2014-15 NBA SEASON PREVIEW CONTENT LIST
Atlantic: Celtics | Nets | Knicks | 76ers | Raptors |Division Preview
Central: Bulls | Cavaliers | Pistons | Pacers | Bucks | Division Preview
Southeast: Hawks | Hornets | Heat | Magic | Wizards | Division Preview
Pacific: Warriors | Clippers | Lakers | Suns | Kings | Division Preview
Northwest: Nuggets | Timberwolves | Thunder | Trail Blazers | Jazz | Division Preview
Southwest: Mavericks | Rockets | Grizzlies | Pelicans | Spurs | Division Preview
Articles: Assessing the Cavaliers Trio | Important Season for James Harden | Return of Paul George? | Trading Rajon Rondo | Are the Nuggets This Season’s Suns? | NBA’s Best Starting Five | NBA’s Worst Starting Five | Now or Never for Durant and Thunder After Injury
Fantasy Basketball: Top 10 PGs | Top 10 SGs | Top 10 SFs | Top 10 PFs | Top 10 Cs | Sleepers, Studs, and Sinkholes | Analyzing the Schedule | BMF Mock Draft | Cavs and Cav-Nots | Like A Bosh | Rajon Injury Impact
It’s that time of year, BMFers! In just a few weeks the NBA will be tipping off its preseason. It seems like it was just yesterday that the San Antonio Spurs avenged Ray Allen‘s Game 6 dagger that saved LeBron James‘ career, and won another title of their own—making Tim Duncan the greatest player of his generation. Now, with so many fresh faces in new places, the NBA is set for a new era of ball. Both conferences seem to be wide open this season with many teams looking to contend for an illustrious NBA title (at least in the West). The Golden State Warriors have reached back-to-back postseasons for the first time since hip-hop was listenable, now they are ready to take that next step and become championship contenders.
Most Important Player: The obvious answer is Stephen Curry
Without Curry, the Warriors aren’t even a playoff team. But after two straight playoff appearances, the Dubs are looking to become more than just a playoff team, but a contender. For that to be possible, Andrew Bogut must be healthy, making him the Warriors’ most important player.
Bogut missed last season’s first-round matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Warriors lost the tightly played series in seven games. I’m a firm believer that a healthy Bogut would have propelled the Warriors into the next round. While Bogut’s numbers are not always eye-opening, his defense and physical style of play anchor a much improved Warriors defense. Bogut, Andre Iguodala, and the rapidly emerging Klay Thompson make for one of the better defensive cores in the league. The Warriors are at their best when their defense leads to offense. No one wants to see them in transition.
X-Factor: The Warriors bench
Last season they struggled in every aspect, not allowing the starters to get very much rest. With the additions of Shaun Livingston, Brandon Rush, and Leandro Barbosa, this should be a much improved element to their game and something that they have not had since Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry departed.
Rotations: Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, David Lee, and Bogut will most likely start when they are all healthy. But Steve Kerr wants to go small and really push the tempo. You can expect to see a lot more of Harrison Barnes at the 4, much like the Lee-less Warriors did in the playoffs against the Denver Nuggets two seasons ago. Why Mark Jackson never went back to that look last year, nobody knows. Barnes thrived at the stretch-4 position. This season he has a big chance to thrive again.
That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some big, defensive-minded rotations as well. A Livingston, Thompson, Iguodala, Draymond Green, and Bogut lineup could shut down quite a few offenses.
What Needs To Go Right: Kerr needs to be the man that can lead them into the NBA’s hierarchy. Jackson turned the lowly franchise around but could not quite make them an elite club. Warriors management sees something in Kerr that they did not see in Jackson, now it’s up to him to show the rest of the basketball world.
It’s Really Bad If: Curry gets hurt.
Bold Prediction: The Golden State Warriors will secure home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, reach the Western Conference Finals, and give their opponent a run for their money.
Leandro Barbosa, SG
Strengths: His veteran experience, leadership, and tough, gritty play will be huge for the Warriors off the bench. This is something that they did not necessarily have at the guard position a year ago.
