GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
By Eric Johnson
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.