After a busy offseason, the Western Conference is stacked once again.
With minimal changes and acquisitions yet to take place, it’s time to see how the Golden State Warriors match up against the top Western Conference teams.
Last season, the Warriors proved that they are a serious threat in the competitive conference. They pestered the San Antonio Spurs (the eventual conference champions) in a tough six-game battle in the semifinals. However, did the Warriors improve enough during the offseason to get over the hump, and perhaps, represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals?
If the Warriors remain healthy this season, and that’s a big if, they certainly have what it takes to dethrone the Spurs. Andre Iguodala is now a resident in the Bay Area, and he will certainly improve the Warriors defense. If needed, he can pressure Tony Parker with his long and lanky figure. Parker is the engine that drives the Spurs, and if he’s prevented from penetrating and getting to the rim, opponents would have a significantly higher chance of victory.
Harrison Barnes is a young and promising player who has improved his defense since entering the league, as he was the worst-rated defender coming out of the draft.
“The thing I love about it, and he’ll admit it to anyone who asks, he wasn’t ready when he first came here,” said coach Mark Jackson. “He put the time in every single day, on drills that didn’t mean anything when he was doing them, but all of a sudden has put him in the position to be the player he is today. He’s become a big-time defender, but it’s the time he put in when the lights weren’t brightest that allows him to flourish when the lights come on.”
With Barnes’ athleticism and enhanced defensive ability, he’ll be able to check Kawhi Leonard on the perimeter.
Andrew Bogut is a defensive center who gave the Spurs fits during last years playoffs. He’s clogged up the paint with his size and shot-blocking ability, forcing Duncan to take mid-range shots. TNT analyst Kenny Smith said Bogut’s presence on the defensive end is the Warriors’ key to defeating the Spurs. Assuming the Warriors remain healthy, they match up extremely well against the Spurs, and may put an end to their championship aspirations.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are another potential playoff opponent for the Warriors. Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook are possibly the best duo currently in the NBA. Other than that, however, the Thunder have worsened rather than improved during the past two offseasons.
They traded away James Harden, which was a very controversial subject among fans. To solidify the Thunder’s mistake of dispersing their best bench player, they also lost Kevin Martin, who they received in the trade to compensate for the loss of Harden.
Their starting center, Kendrick Perkins, was completely useless in last year’s playoffs. He wasn’t a factor offensively or defensively. If the Thunder intend on giving the big fellow playing time this season, this can be a plus for the Warriors. On paper, the Warriors are a more complete ball club, as well as their bench players are superior to those of the Thunder. Again, the biggest concern for the Warriors is their health.
If Stephen Curry, David Lee, and Bogut are playing to their full potential, to go along with Klay Thompson, Iguodala and Barnes, it’s a wrap. The Warriors, in theory, should be able to overwhelm the Thunder with their depth.
Not only are the Warriors very talented and elite, they’re probably the most fun team to watch. Let’s hope that their health wouldn’t be a hindrance this season and enjoy a cohesive group of young and talented players climb to the top of their conference.