COMMENTARY | The Golden State Warriors enter the 2013-14 season with plenty of optimism, promise, and momentum following their breakout 2012-13 campaign and postseason run. On the rise and primed for another big year, there are some questions whose answers will dictate the direction of this upcoming season.
1. Who will be in the starting lineup?
With the acquisition of star free agent Andre Iguodala, the Warriors have three starter-quality players available on the wing. Along with Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, the team has the luxury of having one of these three players come off the bench. The apparent question remains: Which of the three players will sit?
While he definitely has the all-around game and leadership ability desired from a sixth man, Iguodala is and will always be a starter. He has started all 695 career games with the Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets. Which position he will "technically" play will depend on his running mate in the starting lineup.
Thompson seems to be the most likely fit at shooting guard, making Iguodala the team's starting small forward. Aside from another year of experience over Barnes, he performs best when playing alongside the top players on the team. While he is developing his skills as a ball handler and rim attacker, he's best when other players can facilitate and pass the ball to him in transition or in open space. Being a part of arguably the best all-around starting lineup in the league for passing will aid in his contributions on both ends of the court.
This leaves Barnes as the likely sixth man, a role that should suit him quite well. Aside from getting more opportunities on offense against second-unit players, he should also get the chance to grow as a leader.
2. How will player health play into the team's success?
As with every year, health will be a concern for the Warriors. Last year, the Warriors' health was as good as it has ever been.
Thompson played all 82 games while Barnes and Carl Landry each only missed one game apiece. Curry miraculously only missed four games all year and Lee was a notch better with just three games missed. Bogut's 32 games played were not too big of a surprise coming off his injury and the season-ending Brandon Rush injury during the team's home opener against the Memphis Grizzlies was an unfortunate circumstance.
It will be quite difficult for the Warriors to keep up the clean bill of health from last season. The team is already going to be down one player to start the season with Festus Ezeli undergoing right knee surgery this offseason. The earliest he'll return to the team is in mid-December.
While he was healthy last year, Curry's ankles will always be looming in the minds of everyone at any sign of pain or wincing. Bogut's over/under for games played this season is likely around 55 games. Recently-signed backup center Jermaine O'Neal is also up there in age and will have a tough time lasting the whole season as a 34-year-old.
The Warriors will need to be healthy again if they want to make bigger waves in the Western Conference this season.
3. Is the bench better, worse, or on par with last season's bench?
In the trade that brought Iguodala to the Bay Area, many pieces were sent packing. While they'll be little lost with the removal of Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins on the Warriors roster, the losses of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, two key bench contributors from last season, via free agency could be huge.
However, the Warriors did the best they could to fill the holes by bringing in comparable replacements like O'Neal, Marreese Speights, and Toney Douglas. More affordable for the team's salary cap, these players give the team similar but different dimensions to a remodeled bench. Now more rugged and physical on the defensive end, these free agent additions should fit in quite well with the system and playing style in place.
4. How will head coach Mark Jackson fare without top assistant Mike Malone?
The hiring of former career benchwarmer Brian Scalabrine was accompanied by plenty of fanfare, especially in social media circles, but "White Mamba" is no Malone. Credited for being Jackson's play designer in the huddles and organizer on a logistical level, Malone is now the head coach with the Sacramento Kings.
With Malone gone, does Jackson start to take the reins on something he did not have to manage in his first two seasons or will that responsibility go to another assistant? Jackson has been viewed as the emotional, spiritual, and motivational leader of the team. He has been the voice of leadership and direction throughout this team's transformation.
While he's grown as a coach since joining the league as a neophyte coach fresh from the commentator's booth, life without Malone may expose his areas of weakness.
5. Will the Warriors advance farther in the postseason (or better yet, represent the West in the NBA Finals)?
The Warriors exceeding all expectations during the 2012-13 campaign by playing well throughout the regular season, earning the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference standings, and coming a few wins shy of playing in the Western Conference Finals. After all the movement and noise made this offseason, the team is primed to go even farther in 2013-14.
Ultimately, this is the one burning question that will define the success of this offseason and the team's progression moving forward.
With arguably a better roster than last year, the Warriors are in a great position to do even better during the regular season and possibly advance two rounds in the West. While the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, and Memphis Grizzlies are at the top of the conference, the team's current makeup could very well crack the West's elite and surpass expectations once again in the 2013-14 season.
Austin Chang is a San Francisco Bay Area-based sports writer covering the Golden State Warriors for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He is the Associate Editor of Sports Out West and an intern for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Follow this contributor on Twitter @_austinchang.
- Sports & Recreation
- Golden State Warriors
- Andre Iguodala
- Andrew Bogut
- Stephen Curry
- Klay Thompson
- Harrison Barnes