Warriors preview: Golden State hoping for health, 1-man defensive renaissance

Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The Hook presents NBA Festivus: Warriors, where we wonder if Andrew Bogut can turn the team's defense around all by himself while Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson shoot down everything that moves.

Surely, this will be the year that the Golden State Warriors have good health and play solid enough to land in the postseason. Surely.

FEATS OF STRENGTH

The Warriors do have the makings of a good team, particularly with two sterling young scorers in the backcourt (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson) and a renowned defensive center (Andrew Bogut), plus interesting parts all about (Harrison Barnes, expensive but solid David Lee). When you look at that potential starting line-up, it's really pretty decent, especially if Curry (already free of medical restrictions) and Bogut (closing in on opening day) get and stay healthy. Unfortunately for Golden State, neither has been very healthy as NBA players. At least Bogut's issues have not been chronic. Curry is a different story: that ankle could define his career.

I'm not sure another team has the quality of shooters in the backcourt that Golden State can boast. Thompson, a serious breakout pick, shot 41 percent on threes as a rookie while taking a massive six per 36 minutes. Curry is a career 44 percent long-range shooter, and takes five per 36 minutes. Those two could lead Golden State to the top of the NBA ranks in three-point attempts, makes and percentage this season ... which is just a huge boon for the offense.

Of course, neither appears to be a stopper, and Barnes will have a learning curve (assuming he wins the starting role over Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush). The team's two top power forwards are Lee (never confused as a strong defender, except by that one hilarious All-Defense voter a few years ago) and Carl Landry, a tough man who hasn't been much of a stopper in his last two tours and who is not a good defensive rebounder. That all puts a whole heap of pressure on Bogut, who is probably good enough to carry a defense ... if he has some help from a good coaching scheme and active helpers. Head coach Mark Jackson has a smart bench behind him (led by Mike Malone), and the Warriors roster doesn't look lazy on paper. So there's a chance the defense could work out.

If Bogut's healthy. He's played in about 73 percent of his teams' games over his career. That figure over the past four seasons is only 58 percent.

While the Warriors' overall depth is a weakness, having Landry and a couple of good small forwards is a luxury. Jackson will have options to play Barnes or Jefferson at power forward in smallball sets if needed, and Rush can actually move down to shooting guard. The team conceded Dorell Wright in the offseason precisely because it felt more than set at small forward. You could also say that Golden State has, if nothing else, a steady hand off the bench at point guard in Jarrett Jack. I'm not really sure this is a positive, but at least it's not ... uh ... Steve Blake?

AIRING OF GRIEVANCES

We already laid out some particular defensive concerns, namely that no one but Andrew Bogut can actually defend. Even if he's healthy, he's going to be exhausted immediately! Second-year player Jeremy Tyler and rookie Festus Ezeli will be asked to learn how to protect the bucket quickly, because again, the rest of the club will have trouble keeping attackers in front of them. I'm sure Jackson's staff will come up with some ideas to slow down the onslaught, but it's going to be a tough sell.

On offense, we're still perfectly unclear whether Bogut will ever be a decent shooter again. In limited minutes last season (12 games), he made some free throws and long two-point jumpers, an improvement over the season prior (his first after a devastating wrist injury). But sample size issues run rampant, and he was really inefficient overall in the 12 games. He may be an All-Star caliber defender, but his offense is a total question mark. The rest of the club isn't so efficient as to make that irrelevant.

The depth behind Bogut is just awful. The Warriors are already openly talking about finding a way out from under Andris Biedrins next summer. Tyler and Ezeli are really raw. The 10-20 minutes per game when Bogut is on the bench will be terrifying, especially if the team is restructured to maximize his gifts. The drop-off is pretty similar to Dwight Howard-Jordan Hill in L.A.

Whether the rest of the bench is a strength or a weakness remains to be seen: Jack is a mid-rung back-up, in my opinion, and Jefferson floats between decent and bad with some regularity. Rush might be the keystone to the backcourt bench: if he can put together a nice season, he could give Jackson some flexibility with resting Curry and Thompson. He's another exceptional shooter, though he takes fewer threes than either of the starters.

I would be remiss to note that I'm still concerned with Jackson as a head coach. He has a great staff and he's seemingly toned down the absurd rhetoric. But we are now entering his second season of head coaching experience ... at any level. To think someone can figure out how to coach in the NBA in one year is foolish.

FESTIVUS MIRACLES

It will be miraculous if ...

Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut each play 82 games.

David Lee picks up another All-Defense vote. (Never forget.)

Warriors announcer Bob Fitzgerald fails to compare Jeremy Tyler to "a young Bill Russell" and Festus Ezeli to Hakeem Olajuwon.

Mark Jackson tries the intentional foul strategy on Dwight Howard again.

David Lee fails to wear full arm sleeves when the Warriors face Wilson Chandler and the Nuggets.

Faithful Warriors fans appreciate the owners' decision to move the team across the Bay to San Francisco, and vocalize as much.

Harrison Barnes doesn't play at least 10 minutes at center this season.

THE HUMAN FUND

Let's get sincere.

Team MVP: Stephen Curry

Team X-Factor: Harrison Barnes

Team Finish: 3rd in Pacific | 10th in West

Best Chance at Championship: Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout

***

The Hook is a daily NBA column by Tom Ziller. See the archives.

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