The Golden State Warriors regular season starts in a little less than three weeks and they open up with three straight games against Pacific division rivals.
The Warriors first games are against the Los Angeles Lakers, then a road trip against the Los Angeles Clippers, and then back in Oakland to play the Sacramento Kings. If the Dubs want to win the division, these three games could help them get a jump-start on everyone else.
The Pacific division seems weaker than last year, mostly because of the injury to Lakers’ star Kobe Bryant. The division has become incredibly top-heavy with what seems to be a race between the Dubs and the Clippers for first place. The Sacramento Kings have been in perennial rebuilding mode, while the Phoenix Suns are slowly being reduced to rubble thanks to their incompetent owner, Robert Sarver. The Lakers might be able to float at .500 if Steve Nash and Pau Gasol are able to carry their team until Kobe returns.
The Clippers, in theory, should be a top team in the Western Conference, some would argue even favorites to represent West in the NBA Finals. They’ve added solid outside shooters in J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, while also adding depth to their second unit with Darren Collison, Byron Mullen, and Antawn Jamison. However, the biggest addition to the Clippers may be the replacement of Vinny Del Negro with former Boston Celtics coach, Doc Rivers. If the Clippers gel quickly enough, it’s not hard to see them winning about 65 games.
The Warriors are an interesting team to evaluate. They’ll finally start off the season with a healthy Andrew Bogut, whose defensive presence made a strong impact in the playoffs last year. Even though Bogut anchored the paint, the Warriors still struggled when it came to guarding wing players and point guards.
Their best wing defender last year was Klay Thompson, who did do a good enough job, but still struggled against the quicker players in the league. The front office decided to bring in Andre Iguodala, one of the best wing defenders in the league to bolster their defense. The Warriors also added more talent by bringing in Jermaine O’Neal, Marreese Speights, Tony Douglas and drafting point guard Nemanja Nedovic. All seem to be more defense-oriented players, which supports Mark Jackson’s commitment to building a more well-rounded team. The offense rarely struggled to put up points last season, although there were a few games where they settled for far too many jump shots leading to the offense stalling out.
The Warriors did lose key rotation players in Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, but they were ultimately replaceable. However, the Dubs biggest loss this past off-season was Mike Malone, who was hired by the Sacramento Kings to become their head coach. Mike Malone was the true “Xs-and-Os” guy on the Warriors coaching staff and was the main man responsible for the Warriors defensive scheme, which forced teams to bury shots from outside the painted area.
To replace Malone, the Warriors sought help by hiring former players Brian Scalabrine and Lindsey Hunter. Hunter seems like the more likely candidate to make an impact, especially since he was a smart defensive player in his Detroit Pistons days.
With the additions the Warriors have made, they should be able to win about 55+ games this year. They have Harrison Barnes (or possibly Klay Thompson) leading a good second unit and have another year under Mark Jackson, a candidate for Coach of the Year in 2012-2013.
If the Warriors don’t win the division they can very easily grab the fifth or sixth seed in the Western Conference. Either way it should be an exciting season for the Golden State Warriors.