Culture of Hoops

2015-16 NBA Season Preview: Golden State Warriors

Screen capture courtesy of the NBA/YouTube.

Screen capture courtesy of the NBA/YouTube.

Last Year’s Record: 67-15
Key Losses: David Lee, Justin Holiday
Key Additions: Jason Thompson

1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?

After the greatest season in franchise history and one of the greatest seasons in the history of the NBA, nothing major needed to happen. The core of this team is young and still on the rise. They had to move David Lee, who was an integral part of turning the once guttered franchise around. Lingering injuries, the emergence of the relentlessly defensive minded Draymond Green, as well as the ability to play Harrison Barnes at the stretch four pushed Lee out of the lineup. Like a true professional, the two-time All-Star understood his role as he returned to health in time for the playoffs and still managed to play his heart out when called up –  especially in the Finals.

Mutually parting ways and finding the right home for David Lee in the final year of his contract was just as important to the Warriors as it was to Lee himself. They eventually flipped him to the Boston Celtics (a city in which he’ll fit in just fine) for the corpse of Gerald Wallace.

This is where the Warriors’ front office genius came into play yet again. Somehow they managed to send Wallace to Philly for the former but much beloved Sacramento King, Jason Thompson, who they had just acquired a few days prior. Thompson was an under the radar pickup of the offseason and as lucky as the Warriors are to have landed the 6-11 veteran big man, Thompson might be the luckiest of all. He doesn’t have to play for a haggard 76ers squad and more importantly doesn’t have to leave the Northern California area in which he loves so much. Prior to being traded, Thompson was easily the longest tenured player on an ever changing Kings’ roster and a big part of the Sacramento community. He had spent all seven seasons of his career in the state’s capitol. Oddly enough, the Warriors recently claimed that they were going to take him in the 2008 draft if the Kings didn’t do so just before them at 12th overall.

As for the biggest move of the offseason, it has to be the re-signing of Draymond Green. His tenacity and understanding of the game elevated this franchise from a fun playoff team to a fun championship team. Five years and $82 million have him being paid the same as the likes of…Cleveland Cavaliers’ reserve Tristan Thompson? Huh?

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?

Having the league’s reigning MVP Stephen Curry is definitely a strength. While the Warriors have been a bit sloppy over the course of preseason, Curry seems to have somehow improved even more. That’s a scary thought for Chris Paul‘s ankles.

One could argue that Golden State is the best team in the league both offensively and defensively – that’s not always the case, even for teams that do in fact win it all. While I do believe that David Lee will be missed more than people would like to admit, the addition of Jason Thompson will only add to their defensive depth. Now off of the bench they can either go the offensively minded route with Mo Speights or tighten up their defense and rebounding with Thompson. This gives head coach Steve Kerr (and for now Luke Walton) yet another look in his nearly interchangeable lineup.

Lastly, being defending champions is a strength in itself. They have the confidence and know they have the ability to beat anyone and everyone in the league. BUT OH WAIT! According to Doc Rivers, and a lot of other people who enjoy the sound of their own voice, they got lucky. Give me a break. Not every Bay Area team that wins a title is “lucky.” Were the San Francisco Giants “lucky” three out of the last five years?

3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?

Much like how being the defending champs is a strength, it is also a big weakness. Every team in the league is going to be gunning for them on National television. Winning back-to-back titles is no easy task and it should not be taken lightly. The Warriors need to continue to play with a disrespected chip on their shoulders. Luckily for them, they are all still so young and hungry. There are times when you see older players win their first title then sort of check out mentally because it took so long to finally do it. This Warriors roster, as well as their coaching staff, has at least five, maybe even ten plus more years together. I’m not going to fully jump to this comparison, but if done right, think San Antonio Spurs.

Regarding the makeup of the team itself, the most glaring issue is their coaching staff. You never want to have a banged up roster, but what about a banged up coaching staff? Head coach Steve Kerr has been struggling to recover from an offseason back surgery. With legendary assistant Alving Gentry gone and now leading the Pelicans, the just 35-year-old Luke Walton is currently heading the defending champs. Obviously Kerr’s absence is an issue, but Walton has been doing just fine and Kerr will eventually be back at it. However, the loss of Gentry, to me, is going to be huge. He was Kerr’s right-hand man. I know Kerr is a far better coach than Mark Jackson was, but I can’t help compare the situation to when Jackson lost his right hand man, Mike Malone, to the Sacramento Kings in 2013. Things were never quite the same strategically for the Dubs and we all know what eventually happened to Jackson.

4. What are the goals for this team?

Honestly, they achieved just about every single goal possible last year. In fact, the biggest disappointments were clearly Steve Kerr not winning Coach of the Year and Draymond Green not winning Defensive Player of the Year. What a joke, right? It was a miracle season of near perfection. No major injuries, hardly even any heart-wrenching moments. It just doesn’t happen that way and it surely won’t happen again. Warriors fans better stay humble and remember the dark days of the franchise, because it isn’t going to get any better than it is now. The chances of a repeat in any sport are the slimmest of the slim. However, even if they were to repeat, there is no way things are going to go as smoothly as they did a season ago. From Steph Curry winning MVP to Klay Thompson scoring 37 points in a quarter to Draymond Green’s coming out party to a nearly injury-less campaign, the Warriors are bound to face some serious adversity this time around. They are circled on every other team’s calendar across the association.

5. Who is the biggest threat to nix a Warriors’ Championship repeat?

My own question, of course, is the most challenging. I don’t know why I did this to myself. I feel that the Warriors hands down were the best team in the league all of last season from the opening tip on opening night regardless of who they faced (or didn’t face) in the playoffs. They were a team of destiny. They had the best player on the planet and he was surrounded by the deepest roster in the league, a great and innovative coaching staff and ownership group and some of the best fans in sports. So why is that their fault? Why does that mean that they were “lucky?” It doesn’t. They were actually historically GREAT.

This season, I still think they are the best team in the league with the opportunity to be even better. BUT, like I said in question four, there is not a chance in hell that this season goes the way last went. So where does that leave the Warriors? A lock for a top three seed in the Western Conference as well as, in my opinion, a trip to the Western Conference Finals. But as we saw so much a season ago, matchups will be key. To me, there are are only three teams in the league that could possibly beat the Warriors in a seven game series.

San Antonio Spurs – You simply cannot disregard the dominance of Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard AND PATTY MILLS! Oh, they also just acquired this dude named LaMarcus Aldridge that is supposed to be pretty good.

Oklahoma City Thunder – I’m not really a huge fan of this roster, especially with first year head coach Billy Donovan, but in my opinion Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are the best duo in the league. I just hope Durant can stay healthy, his lingering foot injuries are beginning to remind me of the sad demise of Yao Ming‘s career. In fact, I’d love to see KD win another MVP this season.

Cleveland Cavaliers – We saw Cleveland give the Warriors a run in the Finals last year. Now they are re-loaded and hoping to be healthy. I’d usually never say that Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson are huge additions in the year 2015, but they truly are when alongside LeBron James. We saw how weak their depth and veteran presence was in the playoffs, they definitely addressed those issues.

The Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies are mere mythological elite teams and the rest of the Eastern Conference is a joke.

Follow Rich Peters on Twitter @Tricky Roma.

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