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NBA Team Previews: 2008 Golden State Warriors Preview

Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.


GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
By Eric Johnson
RotoWire Writer



STATE OF THE FRANCHISE



For the second straight year, the Golden State Warriors head into the NBA season looking to replace arguably their best player and the face of the franchise. Last year, the Warriors traded Jason Richardson to the Charlotte Bobcats, but Monta Ellis was waiting in the wings and blossomed into a twenty point per game scorer. This year, they must find a replacement for Baron Davis, who opted out of his contract, walked away from a guaranteed $17.8 million dollars and signed with the Los Angeles Clippers over the summer. The Warriors quickly replaced Davis' 21.8 points per game, by signing free agent Corey Maggette who averaged 22.1 point per game as a Clipper last year. The hard part will be replacing Davis' assists (7.6 apg last year) and leadership. Ellis, became the Warriors' highest paid player this summer after signing a 6-year, $66 million dollar deal and is expected to fill the void left by Davis' departure. The Ellis era won't start until at least December as he recovers from ankle surgery.


Even with the departure of Davis and the injury to Ellis, Golden State still has a nice core of players consisting of Maggette, Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington and Andris Biedrins. The Warriors led the league in scoring last year by averaging 111.0 points per game but also led the league in points allowed by giving up 108.8 points per game. Despite the shifts in personnel, the Warriors are still coached by Don Nelson which means they should continue to play a fast-breaking, fantasy friendly style of basketball.

PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION



Don Nelson is a master of rotating starting lineups and playing guys out of position to exploit matchups. His unorthodox lineups have been successful but have left fantasy owners frustrated. Last year, the only players guaranteed heavy minutes were Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson and Monta Ellis. The front-line minutes fluctuated amongst Andris Biedrins, Al Harrington, Matt Barnes and Mickael Pietrus. Fortunately for fantasy owners, the departure of Pietrus (Orlando) and Barnes (Phoenix) should help to make the front-court rotation a little easier to predict.


Ellis, Jackson and Maggette will be the Warriors primary scoring threats and should all see 35+ minutes a night. Ellis will start at the point guard when he returns to the court, but will frequently slide over to shooting guard. Newcomer Marcus Williams should start at point guard while Ellis is out and should get 25-30 minutes even when Ellis returns. Maggette and Jackson will start at shooting guard and small forward respectively and get as many minutes as they can handle. Kelenna Azubuike and second year pro Marco Belinelli will be in the mix for some back-up minutes in the back court.


Last year, Al Harrington only averaged 27.0 minutes in 59 starts (including 17 at center), and his minutes could fluctuate again this year as the Warriors have some young, athletic talent on their frontline. Harrington will start at power forward and should see around thirty minutes a night, but second year pro Brandon Wright and 1st round pick Anthony Randolph will all be in the mix for minutes as well. Center Andris Biedrins only averaged 27.3 minutes last year but signed a 6-year, $63 million deal this summer and should be a fixture at center. He is the Warriors best bet to matchup up against the centers in the West, so look for his minutes this year to be more in line with a starter (30-35 minutes a night). New acquisition Ronny Turiaf will provide energy off the bench and should be the primary backup for Biedrins at center.

PLAYER OUTLOOKS



Center



Andris Biedrins: Biedrins was often a victim of Don Nelson's lineup shuffling last year, but he still averaged 10.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in only 27.3 minutes a game. He should continue to be amongst the league leaders in field goal percentage (62.6% last year) as last year he became the first player since Shaquille O'Neal did it in 2001 to make at least half of his shots from the field in 27 consecutive games. His free throw shooting is still dreadful (62% last year) but he isn't a volume free throw shooter (only averaged 2.5 FTA last year) so he shouldn't be a major liability in that category. If you prorate Biedrins' numbers from last year into starter's minutes (30-35 mpg), he should be a double-double lock for this fantasy season.


Ronny Turiaf: Turiaf was an "energy" player for the Los Angeles Lakers last year and will fill the same role this year for the Warriors. He should be one of the first bigs off the bench and his role will be clearly defined - rebound and defend the paint. Turiaf doesn't have much of an offensive game, but he did average 10.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in twenty-one starts last year for the Lakers. Turiaf will begin the season backing up Andris Biedrins at center but could also some time at power forward.


Kosta Perovic: Perovic played sparingly last year and the acquisition of Turiaf should keep his minutes at a minimum again this year. There have been rumors that Perovic might try to jump back to the Euroleagues and play with Israeli team Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Forward



Al Harrington: Harrington still seems to be looking for his identity as a Warrior. Before coming to Golden State in 2006, he was a low-post force who shot the occasional 3-pointer. Now, in Don Nelson's offense, he is a more of a 3-point shooter that occasionally gets his points in the paint. Harrington attempted 191 three-pointers in his last full season with Indiana in 2005, but attempted 408 three-pointers last year with Golden State (average of 5.0 a game). Harrington did shoot the three at a 37.5% clip, but standing on the perimeter resulted in him averaging only 5.4 rebounds last year. Harrington was a victim of a timeshare situation last year as he rotated between starting and coming off the bench at center and power forward. Harrington has never been a favorite of Don Nelson and has voiced his displeasure about being yanked in and out of the starting lineup and about his role in the offense. Harrington has been involved in trade rumors and could potentially lose minutes to young forwards Brandan Wright and Anthony Randolph this year.


