After entering the season amidst much fanfare, the Warriors were ousted from the playoffs in the first round. They don’t have much room to move in the offseason, but with a new head coach at the helm and a potential blockbuster trade incoming, Golden State are a team to watch going forward.
The Golden State Warriors entered the season amidst all sorts of hype.
Already a free-scoring offensive machine, the Dubs added a much-needed defensive stopper during the offseason in Andre Iguodala and many believed it was the move that could earn them home court advantage in the playoffs.
However, after a hot start to the season – including a 10-game winning streak through late-December, early-January – they finished the year with a 51-31 record.
It was the first 50-win season for Golden State since the 1991-92 and the equal-third-best finish in franchise history, but still only good enough for the sixth seed in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
In their first consecutive postseason appearance since the 1990-92 seasons, the Warriors faced off against their division rivals the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round.
After a seven-game thriller, it was the Clippers advancing to the second round, head coach Mark Jackson was put to the sword after clashing with management and many were left lamenting what could have been in Oakland.
Golden State were once again one of the most prolific offensive teams in the league, pouring in 104.1 points per game (tenth in the league), playing the sixth-fastest pace in the league (96.2) and draining the most three pointers at the fourth-best percentage (38.0%) for the season.
The “Splash Brothers”, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson,once again led the Dubs’ turbocharged offence.
The sharpshooting duo gave the Warriors the deadliest three-point threats in the association. Curry led the league in total threes made for the second year running (connecting on 261 long bombs), while Thompson was not far behind in second place (223).
Curry is obviously a star, but the development of Thompson into a legitimate secondary scorer and reliable defender was huge for the Warriors.
The third-year Washington State product upped his scoring to 18.4 points, while nailing 44.4% from the field and 41.7% (ninth in the league) from beyond the arc – all career-bests.
Meanwhile, David Lee, who averaged 18.2 points at 52.3% (17th in the L) and 9.3 rebounds (17th) per game continued to thrive as Golden State’s primary interior scorer.
Draymond Green (6.2 points and 5.0 rebounds – both career-highs) and Marreese Speights (9.9 points and 6.1 rebounds over the last month of the season) were both important contributors – especially in the absence of defensive backbone Andrew Bogut, who was forced to the sidelines with a broken rib late in the season.
Veteran Steve Blake (4.4 points and 3.6 assists) was a valuable pickup midseason, proving an excellent backup to Curry, while fellow mid-year acquisition Jordan Crawford (8.4 points in 15.7 minutes) provided some scoring off the bench.
However, second-year forward Harrison Barnes often left fans wanting more, averaging just 9.5 points on 39.9% from the floor and 34.7% from downtown.
Most Valuable Player
It is a pretty simple choice here.
The son of Dell was once again the catalyst to Golden State’s high-powered offence.
After being harshly overlooked for selection last season, Curry earned his first selection to the All-Star game and finished the season averaging 24.0 points (seventh in the NBA), 8.5 assists (fifth) and 1.6 steals per game (12th).
Curry’s play also earned him selection to the All-NBA Second Team – the first nomination of his career.
He also remained on of the league’s purest shooters, connecting at 47.1% from the floor (second amongst point guards), 42.4% from deep (eighth in the league) and 88.5% from the line (sixth).
As mentioned above, his partnership with Thompson was the most devastating long-bombing duo in the league and Curry fell only 12 triples short of breaking his own record for most long-range connections in a season.
However, the biggest improvement in Curry’s game came in his ability to run an offence.
Earlier in his career, Curry was criticized as a shooting guard trapped in the body of a point guard. In his rookie season, he spent 36% of his minutes playing off the ball. This year, that number was cut to just 7%.
Curry’s improved distribution makes him an even more dangerous offensive weapon, and while he could stand to cut down on the turnovers (second in the league in total giveaways), there is no doubting the skinny kid out of Davidson is now a point guard in a point guard’s body.
The Dubs have always been amongst the league’s most high-powered scorers in recent years – finishing no lower than 13th for points per game in the last 13 seasons – but have often wheeled out teams that leaked points faster than they could score them.
However, that is where this season’s Warriors squad broke the mold. After finishing last season 19th in points allowed (100.3), Golden State improved to 10th-best this season (99.5).
Further emphasizing their improvement, Golden State improved their defensive rating from 14th (105.5) to fourth (102.6).
The addition of Iguodala (9.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game), who was voted to the All-Defensive Second Team at season’s end, gave Golden State the proven perimeter defender they’ve been lacking, while also providing valuable secondary ball handling.
Meanwhile, getting 67 games out of Andrew Bogut (7.3 points [62.7% FG – second in the league), 10.0 rebounds [11th] and 1.8 blocks [sixth]) – more than double the amount he played last season and more than the past two seasons combined – gave the Warriors an invaluable rim protector to park behind their defensively-challenged point guard.
The seemingly ageless Jermaine O’Neal (7.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 0.9 blocks) also played well in stretches – especially once Bogut was ruled out indefinitely with a broken rib.
Golden State have no picks in the upcoming draft after being forced to part with them in order to dump the salaries of Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush on the Utah Jazz to facilitate the trade-and-sign deal for Iguodala.
Likewise, there is not a lot of room for the Warriors to move during free agency thanks to their high payroll. Going by projections for next season’s salary cap, Golden State will be roughly $2 million over the cap even before any body puts pen to paper.
They’ll likely re-sign Blake and Crawford and will be on the lookout for a bargain-priced backup centre if they don’t bring back O’Neal (guys like Jason Collins, Greg Oden or Nazr Mohammed come to mind).
That is, unless they can agree to a blockbuster deal for disgruntled Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love.
It is no secret that Love wants out of Minnesota and new Warriors head coach Steve Kerr is reportedly interested in adding a stretch four to Golden States’ already deadly band of bombers.
The Warriors have several young prospects (Barnes and Green), an immediate replacement at power forward (Lee) and their future picks (first-rounders in 2015, ‘16, ‘18 and ’19) to offer to the Wolves, but they will face stiff competition for the three-time All-Star’s services and might balk at pulling the trigger if Minnesota demand Thompson be part of the deal.
However, making a move for Love is not boom or bust in Oakland. Golden State still have a playoff-ready squad and should not sell the farm to acquire another offensive-minded, defensively-challenged player.
Don’t expect the Warriors to miss the playoffs next season, but maybe some should temper the top-4 expectations they held heading into this season.
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