What does it take to be a championship contender in today’s NBA?
-Guys who can create quality shots for others and themselves
-An elite defense (most likely anchored by a rim protecting big man or by a cyborg like Lebron)
-Some threat of inside scoring
-Athletic wings that are versatile defensively and can shoot 3s (being proficient from the corners is a necessity)
These are just some of the components a team must have to succeed in the NBA in 2013. Good coaching, chemistry, just enough depth and health are vital as well. I believe the Warriors, as currently constructed can check off all those boxes and are a legitimate contender for the 2013-14 title. Though there is still work to do in constructing this roster (which I will get to shortly), the signing of Andre Iguodala will establish the Warriors as contenders for the foreseeable future.
The Warriors have Stephen Curry, one of the league’s 15 best players on one of the league’s best contracts (4 yr/$44 mil). If you watched any basketball during the 2012-13 season, you know how awesome of a player Curry is. The dude made 272 three pointers (a new single season record) at a 45.3% clip! Guys who shoot that accurately typically are spot up shooters, such as a Steve Kerr or Kyle Korver, but Curry is pulling up from 28 ft and hitting contested jumpers. We have NEVER seen anyone like him offensively and as you can tell by this man-crush paragraph, I am bullish on his future, provided his ankles don’t shatter into a thousand pieces.
The Dubs have more than just Curry though. They have Klay Thompson, who may be the league’s second best shooter behind Curry and has great size for a wing player. He is not a great defensive player, but is improving and only entering his third year in the league. On the wing they have another exciting prospect in Harrison Barnes. Barnes had a breakout performance in the playoffs and possesses all the traits a team would be looking for in their small forward (just like our beloved Jimmy Butler, you guys). Barnes showed he can play as a small ball four, stretch the floor as a shooter, and even showed a nice dribble drive game towards the end of the year. Even without the addition of Iguodala (see below why I love this move), the Warriors had one of the league’s best wing tandems, but his addition makes them arguably the best and most versatile trio of swingmen in the league.
Though they lack frontcourt depth, the Warriors have two very good big men. Andrew Bogut started to look like Andrew Bogut again during the playoffs and at his peak he is an elite rim protector and passer, as well as being a good finisher and rebounder. If he is healthy, he is the perfect compliment to Curry and co. People love to hate on David Lee’s defense and I do not blame anyone that focuses on that aspect of his game, but I do find these people to be shortsighted when they forget how brilliant of an offensive player he is. He is an efficient post player, great mid range shooter, can attack opposing bigs off the dribble and like Bogut is an awesome passer. If he is playing alongside a rim protector like Bogut than a lot of his defensive miscues can be neutralized and he can focus on the one thing he does do well defensively (rebounding). Thinking of a completely healthy Dubs team with these two feeding each other for easy buckets and the perimeter guys for open 3s arouses (sexually, mentally, emotionally) basketball purists like myself. This team is capable of playing some of the most aesthetically pleasing basketball known to man.
Andre Iguodala compliments these 5 guys perfectly and is a great use of the Warriors resources. Iguodala is undoubtedly one of the five best perimeter defenders in the league. He can guard 1s, 2s, 3s, and even an occasional small ball 4. He is also a very capable secondary ball handler who has averaged over 5 assists per game in 6 of the last 7 seasons. Now that Jarrett Jack is gone, the Warriors needed someone else who could create easy looks for others and they could not have done much better than adding Iggy. He was woefully miscast as a number 1 option in Philly, but if he is playing the role that I envision the Warriors have him filling (10-12 shots per game, secondary ball handler to Curry, be a smart cutter and run the floor, absolute menace defensively) than he would be an incredibly valuable player to any team. He is a mediocre shooter, but that is fine since he is playing with the Splash Bros, Barnes, and Lee, there will still be plenty of space offensively.
Though I believe this may be the best top 6 in basketball, the Warriors as currently constructed, have very little depth. Their bench led by Jack and the also departed Carl Landry blitzed opposing second units. Jack was a crucial crunch time performer, could back up either guard spot, and allowed for Curry to play off the ball at times, while Landry is an excellent scorer and willing passer. As good as these two were, a part of why they were so great last year was because they got both of these guys on the cheap. They deservedly cashed in on their success, but I would not pay two bench guys a combined $12 million a year and the Warriors made the smart move to let them go, now they need to make some shrewd decisions to fill their void.
They now need to focus their attention on finding a backup point guard and a backup power forward. Their bench is not completely barren, as I do like some of the young pieces they currently have. Festus Ezeli has no semblance of an offensive game, but is an adequate rim protector. While Draymond Green does not bring the same quality to the position of point forward that resident DRAT crazy person Steven Kerstein does, he is an intriguing young piece who can guard 3’s and 4’s and brings a diverse set of skills offensively. Depth is needed to get them through the season, but in the playoffs when rotations shrink and every minute is at a premium, the Warriors will not need all that much from players 7-9 in their rotation.
As you can tell in this long-winded manifesto, that I LOVE this Warriors team. They have athleticism, shooting, passing, and defense. If they stay healthy and can find a useful, cheap piece or two during free agency, they will absolutely be able make noise come playoff time.