Weaknesses: While he is only 31 years old, he seems much older considering he is only one year removed from blowing out his knee.
Season Prediction: Barbosa will be solid for the Warriors when he is actually in the lineup. He will suffer a few setbacks along the way, but will eventually be well-rested for the playoffs when Golden State really needs him.
Harrison Barnes, SF
Strengths: Youth, athleticism, improving jump shot.
Weaknesses: Barnes is far too passive and seems to have lost his confidence. One of Kerr’s biggest tasks will be to incorporate Barnes back into a lineup that surrounds him with talent so he doesn’t have to be the go-to scorer off of the bench like a season ago. Jackson never let Barnes find his groove and that’s a major reason why he was fired.
Season Prediction: He will have a far better season than a year ago and blossom into one of the most exciting young players in the league. His playoff experience will prove to be a big part of the Warriors success.
Andrew Bogut, C
Strengths: Tough, physical play, great shot blocker, passing ability, and overall basketball IQ.
Weaknesses: Ever since Bogut suffered a series of gruesome injuries, he hasn’t been the scorer the he once was. Above all else, he always seems to get hurt at the wrong time.
Season Prediction: You can expect Bogut’s impact to do wonders for the Warriors … when he’s actually on the floor. Expect to see him sitting on the bench in a nice suit at all the most inopportune times. Not what you want from your $13 million-a-year big man.
Aaron Craft, PG
Strengths: Shooting, especially beyond the arc. After going undrafted, he understands that he needs to work hard and has a chip on his shoulder.
Weaknesses: The inexperienced rookie is just 6’2″. While he was a great player in college, he went undrafted for a reason. NBA scouts don’t think his game can translate to the NBA level.
Season Prediction: With a logjam at the guard position, we won’t see much of Craft’s play unless the Warriors suffer a number of major injuries. Expect to see him raining in a few threes at the end of some lopsided contests.
Stephen Curry, PG
Strengths: Best shooter in the league. Incredible handles. Loves the big moment. Curry has become one of the best and most exciting players in the NBA.
Weaknesses: Weak defender at times, can be a turnover machine. He needs to be able to play off the ball at times to get more open looks.
Season Prediction: Curry will take the next step from All-Star to elite and lead his team deep into the playoffs as a top-three MVP candidate.
Festus Ezeli, C
Strengths: Defense, rebounding, toughness.
Weaknesses: Ezeli missed all of last season rehabbing his right knee. He is bound to be rusty and possibly even injury prone. The 24-year old, offensively limited big man has a lot of things to work on, but will still have a huge impact on the Warriors’ season.
Season Prediction: Ezeli will be big off the bench as well as in the starting lineup when Bogut misses time. But how much Ezeli is in the starting lineup is the $13 million question.
Draymond Green, SF/PF
Strengths: Great defensively, physical play, BALLS. Draymond Green might have the biggest balls in the league. He has shown in his first two seasons, especially in the playoffs, that he isn’t afraid to step up and make big plays while in the spotlight. Green is quietly one of the Warriors’ most important players.
Weaknesses: Green has been known to go
cold extremely cold from the floor. And when he gets cold, he still isn’t afraid to shoot. Confidence is great, but sometimes he must realize that he has two of the best shooters in the league on his team and give them a look.
Season Prediction: A lot of technical fouls, a few ejections and a whole lot of awesome.
Andre Iguodala, F/G
Strengths: Defense, passing, athleticism and basketball IQ are the name of the game for Iggy. He’s like a Swiss army knife, he can do a little bit of everything.
Weaknesses: Iguodala averaged under 10 points a game last season and could hardly put together a handful of offensive explosions. Why? Steve Kerr needs to find a way to get him more involved offensively.
Season Prediction: More scoring, less defense. With the additions of Livingston, Rush, and the emerging defense of Thompson, Iguodala won’t have to expend every ounce of energy on the best offensive opponent every night. This could open up a lot more opportunities for some offensively-minded games.
