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NBA Team Previews: 2009 Golden State Warriors Preview

Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.


GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
By Eric Johnson
RotoWire Staff Writer



STATE OF THE FRANCHISE



Before we get to the 2010 preview, it's important to reflect on what a tumultuous season 2009 was for the Golden State Warriors:


Franchise player Monta Ellis signed a six-year, $66 million contract in the summer only to severely injure his ankle during the summer playing "pick-up basketball." Ellis later admitted that the happened in a moped accident. He was suspended and fined by the organization and didn't play in his first game until late January. He ended up playing in only 25 games and was shut down at the end of the season due to lingering pain in the ankle.


Starting power forward Al Harrington's displeasure with his lack of minutes and Don Nelson's substitution patterns surfaced during the first month of the season. Harrington publicly demanded a trade, then came down with a mysterious back ailment that put him on the shelf for three weeks. His back miraculously healed right after he was traded to the Knicks.


When it was apparent that the Warriors won't make the playoffs, Nelson decided to start benching his starters from time to time to give his younger players extended minutes. Stephen Jackson, Jamal Crawford and Andris Biedrins all missed games (DNP CD's) due to this unorthodox strategy.


In March, Nelson publicly admitted that he wanted Crawford to opt out of his contract after the season because he wasn't a good fit for the team, saying Ellis and Crawford playing together was like mixing "oil and water". Crawford was benched for three games as part of Nelson's aforementioned strategy, then showed his displeasure by benching himself for three more, citing a need for practice time.


Last December, Nelson said he was putting first round draft pick Anthony Randolph "on ice" due to a poor attitude and practice habits despite teammates and opposing players gawking about the rookie's upside. Randolph finally got to play the last month of the season due to injuries on the Warriors front line and ended up averaging 15.1 points, 10.6 rebounds. 1.5 steals and 0.9 blocks in April.


The bad news for fantasy owners is that the dysfunction begins and ends with coach Don Nelson, and yes, Nelson is back again as head coach. The good news is that Golden State has loads of talent and could be a fantasy goldmine with Nelson's fast-paced "any shot is a good shot" offense (2nd last year in points scored per game at 108.6) and aversion to defense (last in points allowed per game at 112.3).

PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION



In typical Don Nelson fashion, the starters at point guard, shooting guard and small forward are still in question. Monta Ellis (35.4 mpg last year) and Stephen Jackson (39.3 mpg last year) are locks to start, but Ellis could start at point guard or shooting guard and Jackson at shooting guard or small forward. At the end of last season, Nelson seemed committed to starting Ellis at the point and Jackson at shooting guard, but having Stephen Curry fall into his lap during the NBA draft could change things. Nelson loves Curry's ability and has said that he should play right away and possibly start. A starting role for Curry would keep Ellis at the point and push Jackson to small forward. Even if Curry does start at shooting guard, he could find himself in a time-share with upstart Anthony Morrow. C.J. Watson will be in the mix for back up minutes at the point guard position.


Kelenna Azubuike and Corey Maggette will enter training camp in competition for the starting small forward job assuming Jackson starts at the two. Azubuike averaged 32.1 minutes per game last year, and his versatility (can also play shooting guard) should get him 30-plus minutes. Maggette spent most of last year as the Warriors' sixth man and might reprise that role this year to provide some scoring punch off the bench. He is one the Warriors' best true scorers, though, so he should see no less than 25 minutes a night either as a starter or a reserve.


The frontcourt rotation should be a little more predictable with Anthony Randolph starting at power forward and Andris Biedrins the starter at center. Randolph will be in competition with Brandan Wright for the job, but his strong end of season performance last year and stellar summer-league play should net him the starting job and 30-plus minutes a night. Biedrins only averaged 30.0 minutes last year but still averaged 11.9 points, 11.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. Ronny Turiaf served as his backup, averaging 21.5 minutes and a team-high 2.5 blocks per game. Nelson has stated that he doesn't want to play Turiaf at power forward, so expect Biedrins to see 30-35 minutes a night with Turiaf getting the balance of minutes at center.

PLAYER OUTLOOKS



Center:




Andris Biedrins: Biedrins averaged a double-double last year and should continue to be a force on the defensive end (career averages of 8.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game). He is entrenched as the Warriors' starting center but only averaged about 30 minutes a game last year due to the presence of Ronny Turiaf and Don Nelson's propensity to go small. Biedrins is efficient on the offensive end (57.8% from the field last year) and should be a consistent source for rebounds and blocks this season.


Ronny Turiaf: Turiaf was a blocks machine for the Warriors last year, finishing fourth in the league in blocks per game (2.1 bpg) while only playing 21.5 minutes a night. Turiaf has fantasy upside if starter Andris Biedrins gets hurt but his impact will most likely only be in the blocks category as long as Biedrins is getting the lion's share of minutes at center.


Mikki Moore: Moore, an eleven-year NBA veteran, was acquired in the offseason to provide depth at power forward and center. The Warriors look to be set up front with Biedrins, Turiaf, Randolph and Wright so quality minutes will be hard to find for Moore.

Forward:



Anthony Randolph: Randolph spent the first half of his rookie season languishing on the Warriors' bench and the second half solidifying himself as a cornerstone of the franchise. After only averaging 5.8 points in 12.0 minutes before the All-Star break, Randolph averaged 10.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks after. He continued to impress during summer league play and his strong performance earned an invitation to the USA Basketball Men's National Team mini-camp. Randolph could be in for a big year as the Warriors' starting power forward.


