Saturday, October 23, 2010

Golden State Warriors: What To Look For In 2010-11

2009-10 Regular Season: 26-56
2009-10 Playoffs: N/A
Additions: David Lee, Louis Admunson, Dorell Wright, Epke Udoh, Dan Gadzuric, Charlie Bell
Key Losses: Corey Maggette, Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike, Anthony Morrow, Ronny Turiaf, C.J. Watson, Anthony Tolliver
Projected Rotation Players: Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry, David Lee, Andris Biedrins, Reggie Williams, Louis Admunson, Dorell Wright, Brandan Wright, Valdimir Radmanovic, Jeremy Lin or Charlie Bell

New ownership, new coach, a new frontcourt stud and an improved attitude from their best player- look for the Warriors to emerge as the Western Conference’s feel-good team in 2010-11.

Last season, not only were the Golden State Warriors not very good, from the top of the organization on down, there was not a whole lot to like here. What a difference a year makes!

First and foremost, on July 16, VC mogul Joe Lacob, and Mandalay Entertainment Chairman Peter Guber agreed to purchase the franchise for an NBA-record $450 million, bringing to a close the comically inept reign of Jim Dolan wannabe Chris Cohan.

Heading into camp, Don Nelson- the NBA’s equivalent of an emotionally abusive parent- resigned as the Warriors’ head coach, likely at the urging of his new bosses. Keith Smart, Nelson’s longtime assistant, a more player-friendly and far more defensive-minded coach (in fairness, for a coach following Nellie, this is a low hurdle to clear) will take over on the bench.

Earlier in the summer, the Warriors managed to find a taker (the Milwaukee Bucks) for looter-in-a-riot Corey Maggette and the remaining three years and $30 million of his contract.

They then sent Anthony Randolph and his perpetual frown (and two great guys in Kelenna Azubuike and Ronny Turiaf) to NYC, in exchange for likable and hard-working (but defensively-challenged and somewhat overpaid) double-double machine, David Lee.

Lee, free-agent swingman Dorell Wright and Turiaf-esque rebounder/spark plug Louis Amundson join the undersized-but-explosive backcourt of 2010 Rookie-of-the-Year runner-up Stephen Curry and Allen Iverson clone Monta Ellis and (50 ppg from this duo is not out of the question), a hopefully healthy Andris Biedrins and D-League success story, Reggie Williams in the Warriors’ rotation.

While defensive will likely remain at a premium in Oakland, points should still be fairly easy to come by. If healthy on the front line, this team will be much more balanced on offense than in years past, with the ability to generate points (and plenty of them) not only in transition and from the perimeter, but also in the paint out of a half court set. These Warriors will still possess one of the NBA’s potent offenses- it’s difficult to imagine a team not being able make that claim with Curry and Ellis (who's now happily married and has a newfound positive attitude to playing with Curry) in its starting backcourt- although Smart may gently tap the brakes on the chaotic, disjointed style of the Nellie era.

Despite a more structured approach on offense, the Warriors will still play a faster pace than most, if not all teams in the NBA. When they are able to control tempo and get an opponent to abandon its gameplan and conform to their style, which could happen with some frequency, they will be able to play with anyone and will probably steal wins against some of the NBA’s best teams.

Bottom line: Vegas has the over-under on regular seasons wins for the Warriors at 30.5. Barring a cataclysmic string of injuries the like of which this team suffered in 2009-10, especially on the front line, this figure should prove to be way too low. If this pretty talented crew is able to stay on the floor for most of the season, 40+ wins is a very real possibility. It’s probably a year too early to think about the playoffs, but this team should have a very encouraging season, with handful of wins over some elite teams.

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