Ognjen Kuzmic, C
Strengths: Big frame.
Weaknesses: Little athletic ability or experience.
Season Prediction: We can call “Wilt Kuzmic” the garbage man or the Warriors will be in some serious trouble.
David Lee, PF
Strengths: Double-double machine, great passer, great teammate, and can finish with either hand with the best of them. Lee helped turn this Warriors franchise around.
Weaknesses: Defense. Defense. Defense. And defense. While he helped turn the franchise around, he is now holding it back.
Season Prediction: Lee will have another solid first half for the Warriors and a solid second half for another team.
Shaun Livingston, G
Strengths: Livingston is a lockdown perimeter defender and a crafty ball handler that can post up on most other guards because of his size.
Weaknesses: Livingston is more than injury-prone. He is coming off only his second 70-plus game season since his gruesome knee injury way back in 2006-07. The Warriors are banking on yet another guy with a history of health problems to stay healthy.
Season Prediction: I have a good feeling about this signing. Surrounded by the talent of the Warriors, Livingston can focus on what he does best—defend and facilitate. He won’t necessarily have to score, but still has the ability to. Most importantly, Curry will finally be able to get some rest.
Nemanja Nedovic, G
Strengths: Ball handling, quickness, shooting.
Weaknesses: Nedovic is extremely inexperienced and still hasn’t shown that his game can or ever will translate to the NBA level.
Season Prediction: Nedovic may be the odd man out with such a guard-heavy roster and the recent signing of Craft. It’s up to him to prove himself over the next few weeks leading up to the season.
Brandon Rush, SG/SF
Strengths: He loves being a Warrior. He was traded away to the Utah Jazz last offseason and took less money than was available on the open market to return to Oakland. His size allows him to be a physical presence on both ends of the floor. You can also expect him to hit his fair share of big shots.
Weaknesses: Early on two seasons ago, Rush suffered a nasty knee injury while attempting to to throw down on the Grizzlies’ Zach Randolph and has since been slowly recovering. Yes, another previously injured player that the Warriors are banking on to stay healthy. They sure like living on the edge.
Season Prediction: Rush is going to be a fan favorite and a key part of the Warriors’ success this season. Much like Livingston, he is going to allow Curry to get some much needed rest. He is also the bench shooter that they have needed ever since he got hurt.
Marreese Speights, F/C
Strengths: Size, strength, rebounding, and tenacity. Speights gives his all on every play, there’s no doubt about that.
Weaknesses: Last season he was absolutely hideous shooting from the field. The last thing the Warriors offense needs is Speights settling for an outside jump shot. He needs to pound it inside or pass the rock.
Season Prediction: Speights will have a better season, but still won’t live up to the expectation of filling Carl Landry‘s huge void that he left two seasons ago. Because that is, essentially, what Speights was brought in to be—Carl Landry.
Klay Thompson, G
Strengths: Thompson’s length, shooting, and defense have made him one of the best shooting guards in the entire league. Some believe that he will soon be a perennial All-Star for years to come. The deadly Splash Brothers backcourt of him and Curry is arguably the most exciting in the league.
Weaknesses: Thompson’s ball handling skills are sub-par to say the least. He needs to be able to run the offense so Curry can play off the ball and get more open looks. At 6’7″, Thompson should be able to take the ball to the hole with authority. However, he has still not proven to be a physical player.
Season Prediction: Thompson will have a breakout year after playing well in the recent FIBA World Cup, and he will be a first-time All-Star this season. Golden State will send both him and Curry to All-Star Weekend, and they will both participate in the three-point contest.
Mitchell Watt, C
Strengths: The undrafted 6’10”, 225 pound 24-year-old has floated around in the Summer and European Leagues since 2012. The Warriors hope that he can make an impact in any way, shape, or form.
Weaknesses: His game still hasn’t matured to the NBA level, but the Warriors will give him a shot as another big.
Season Prediction: We shouldn’t expect to see much of Watt this season. He will most likely just be a bench player unless things go terribly wrong.
Follow Rich Peters @Tricky_Roma.