Four months ago, the Golden State Warriors were, simply put, the most exciting team in basketball — a sixth-seed playoff Cinderella built on a foundation of threes and dunks, that took the Spurs to the wall in the second round. The excitement within the excitement was the emergence of Steph Curry, putting the Warriors on his back and carving up opposing guards like a video game character with his ratings juiced to 100.
For a few weeks in May Warriors games became appointment viewing, like the finale of Breaking Bad. And supported by a loveable cast—Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Jarrett Jack—Curry not only proved that he is a centrepiece type of player, but that the Warriors were a legitimate force.
But was it all an aberration, or was that the Warriors team we can expect to see in 2013-14? With an all-star centre healthy for the first time in years, a young core taking the next step in its development and the most exciting addition to the Bay Area club since Curry was drafted five seasons ago, it’s looking like the latter.
Additions: Andre Iguodala, Jermaine O’Neal, Toney Douglas.
Departures: Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry.
Landing Andre Iguodala in free agency was a massive coup for Mark Jackson’s squad. He’s a defensive chameleon, who addresses an area of need for his new team. Take the knocks on his often-unreliable offensive game (mostly regarding his shooting mechanics) into consideration and it’s hard to imagine a better fit. Iggy joins a team already heavy with scorers, allowing him to freelance on both ends of the court, fill the lane when needed, and generally continue to be the disruptive force he’s shown himself to be over his nine seasons in the league.
Still, the pieces Golden State lost may end up hurting them more than it would appear. Jack was the glue that held last year’s Dubs team together, a veteran leader and clutch player down the stretch running alongside Curry. O’Neal can provide some leadership, as well as insurance for the oft-injured Bogut, but make no mistake: the Warriors are more skilled, but they lost a part of their soul when Jack inked a deal with Cleveland.
- Andre Iguodala is a better player than Harrison Barnes, no question. But Barnes improved so dramatically down the stretch last season that before the Iguodala signing, it looked like 2013-14 might be the year he grew into the star he was projected to become as the number one player coming out of high school. Now? Barnes will likely be relegated to the bench (unless Jackson plays Iguodala at the two and dubs Klay Thompson his second-line scorer), unlikely to see an improvement on the 25.4 minutes a game he saw last season (and nowhere near the 38.4 he averaged in the playoffs).
- Apart from what he brought from a leadership perspective, Jack proved himself to be one hell of a backup point guard last season—as in, the best in the NBA. And considering Curry’s injury history, Jack’s play proved to be incredibly important to the club’s success. Who steps up to fill his shoes? Toney Douglas has a similar skill set to Jack, but it’s hard to imagine him embracing the role with the enthusiasm of his predecessor.
- Will sophomore Kent Bazemore continue to tear it up on the sidelines? He’s simply the best when it comes to bench celebrations, and asking Bazemore to get even better this season is like asking Freddie Mercury to tweak the opening bars of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It ain’t happening (and not just because he’s dead). Bazemore looked spectacular during the Warriors’ championship run at the Summer League in Las Vegas, but here’s hoping he doesn’t start letting basketball get in the way of his bread and butter.
Festus Ezeli. Thompson and Barnes are tempting choices, but you could argue that both broke out during the latter part of last season. With the health of Bogut and David Lee often in question, and the uncertainty surrounding another injury-prone big—the 34-year-old O’Neal—the physical and athletic Ezeli, who managed 0.9 blocks in 14 minutes a game off the bench last season, may find himself playing significant minutes.
Quite decent. A lot is riding on Curry’s ankle, but this is a talented team with one of the strongest starting fives in basketball. There are concerns on the bench and some questions about who will step up and fill the role of the departed Warriors, but make no mistake: this will continue to be an exceedingly watchable team, one that will make for appointment viewing all season long en route to challenging the Clippers for the division title and another playoff run. Can you dig it?