Brandan Wright: Wright's second season in the NBA last year was marred by injuries; he played just 39 games due to a back injury. While Wright wasn't playing, Anthony Randolph took advantage of the extra minutes and established himself as the Warriors' starting power forward. Wright has the upside to be a solid scorer, rebounder and shot blocker, but he will most likely start the season as the backup power forward.


Kelenna Azubuike: Azubuike has become a "glue" player for the Warriors; he's a versatile, athletic, defensive-minded wing player that can play small forward and shooting guard. Azubuike is a "Nelson favorite" and could win the starting small forward job over Corey Maggette with a strong training camp. He averaged 14.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.3 threes made last year in 32.0 minutes per game and has the potential to be a multi-category contributor either as a starter (51 starts last year) or as a reserve.


Corey Maggette: Maggette struggled in his first year as a Warrior last year and spent most of the year as the team's sixth man. He still averaged 18.6 points, but only played in 51 games mostly due to a nagging hamstring injury. He has upside since he is a pure scorer than can get to the rim and the free throw line (8.1 free throw attempts per game last year) but it remains to be seen how many minutes he will get (31.0 mpg last year) with the Warriors deep at shooting guard and small forward.


Devean George: George was acquired by the Warriors in an offseason trade that sent Marco Belinelli to Toronto. George will provide some experience and depth at the forward position but quality playing time will be hard to come by.


Guard



Stephen Jackson: Statistically, Jackson had the best season of his career last year averaging a team-high 20.7 points, 6.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds. He is one of the Warriors' best defenders and has the versatility to play small forward and both guard positions. While Jackson might have hit his ceiling last year but even a slight decrease in production still makes him extremely valuable. He enters the 2009-10 season as the Warriors' number one playmaker and scorer next to Monta Ellis. Of course, that assumes he isn't traded; Jackson has been campaigning for a deal for months, and the Warriors haven't ruled it out.


Monta Ellis: Last year was a lost season for Ellis. He didn't play in his first game until late January and was eventually shut down for the year due to a nagging ankle injury. He should enter training camp healthy and look to build on his breakout 2007 season when he averaged 20.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals on 53.1% shooting from the field. Assuming Ellis has regained all of his speed, he is a unique player that can get to the rim at will and knock down the mid-range jumper. He is a natural shooting guard, but will most likely start the season as the Warriors' point guard so there could be some growing pains as he transitions to a new role.


Stephen Curry: Curry's prolific shooting range gives the Warriors yet another three point threat, but it's unclear if he will get enough minutes early on to warrant a spot on a fantasy roster. Curry is a natural shooting guard, but the Warriors believe he can also play some point guard. With Stephen Jackson penciled in as the Warriors starting shooting guard and all but guaranteed 30-plus minutes a night, Curry will be battling with Anthony Morrow for backup shooting guard minutes and C.J. Watson for backup point guard minutes. Curry looks to already be a "Nelson favorite", so a spot in the Warriors opening night starting five isn't out of the question. Curry led the nation in scoring last year (28.4 ppg) so he could be a decent source for points and threes if given the playing time.


Anthony Morrow: Morrow, an undrafted rookie from Georgia Tech, exploded onto the fantasy scene with a 37-point effort against the Clippers in November. His playing time fluctuated, but he ended up averaging 16.7 points in seventeen starts and proved that he deserves minutes at shooting guard. Quality minutes could be hard to come by with Stephen Jackson entrenched as the starter and Stephen Curry in the mix, but a Jackson trade could provide an opportunity for Morrow.


C.J. Watson: Watson rejected a three-year contract from the Warriors this summer and opted to sign a one-year deal that will make him an unrestricted free-agent at the end of next year. The contract rejection could be a sign that Watson is unhappy with his role with the team as he enters the season in a fight for backup point guard minutes with rookie Stephen Curry. Watson averaged 9.5 points and 2.7 assists last year but could have problems getting consistent quality minutes in the Warriors' crowded backcourt.


Acie Law: Law, a lottery pick back in 2007, was acquired from Atlanta as part of the Jamal Crawford trade. Law has never lived up to his high draft status (11th overall) and will most likely start the season as the #4 point guard on the depth chart behind Monta Ellis, C.J. Watson and Stephen Curry.


Speedy Claxton: Claxton and Acie Law were traded to the Warriors in the offseason for Jamal Crawford. The Warriors have a lot of depth at point guard, so Claxton will have a tough time making the team.

Sleeper:



Anthony Randolph: There's a lot of buzz around Randolph so he isn't a true sleeper, but he could be a great mid-round gamble if his game continues to develop. He busted out at the end of last year and continued to show improvement over the summer. His only real competition at power forward is Brandan Wright, so Randolph could be an impact player helping fantasy teams in points, rebounds, blocks, steals and field-goal percentage.

Bust:



Corey Maggette: Maggette is a solid source for points and free throw percentage, but he is basically a two-category contributor who doesn't help much in assists (1.8 apg last year), steals (0.9 spg) or threes (0.5 made per game) and he isn't guaranteed big minutes with Kelenna Azubuike and Stephen Jackson in the mix at small forward. Maggette's calling card is scoring and free throw percentage, but his scoring opportunities could decrease this year with Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson demanding the ball and the offensive improvement of Anthony Randolph.



Article first appeared on 9/29/09

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