NBA TEAM PREVIEWS
Atlantic: Boston Celtics | Brooklyn Nets | New York Knicks | Philadelphia 76ers | Toronto Raptors
Central: Chicago Bulls | Cleveland Cavaliers | Detroit Pistons | Indiana Pacers | Milwaukee Bucks
Southeast: Atlanta Hawks | Charlotte Hornets | Miami Heat | Orlando Magic | Washington Wizards
Pacific: Golden State Warriors | Los Angeles Clippers | Los Angeles Lakers | Phoenix Suns | Sacramento Kings
Northwest: Denver Nuggets | Minnesota Timberwolves | Oklahoma City Thunder | Portland Trail Blazers | Utah Jazz
Southwest: Dallas Mavericks | Houston Rockets | Memphis Grizzlies | New Orleans Pelicans | San Antonio Spurs
Presenting an NBA preview of the Golden State Warriors that looks at the potential highs and lows for this coming 2016-17 NBA season.
What’s Good… A team that has either won or competed in the NBA Finals over the course of back-to-back seasons added a future Hall-of-Famer who classifies as a top-3 player in the NBA. Put in other words, the Golden State Warriors added Kevin Durant, an addition that’s far beyond the realm of good. He should perfectly match the playing styles of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and the other team-oriented individuals for Golden State. Beyond Durant, the Warriors brought in Zaza Pachulia on the ultra cheap to fill the void of Andrew Bogut. David West was also added while both Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala were retained. Bringing in Durant as a free agent is one of the most consequential additions in NBA history, and that alone shapes a team’s entire offseason. Despite various departures, the Warriors managed to add a player arguably better than Curry and get discounts on valuable veterans.
What’s Bad… We’re getting picky here. A 73-win team added Durant, therefore, classifying anything as bad feels disingenuous. But concerns of depth, rim protection, and defensive identity are valid. Overstated, yes, but there is some validity to these concerns. The Warriors might not have the same bench production as in past seasons. Pachulia won’t match Bogut’s resistance around the hoop. While Durant is a defensive upgrade over Harrison Barnes, how he and his Golden State teammates perform defensively stands as an unknown. Their offensive performance feels like much more of a certainty. Furthermore, any injuries to big men will make for a difficult situation.
The X-Factor… Past MVPs can’t be called x-factors with a straight face, and both Klay Thompson/Draymond Green have been All-Stars. Even Andre Iguodala, a ripe x-factor candidate, has been an NBA Finals MVP! Given the losses of Bogut/Festus Ezeli and Golden State’s potentially thin frontline, I’m going to give Pachulia the x-factor title. He’ll be a starter, after all, and the Warriors won’t be able to play its “Death Lineup” (Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Durant, Green) for huge chunks of all 82 games. Pachulia is a 74.6 percent career free throw shooter which will prevent the Hack-A games that plagued both Bogut and Ezeli. Although limited as a shot blocker, Pachulia is nevertheless skilled at positioning and presents a 6-11 frame. Green officially has a fellow bruiser by his side. Look for Pachulia to help Green in establishing Golden State’s physicality all season. In a sea of talent, Pachulia will offer the dirty work and under the radar production necessary for success.
Bet On… The Warriors thriving on the national media spotlight while also keeping an eye towards the ultimate goal. Point being, the Warriors could easily win less than its 73-win 2015-16 total but still feel equally if not more confident in its title chances. These players will handle the swarms of questions with intelligence. A loss here, a question of Durant’s fit there, or a chorus of boos everywhere won’t alter Golden State’s mindset. No matter the win total, you can bet on the Warriors collectively coming together in the face of outrageous media attention and borderline hatred from road fans. The 3-1 Finals meltdown and Durant’s individual lack of a title will help the Warriors keep perspective, a piece of knowledge greater than any outside noise.
The Crystal Ball Reveals… An NBA Title for the Warriors in 2016-17. And yes, it will come against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. My prediction is the Warriors going 71-11 and defeating Cleveland in 6 during the NBA Finals. Durant will lead the team in scoring, Curry will lead in threes made, and Thompson’s touches won’t take the hit some expect. Lesser but undoubtedly important factors will include West proving to be an upgrade over Marreese Speights and Ian Clark filling in Leandro Barbosa‘s instant offense niche. Also look for Patrick McCaw continuing to impress those in Golden State’s organization and carving out a meaningful role. The journey of the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors will be full of beautiful drama, hysterical overreactions from hot-take sports figures, and most importantly, greatness.