The Warriors will need a healthy Andrew Bogut to reach their full potential.credit: http://wp.me/p2e4wn-2z9
The Golden State Warriors are off to a very impressive and surprising 16-8 start, with the vast bulk of the games being won without their big off-season acquisition Andrew Bogut. Even more impressively, they just completed the best 7 game road trip in franchise history, going 6-1 and notching wins over the Nets, Heat, and Hawks. There is no doubt that the Warrriors were expected to a be a better team this season after drafting Harrison Barnes and acquiring Jarret Jack and Carl Landry in the off-season. But nobody expected them to be a top 5 team in the west with almost a third of the season completed. The question surrounding the Golden State Warriors is how good are they and can they sustain this level of success throughout the season?
To answer the first question regarding how good they are, it’s hard to say they aren’t a playoff caliber team when you look at their roster on paper. Stephen Curry is a borderline all-star Point Guard, David Lee is a borderline all-star Power Forward, and Andrew Bogut is a very reliable sturdy Center that’s easily better than half the Centers in the NBA. Then you start talking about the supporting cast around those guys (Klay Thompson, Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry, and Richard Jefferson) and it looks pretty darn good. How good? Good enough to be in the mix for a playoff spot come April, which for the Warriors is a huge step in the right direction.
To answer the question of whether or not they will sustain this success over a full 82 game season is a much tougher question to answer. The reason is, there are 5 teams that we can safely pencil in as playoff teams right now: The Grizzlies, Thunder, Clippers, Spurs, and Lakers. Those five teams will without question be one of the top 8 teams in the Western Conference. Anybody that doesn’t think that that’s a for sure thing (barring injury) doesn’t pay attention the NBA. What that leaves is three spots (6-8) for the Warriors to grab. The teams that they will be competing with for those spots are the Mavericks, Jazz, Nuggets, and Timberwolves. All four of those teams are looking like they might be playoff teams this year, and it’s gonna be hard for Golden State to finish ahead of one of those teams when all is said and done.
We all know that the Mavericks will get a tremendous boost from the return of Dirk Nowitzki. They are playing slightly under .500 right now, but considering Dirk’s absence, that looks pretty good. O.J. Mayo, Shawn Marion, Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, Vince Carter, and Derek Fisher is a pretty solid supporting cast around Dirk Nowitzki. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see the Mavericks make the playoffs again this season knowing the capability and quality of the players that they have.
The Jazz are a team that is continuing to improve every season, with a tremendous front court of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter. Not to mention a solid backcourt of Mo Williams, Gordon Hayward, and Randy Foye. The Jazz will once again be around come April and certainly be making a very strong push towards a playoff spot.
The Denver Nuggets have also improved their roster this year by landing Andre Iguodala in that huge Dwight Howard trade. They also have Ty Lawson who is a border line all-star Point Guard, an energetic front court of JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried, and just an all around deep team including Danilo Gallinari and Andre Miller. After watching what they did against the Lakers last season in the playoffs, we should definitely expect the Nuggets to be in the mix again this year for a playoff spot.
The Timberwolves are another team that nobody is talking about, but is presently 6th in the Western Conference with a solid 12-9 record. What’s worrisome to everybody out West is that record is without Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio playing together. Once those guys get it clicking, there’s no telling how good the Timberwolves can be. Plus, they added Andrei Kirilenko, Brandon Roy, Alexey Shved, and Chase Buddinger. If that team can get fully healthy, they too will be tough to keep out of a playoff spot.
Then you also have the Rockets and Trail Blazers to worry about as well, who granted aren’t likely to make the playoffs, but still are sure to be in the hunt as well. With James Harden and Jeremy Lin’s arrival in Houston and all the buzz surrounding Damian Lillard in Portland, it would be foolish to write off the Rockets and Trail Blazers right away.
Upon looking at the state of the west and the quality of competition that they have to compete with, picking the Warriors to reach the playoffs seems to still be a hard sell, even with as well as they’ve been playing. Also, looking at their upcoming schedule, it’s gonna be hard to see the Warriors win half of their games. They have the Lakers at home coming up, a road game in Utah, and a home game against the Celtics to close out the month of December, and then a brutal month of January that includes the Clippers three times, the Grizzlies, the Mavericks, a road game against the Nuggets, Spurs, and an eastern conference road trip consisting of the Bucks, Bulls, Raptors, and Cavaliers. The Warriors are bound to hit a rough patch and lose four of five games (as all NBA teams do), and what will be interesting to see is how they bounce back from that once that occurs. The Warriors definitely have shown that they have a quality team that can compete with any team on any given night. But knowing who they are going up against as well as the history of their franchise, it is way to soon to start punching the Warriors’ ticket to the playoffs. Only time will tell us whether or not this organization has truly righted the ship.
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