STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
Golden State's new ownership group that took over in 2010 finally found the right management, and the organization is headed in the right direction. For just the second time in 19 seasons, the Warriors played in the postseason. After ousting Denver and throwing a scare into the Spurs, Golden State exiting the offseason with elevated aspirations.
Unfortunately, at the start of this offseason they were laden with bad contracts that would prevent them from adding pieces to a roster that would go deeper into the playoffs. Without getting into the arcane nature of the NBA's salary cap, the Warriors were bumping up against the luxury-tax threshold and would be incapable adding new talent or of replacing unrestricted free agents Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry with comparable talent. The 2012-13 postseason appearance was looking like a one-and-done proposition for the Warriors.
That all changed in one day. Warriors general manager Bob Myers persuaded Utah with the lure of two first-round draft picks in the talent-rich 2014 draft, to swallow the contracts of Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush. The freed up cap space aided in the completion of a sign-and-trade with Denver to acquire Andre Iguodala. The team also added depth players to replace Jack and Landry via free agency. Toney Douglas, Jermaine O'Neal and Marreese Speights signed and will give the Warriors a deeper bench.
Golden State head coach Mark Jackson will have to figure out how to best integrate Iguodala into a perimeter rotation that already includes returning starters Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. The small-ball lineup worked well for the Warriors last season, but going with three guards was out of necessity. They have the big bodies to play a traditional lineup, and Andrew Bogut is in good health as we enter training camp.
Part of the Warriors success last season could be attributed to the chemistry of its players, including the departed Jack and Landry. Finding the right mix with a new and deeper cast will be Jackson's challenge in 2012-13.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Stephen Curry will get most of the minutes at point guard, with Toney Douglas getting 10-12 minutes as his backup. The mix at shooting guard and small forward may vary from night to night, but Iguodala, Thompson and Barnes should split the 96 minutes, at 35/35/25. There'll be nights when Draymond Green grabs a chunk. In the frontcourt, Lee, who is coming off hip surgery, will get the bulk of the playing time at power forward, with about 35-36 mpg. And Bogut, if healthy, will start at center. Speights and O'Neal will get the backup minutes at power forward and center, respectively. This distribution of playing time will vary based on game conditions and an opponent's style. Jackson is not afraid to roll with a smaller lineup. Whenever that happens, Green and Barnes will get an uptick in minutes.
Andrew Bogut: Bogut's surgically repaired ankle took longer to heal than anticipated, and he was of no use to the Warriors through the first five months of last season. Once the ankle improved enough for him to play on back-to-back nights, Bogut was a useful producer, but the Warriors had gotten used to playing without him, and he averaged a career-low 25 minutes and 5.8 points. The health of his ankle has improved with rest of his body over the summer, and he'll be ready to go when the gate opens on the new season. Golden State has added some interior depth to support Bogut, but will they abandon the small-ball lineup that was so effective for them? The addition of the big bodies suggests a more traditional lineup, but this is still a team that relies on guard play for much of its scoring. If Bogut can stay healthy and give you 30 minutes a night, you'll have a top rebounder and shot-blocker.
Jermaine O'Neal: O'Neal keeps finding employment despite declining athleticism and a predilection for injury. He's averaged just 33 games per season the last three years, but feels his knees are good after undergoing a second round of Regenokine treatment – a form of blood manipulation therapy – this summer. O'Neal had his first treatment in the summer of 2012, and the 55 games he played for Phoenix last season was the most he'd played in the past three seasons. At this point, teams aren't (or shouldn't be) looking for him to be an important contributor. The Warriors would be happy if he can play 15 minutes a night without much drop off defensively in the low post. There's been a decline in offensive production in his advanced years, but O'Neal remains a pretty good rim protector and rebounder.
Festus Ezeli: Ezeli had offseason knee surgery and is not expected to be ready to play until December, at the earliest. He received a fair amount of playing time as a rookie in 2012-13 because of the recuperation time Andrew Bogut needed after undergoing ankle surgery. With Bogut healthy heading into training camp and veteran Jermaine O'Neal on board for the season, Ezeli's role will be diminished once he returns. He's a feared shot-blocker, but could use some development time in the D-League.
David Lee: Lee gets knocked for his defense and the size of his contract, but there is no skepticism when it comes to his offensive production. In three seasons with Golden State, Lee has averaged 18.2 points and 10.2 rebounds in 37 minutes per game. Having a player give you a double-double every night is gold in fantasy circles. He has a deft touch around the rim, using both hands to score and has worked to extend his mid-range game out toward the arc. He suffered a hip injury in the playoffs last season that eventually required surgery, but he's 100 percent as we head into training camp. Lee should be ready to go to start the regular season and resume his role as Golden State's starting power forward and inside scoring threat.
Marreese Speights: Speights started the 2012-13 season in Memphis before a mid-season trade to Cleveland, where he averaged a career-best 10.2 points in 19 minutes per game over a 39-game stretch. He signed a three-year deal with Golden State, which will be his fourth team in six seasons. Speights is known as a gifted offensive player, has a mid-range game and can rebound. Can he replace Carl Landry's production? That's essentially why the Warriors signed him – a frontcourt backup that can spell David Lee without giving up much offensively. If all hands are healthy, Speights will be one of four bigs in the regular rotation of the frontcourt, so the Warriors are not looking for much more than 20 minutes a night from him.
