One team I’ve yet to write about this young NBA season that certainly deserves the attention: the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors, 23-12, are fifth in the hotly competitive Western Conference. And after a really hot start, they show no signs of slowing.
They’re beating the teams they should beat, minus two losses to both Orlando and Sacramento, and they’re winning games nobody thought they could win. Among their 23 wins are road victories in Los Angeles (Clippers), Minnesota, Dallas, Brooklyn, Miami, Atlanta and Utah. Their only loss in a seven-game Eastern Conference road trip that spanned almost two weeks in early December was in Orlando; in fact, their 11 road wins are second only to the San Antonio Spurs in the entire NBA.
So what’s gotten into this team? The roster is hardly stacked; hell, former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Bogut has only played in 4 of the team’s 35 games. But in Stephen Curry and David Lee, the club boasts two deserved All Stars. Curry’s averaging 20.2 points per game, and Lee, a double-double machine, 19.8 points and 10.8 rebounds.
But what’s working for the Warriors, at least statistically, is the production they’re getting from the role guys. Klay Thompson continues to develop in his sophomore year and is averaging 15.9 points from his starting two-guard spot. Journeyman point guard Jarrett Jack offers veteran leadership and 11.8 points off the bench. Carl Landry gives you 12.3 a night and almost seven boards, and Harrison Barnes 9.2 as a rookie.
The future’s promising for the Warriors, and it will only get better in two years once they rid themselves of three terrible contracts. Andris Biedrins is making $9 million this year and averaging 9.7 minutes a game in 27 appearances. He’s got a player option for next year for the same amount that he’d be absolutely foolish to turn down. Richard Jefferson, 11.1 minutes and 2.8 points in 18 appearances, is costing Golden State over $10 million this year, and he’s got an $11-million-and-change option he’d also be foolish to not pick up for next year. And then there’s Bogut, at $13+ million this year and $14+ million next year. Yikes.
But get this. In 2014-15, the Warriors have Curry and Lee locked up, with affordable team options on Barnes, Thompson and their starting center Festus Ezeli, in the neighborhood of $30 million. That’s almost $30 million in cap room on this year’s levels, meaning money for at least one max-dollar free agent and some solid role players. But they have to get through this year and next year, with almost $75 million already committed.
But back to this year for a second. The Warriors are ninth in the NBA in scoring at 101 ppg, and fifth overall in rebounding, even without Bogut and with hardly any production from Biedrins. David Lee is the model for basketball consistency, as he’s been throughout his NBA career, and Curry is averaging career highs in points and assists (6.6 per game).
If you’re Mark Jackson, you’ve got to be excited with where this team is headed. It will be a major accomplishment for this team just to make the postseason, which I’m thinking they will, at this point, barring a major collapse. But come two years from now, if their young core continues to develop, with the help of a big signing or two, this team will be poised to compete with Oklahoma City year after year as one of the best teams in a younger Western Conference.
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