays for their 175 year old, back-up center, Jermaine O’neal….. yeah. Whenever the bench comes into the game, the momentum gets lost and they either give up the lead or let the other team build a bigger lead. The Warriors have tried to shake things up by trading for the streaky scorer Jordan Crawford and he has been playing really solid for the bench, and in turn the bench play lately has been better but I still think the Warriors need one more player to take them to a different level. I’ll tell you one thing though, I was right in saying that the Warriors would be better off without Jarrett Jack.
- Up and Down Defense: Don’t let the 9th defensive ranking fool you, the Warriors defense has been up and down for most of the season, during the 10 game winning streak they were great and in some other games they show flashes. The same can be said when they are bad. Klay Thompson hasn’t quite made the jump defensively as you hoped a shooting guard of his height would, and teams are figuring out that they can go at Steph Curry anytime they want too, because he just hasn’t been that good in terms of man-to-man defense, David Lee still gets lost in defensive rotations, but has played very good man-to-man defense for the most part. The scary thing is if Iguodala or Bogut go down (or both at the same time) the Warriors defense will just be flat out bad. They have to find a way to get Bogut back and ready from his minor shoulder injury because they need him for the 2nd half of the season.
Overall Grade: B-
The Warriors have been good but they can certainly improve and have shown they can play with the NBA elites, but for some reason they just can’t beat the teams they are suppose to beat, which is what championship quality teams do, especially at home. I know I should change my prediction of a Warriors/Thunder Western Conference final, but something tells me this break will re-focus the Warriors, the Warriors strength of schedule for the remaining road games should favor them but the strength of schedule at home is a little bit tougher, but you have to think at some point the Warriors will be more motivated than ever to protect their home court and stop letting the fans down.