Stephen Jackson: Jackson will be on the floor a lot as the Warriors best defender, free throw shooter and emotional leader. He averaged a team-high 39.1 minutes per game last year and shot 83.2% from the free throw line. Jackson is a scorer (20.1 ppg last year.), but his field goal percentage was a dismal 40.5% last year and that was with Baron Davis creating open looks. Look for him to be the number three offensive option this year behind Monta Ellis and Corey Maggette.


Brandan Wright: In his rookie season, Wright showed flashes as to why the Warriors traded Jason Richardson for him in a draft day deal last year. Wright is an active rebounder and shot-blocker who should continue to develop as an offensive player. He played sparingly last year, but did average 7.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in six starts last year. He should serve as a backup to Al Harrington at power forward this year.


Anthony Randolph: Randolph, the Warriors' 1st round pick in this year's draft (14th overall) has the potential to step in and be a rotation player in his rookie year. At 6-10", he can handle the ball, shoot the three, rebound and play both small forward and power forward. Randolph will start the year backing up Harrington and Wright, but could play a bigger role if Harrington gets traded.


Richard Hendrix: Hendrix, the Warriors' second round pick this year (49th overall), has a pro body and is a solid rebounder but will struggle to make the team with the Warriors' roster already well stocked with power forwards.


Dion Dowell: Dowell is an undrafted rookie forward out of the University of Houston that the Warriors signed to a non-guaranteed contract this summer. He will have a tough time making the team.

Guard



Monta Ellis: No disrespect to Devin Harris or Leandro Barbosa, but Ellis might just be the fastest guard in the league. His ability to get to the rim and knock down the mid-range jump shot makes him almost impossible to guard. Last year, he became only the ninth guard in NBA history to shoot over 60% from the field in a month. Ellis is a natural shooting guard, but the departure of Baron Davis means that he will spend some time at point guard this year. His assists (only 3.9 apg. LY) might see a bump and the acquisition of Marcus Williams should allow Ellis to spend a lot of time at the off-guard position and focus on what he does best - scoring the basketball. Ellis was the second leading scorer on the Warriors last year at 20.1 points per game and should be the Warriors main offensive threat this year. Ellis will miss at least three months after undergoing ankle surgery which puts his timetable for a possible return in early December.


Corey Maggette: Maggette signed with the Warriors over the summer and should immediately step in and fill the scoring void left by Baron Davis. The Warriors' offense is built around exploiting one-on-one matchups and Maggette thrives at beating his man off the dribble and getting to the rim. Maggette has averaged over eight free throw attempts per game his last five years in the league and has averaged 19.9 points during this stretch. Durablity has been an issue for Maggette, but he has only missed a total of 19 games over his last two seasons. He should be a nice fit in the Warriors run and gun offense and be a good source for points and free throw percentage.


Marcus Williams: The Warriors traded a future first-round pick to the New Jersey Nets this summer in exchange for Williams after Baron Davis bolted for the Los Angeles Clippers. Williams started seven games for the Nets last year and averaged 11.1 points, 6.3 assists and 1.1 steals while shooting 50% from 3-point range and 81.8% from the line. Don Nelson plans on starting Monta Ellis at point guard, but Williams will see plenty of time at point guard allowing Ellis to slide over to his natural shooting guard position. The injury to Monta Ellis (ankle) means that Williams should begin the season as the Warriors' starting point guard.


Kelenna Azubuike: Two years ago, Azubuike was playing in the D-League just hoping to get a chance to play in the NBA. Now, he is such a valued member of the Warriors that they matched a 3 year, $9 million deal from the Clippers just to keep him. Azubuike is a solid defender and will provide instant offense off the bench. He should be in the mix for some backup minutes at shooting guard and small forward.


Marco Belinelli: Belinelli was a popular sleeper last year after his impressive Summer League play, but it became apparent in the preseason that his defense wasn't close to being "NBA-ready". As a result, he only played in 33 games last year, averaging a meager 2.9 points per game. Belinelli has had a year to get stronger and improve his defense, and will battle with Kelenna Azubuike for backup shooting guard minutes.


C.J. Miles: Miles was a mid-season D-league call up for the Warriors last year and played well in limited minutes. He is one of only two true point guards on the Warriors' roster (Marcus Williams is the other) but will struggle to get minutes playing behind Williams and Monta Ellis.


Anthony Morrow: Morrow, a 6-5" rookie shooting guard from Georgia Tech, signed a non-guaranteed contract with the Warriors over the summer. The Warriors are deep at shooting guard, so Morrow will have a tough time making the team.

Sleeper:



Marcus Williams: Williams is a pass first point guard that should thrive on a team loaded with offensive weapons. He played well in his seven starts in New Jersey and will most likely begin the season starting at point guard while Monta Ellis recovers from ankle surgery. If Williams plays well with Ellis out, he could cement his role as a starter. Williams has the ability to knock down the three (38% last year) and could be a nice source for assists as a starter or reserve.

Bust:



Al Harrington: Harrington has been in and out of Don Nelson's doghouse throughout his two-year career in Golden State due his defensive and rebounding deficiencies. Trade rumors continue to swirl around Harrington and it is tough to predict how many minutes and what his role will be in the Warriors' offense.

Article first appeared on 9/17/08
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