Every NBA fan can agree that the Golden State Warriors are a good team.
They have a NBA star in Stephen Curry as well as a top-notch organization that has surrounded him with young talent and respected veterans. Though they were unable to make it past the first round in the 2013-14 NBA Playoffs, they still took the reigning Pacific Division champions, the Los Angeles Clippers, to an exciting and memorable 7-game series as the sixth seed in the West. Prior to that, they posted a 51-win season – their first season with 50+ wins since 1993 – and they are definitely looking to build on that success.
Some analysts, however, don’t think they have it in them.
According to ESPN’s Summer Forecast for the 2014-15 season, the Warriors are projected to win 49 games — just good enough to tie with the Memphis Grizzlies and the Houston Rockets for the sixth seed in the conference.
I can’t wait to look back at this next April and laugh and laugh and laugh. pic.twitter.com/R7gc0MRJqb
— Warriors Huddle (@WarriorsHuddle) August 13, 2014
While projections should always be taken with a grain of salt, they normally provide the average NBA fan with the groundwork necessary in making his or her own predictions. In the Warriors’ case, ESPN’s projection falls two games short of Golden State’s record last year, supporting the notion that the team doesn’t show any clear indicator for improvement.
Fortunately for the Warriors, however, being the underdog is exactly what they want going into this season.
Referring back to the 2012-13 season, the NBA was taken by surprise as Golden State finished with a record of 47-35 and earned their place as the sixth seed in the West. They were able to pull off a first round upset against the Denver Nuggets before their exit at the hands of the eventual runner-ups, the San Antonio Spurs. Their success came from a combination of solid defensive coaching, strong bench play, surprising contributions from their rookies and a healthy Steph Curry.
But how exactly can the Warriors be considered an “underdog” if they’re projected to be the sixth seed in a tough Western Conference?
Well after making a couple of promising changes in the offseason, the future in Golden State was looking quite (you guessed it) golden. However, they’ve been the sixth seed the past two seasons, and ESPN analysts apparently believe that the teams in the West have done enough to keep the Warriors in the same position as last year. Projections are never set in stone — as proven by last year’s Summer Forecast — but the Warriors should be looking at this knowing they’ll meet the quota and surprise a lot of people by going over.
The Warriors added standout point guard Shaun Livingston as a much-needed backup floor general, and they brought back shooting guard Brandon Rush to add some depth behind Klay Thompson. Festus Ezeli is back from the depths of injury and ready to release the kraken, Marreese Speights plans to add more range despite some legal issues, and veterans like Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut and David Lee are taking time off to fully recover from last season.
Hopefully Harrison Barnes stayed busy working on his game in the offseason aside his duties for Team USA and Facebook, and Draymond Green recently unveiled a new arsenal of moves he’s ready to utilize during the season. And as many are aware, Curry and Thompson are definitely working hard at improving their game while representing our country.
The biggest X-factor for the Warriors, however, won’t be their improvements from young players or their free agent signings; rather, it will be the new Warriors coaching staff headed by Steve Kerr. An alumnus of Gregg Popovich University and a graduate from Phil Jackson University with a major in the triangle offense, Kerr is looking to improve last year’s offense (13th in offensive efficiency) without having to sacrificing their defensive prowess (3rd in defensive efficiency). Only time will tell how much Kerr’s new system will improve the team overall. Team stats provided by ESPN.
With ESPN projecting them not to improve at all from last season, the Warriors have the opportunity to take the NBA by surprise once again and overachieve.