The Golden State Warriors entered this season with sky high expectations. They wanted to win 50 games and improve upon the Western Conference Semifinals appearance from last season. They came in as one of the top teams in the Western Conference. With that came a target on their back. The Warriors have had to deal with a lot of bad teams playing better against them because they weren’t able to sleep on anybody this season.
The Warriors have struggled with consistency all season long. Even with being inconsistent they are still 14 games over 500 at 38-24 and are still on pace to win 50 games. Their record was obviously helped by the 10 game winning streak they had in early January. However, being 38-24 is only good enough for sixth place in the Western Conference; which is as good as it’s ever been with 9 teams at a .567 winning percentage or better.
A big problem for the Warriors all throughout the season has been their turnovers, free throw shooting and injuries. The Warriors rank 27th in the NBA with over 15 turnovers per game. However, it’s gotten a little better recently which is one of the reasons why the Warriors could be finding their rhythm at just the right time.
Also, something that you wouldn’t associate with the Warriors is poor shooting of any kind. However, the Warriors have been below average as a free-throw shooting team. They are only shooting 74.7, percent which is tied with the Utah Jazz for 22nd in the NBA. That’s not good enough considering the amount of shooters they have on their team.
The last thing that the Warriors are still dealing with is injuries. They’ve had 3/5 of their starting lineup miss significant games this season with Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut and David Lee missing quite a few games. Bench players like Harrison Barnes and Jermaine O’Neal have also missed a lot of games this year, which hurts the Warriors as both of those guys are impact players for them.
When the Warriors are healthy they are an extremely difficult team to play against, especially in a seven game series. Health will be the Warriors number one issue, both for the rest of the regular season and moving into the playoffs.
Moving to the Warriors recent stretch. The Warriors are 7-3 in their last ten games, which include wins over two of the elite teams in the NBA the Indiana Pacers and the Houston Rockets. Those are the kind of the teams that the Warriors can and will have to beat in the postseason. That’s not an issue when the Warriors play their brand of basketball. One thing that has been preached all season by Coach Mark Jackson has been defense. The defense has come and gone, but the defense as of late is starting to become more consistent.
When the Warriors play up to the standard that they are capable of, they are a very difficult team to beat. They are ninth in the NBA giving up 98.6 points per game and allowing opponents to shoot 43.3 percent, which is third in the NBA. Even though both of those stats are really good the Warriors as, Jackson has continued to say, can play even better defense. That’s not really that far fetch as the Warriors have an elite defender on the perimeter with Iguodala, an above average and underrated defender in Thompson, and now two rim protectors with Bogut and a healthy O’neal. Green and Barnes are also two very good defenders, that can defend multiple positions and make the Warriors very versatile when they play their small ball lineup.
A recent development that has Warrior fans excited has been the improved play of their bench. Up until the trade deadline the Warriors had the worst bench in the NBA. General Manager Bob Myers improved the Warriors bench significantly with the acquisition of Jordan Crawford and backup point guard Steve Blake. Those two along with a now healthy O’neal, Barnes and Green are actually a pretty solid unit.
Blake might go down as the most underrated signing at the deadline. His ability to run the point allows Crawford to play shooting guard and be more of a scorer, which is a role that he’s more comfortable with. He also allows the Warriors to rest Curry more, which will only be beneficial in the long run. Blake looks like somebody who will play a Jarrett Jack role of last year. He won’t score as much, but he will be able to play the point in the fourth quarter of close games, and take the ball out of Curry’s hands and let him play off the ball where he’s even more deadly.
The Warriors have been a team in the spotlight all season long because of their playoff run last year, but also because Curry is such an exciting player to watch and is also very popular with the National media. This has obviously led to more pressure to live up to expectations. Only time will tell on whether or not the Warriors will live up to their lofty expectations as well as the Media hype that has surrounded them.
If the Warriors play consistent on both ends of the floor as well as limiting turnovers, have bench production, make free throws in the clutch and stay healthy, this team has as much potential as any team in the playoffs. They will be a tough out for anybody they play and this postseason is setting up to be a dandy.