Why Not the Warriors? | Grantland
Adam Rifkin stashed this in Warriors!
Stashed in: Basketball
Zach Lowe calls it:
It doesn’t happen often, given the scarcity of true franchise players in the NBA, but once in a while, a legitimate championship contender lurks in the shadows. There are few real contenders every season, and most of those teams held that distinction over the previous seasons. The conference finalists that sneak up on us — the 2011 Mavericks, 2011 Thunder, 2009 Magic, 2006 Heat, 2004 Pistons — do so because, for whatever reason, we were not prepared to think of them as real contenders. Some are young teams on the upswing, ahead of their preconceived schedule. Some are older teams with strange new pieces and uninspiring postseason résumés.
Most of them carry indicators that shout, “Hey! There’s a real contender here!” The 2011 Mavs had a killer record and point differential when their core players were healthy, but a solid percentage of experts picked Portland to upset them in the first round, and almost everyone was shocked they got by the imploding Lakers in the next. Teams earn reputations, and the perceptions that come with them, through their historical accomplishments, but that same history can blind us to a truth that doesn’t line up with it.
Which brings me to a question that has been nagging me, and I suspect lots of other hard-core NBA types, over the last couple of weeks: Why not the Warriors? Why can’t Golden State make the Finals and even win the championship this season? Is there a legitimate answer that isn’t some version of, “Because they’re the Warriors, and the Warriors always lose”?
The rest of the article goes into the why.
The article has some great highlight clips -- I love Bogutlob:
Thompson is so dangerous that the mere threat of Bogut screening for him will get Bogut’s defender (Chris Bosh here) concerned about sliding off Bogut to help on Thompson’s catch. And that half-second of hesitation is Bogut’s signal to ditch the screen and cut in for a lob that will often be wide-open — especially if the Warriors have some decoy action cooking on the weak side to distract defenders there.
The Warriors have built up solidly over the last two years:
There are serious barriers to Golden State’s title contention, of course — the first being that it has to stay healthy. You could say that about any team, but Golden State’s two cornerstone players have ugly injury histories, including recent ankle issues that verged on “chronic” status. The offense dies without Stephen Curry, and the defense dies without Andrew Bogut. Lose one at the wrong time and the Warriors are toast. And no team is anything like a “safe” bet to make it through the insane Western Conference.
The Warriors, fresh off a 10-game winning streak and one of the great road trips in NBA history, look more and more like a true-blue contender. They certainly think of themselves that way. “The playoffs was the goal for us last season,” Bogut says. “But this season, we’re trying to get to the pinnacle of the NBA, and that’s winning a championship.”
Klay Thompson, leaning back in his chair before last Wednesday’s game in Brooklyn, simply nods when asked if the Warriors can win the whole thing. “Oh yeah,” he says. “That’s the mind-set you gotta have. And this winning streak we have going has just reinforced that.” Draymond Green is emphatic. “We feel like we’re capable of that,” he says. “And we felt like that from the beginning of the year.”
The roster just makes a lot of sense. Golden State reinvented itself with the Monta Ellis/Andrew Bogut swap, gambling that Bogut could get healthy and transform perhaps the most defensively incompetent franchise in league history. Mark Jackson’s coaching staff watched film of Bogut in Milwaukee and, with some input from Bogut, redesigned Golden State’s defensive philosophy to fit his skills. Golden State leaped to an unthinkable 13th in points allowed per possession last season, and in one of the most remarkable single-season transformations ever, it led the league in defensive rebounding rate after finishing dead last five straight seasons.
They’re no. 2 in rebounding, and they’ve added Andre Iguodala to work as Bogut’s equivalent on the perimeter. Curry and David Lee remain glaring minuses on defense, but the Warriors are constructed to hide them with an intuitive system and three very good defenders in the starting lineup. Iguodala can fill Jarrett Jack’s role as a secondary ball handler, Harrison Barnes can work in all sorts of lineups, and the bench, thin now, figures to fatten up as Festus Ezeli and Jermaine O’Neal get healthy, while Marreese Speights relearns the skill known as “shooting” and the other guys settle in. The man who built it is optimistic about its ceiling. “When we’re healthy, we can compete with any other team,” says Bob Myers, the team’s GM. “We believe we have a chance to win the title, just like a lot of other teams. I don’t know that our mentality is that we’re favorites, but we belong in that conversation.”
All right, buddy, you're in the conversation!