Harrison Barnes: Barnes' rookie season was a mixed bag, but he hinted at being an exciting wing player capable of carrying a scoring load and creating a shot for himself. Those hints didn't sustain over long stretches, and he was often the deferential rookie, letting the veterans take charge. He was good in the postseason and appeared destined for a larger role this coming season – until the Warriors swung a deal for Andre Iguodala, who is expected to start at Barnes' small forward spot. That means Barnes will play a support role on the wing, and the development in year two we expected might be delayed. Barnes will be part of the rotation and will be part of smaller lineups.
Draymond Green: Green will reprise his role off the bench as the Swiss army knife in head coach Mark Jackson's toolbox. There's not one defined role or spot in the rotation for him. He plays three positions, is a willing defender, rebounds, passes, has good court sense and doesn't lack confidence. On the other hand, he doesn't shoot the ball well (33 percent FG, 21 percent 3Pt), nor is he possessed with great athleticism. He averaged just 13 minutes per game as a rookie in 2012-13, and a deeper wing rotation this season will keep a lid on his opportunities.
Andre Iguodala: Iguodala opted out of the final year of his contract to become a free agent in the offseason and joined the Warriors as part of a three-way, sign-and-trade deal. He'll give the Warriors a swingman, who will defend, make plays, handle the ball and finish in transition. All of those traits, plus leadership, are needed on this young Warriors team. Iguodala joins a crowded wing, where he'll start at small forward and share minutes with Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. He'll take some of the ballhandling onus off of Stephen Curry, who is a capable point guard but is a better scorer than he is a playmaker. A return to Iguodala's scoring hey-day in Philadelphia is not expected; the Warriors have no shortage of shooters. It will be his job to make the plays that enable those shooters to produce points.
Stephen Curry: Curry has emerged as an elite player in the NBA after a breakout 2012-13 season in which he scored 22.9 points per game (7th in NBA) while hitting 46 percent from the field (2nd among PGs) and 45 percent from three-point range (3rd in NBA). He returns to lead the Warriors offense in 2013, but his point-guard play can be shaky. Curry is a scoring point guard, and we emphasize the scoring. He needs a second ballhandler on the floor to take some of that pressure away from him. That's why Jarrett Jack was so crucial to Golden State's success last season. This season's Jack will be Iguodala. As long as Curry can avoid injuries to his notoriously fragile ankles, he'll continue to be a leading threat in the NBA.
Klay Thompson: Thompson experienced a drop-off in his second year in the NBA. As a scorer, he's strictly a jump shooter and was making less than 40 percent from the field through the first 30 games. At the same time, he was making more than 38 percent from three-point range, so he remained a threat opponents couldn't ignore on the perimeter. The challenge for Thompson is to diversify his attack – getting to the rim, drawing contact, taking free throws and creating better looks. He doesn't help teammates much and turns the ball over more than a jump shooter should. He has the size to exploit smaller shooting guards, but he's not a gifted athlete. Aside from his shooting ability, Thompson isn't doing much else on the court. It could be that what we see now, is what we get. Heading into the 2013-14 season, we're looking to see how much the presence of Andre Iguodala impacts Thompson's playing time.
Toney Douglas: Douglas rebounded from a dismal 2011-12 season, splitting time between Houston and Sacramento, averaging 7.5 points and 2.1 assists in 18 minutes per game last season. He'll replace Jarrett Jack as Golden State's backup at point guard, but we don't see him getting the kind of run Jack got last season as Stephen Curry's backup. Douglas' playmaking skills are nowhere near the level of Jack's, and his penchant for shooting isn't what the Warriors need behind Curry. He's a combo guard with a shooter's mentality in a point guard body. As a tough defender, he'll serve a purpose, but it's unlikely the Warriors will look to him for a sustained period of time if Curry were to get hurt.
Nemanja Nedovic: Nedovic, Golden State's first-round pick in 2013, is expected at training camp after fulfilling a commitment to Serbia at EuroBasket 2013. His one-game scheduled appearance in summer league never happened because he hurt his ankle while training. He's since recovered and played throughout August in preparation for the tournament. Nedovic is a combo guard that's still learning the nuances of point guard and is probably not ready at this juncture to become Stephen Curry's backup. Look for him get some D-League experience.
Kent Bazemore: As an undrafted free agent in 2012-13, Bazemore was used sparingly by the Warriors, averaging four minutes in 61 games. Not much more than that will be expected of him this season. He can shoot some, defend some, pass some and dribble some but doesn't have one skill that makes him stand out.
Seth Curry: Curry, brother of starting point guard Stephen Curry, is an undrafted free agent working on a non-guaranteed contract. He played both guard positions during his college career, though shooting guard is his more natural spot. Curry can dial it up from long distance. He made 44 percent of his three-pointers at Duke last year, but he doesn't have a ton of athleticism. If he's going to make it in the NBA, it will be as a three-point marksman.
Harrison Barnes: The addition of Andre Iguodala will likely move Barnes to the bench, where a reduction in playing time is expected, at least initially. His value heading into drafts and auctions will be subdued. Barnes' rookie season was up-and-down, but he gained more confidence in the second half of the year and blew up in the playoffs when the Warriors lost David Lee. He'll be the beneficiary of any injury to a starter and will be a part the small lineup that worked so well for the team last season.
Andrew Bogut: Bogut has played just 44 games the last two seasons and has been deviled by injuries since 2008-09. Head coach Mark Jackson will likely manage Bogut's playing time to keep him healthy for the long haul. The addition of Jermaine O'Neal will help meet that goal. Additionally, the team works well with a smaller lineup, and Jackson won't be afraid to move David Lee to center.