'13-14 outlook: Golden State Warriors

Originally Published: October 17, 2013
ESPN.com

Golden State Warriors at the Great WallAndrew D. Bernstein/ Getty ImagesEven after last season's successes, the Warriors have a steep up-hill climb to the top of the West.

What's in store for the Golden State Warriors? Our panel of five looks back at the offseason moves (and non-moves) and forward to what lies ahead in the 2013-14 NBA season.


1. What grade would you give the Warriors' offseason?


J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: B. The Andre Iguodala acquisition was nice, but they'll miss Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry. This was another example of the collective bargaining agreement making it tougher for ascending teams to challenge the big boys, rather than leveling the playing field. The good news for the Warriors is they're currently set up with cap space for next summer.

Jovan Buha, ClipperBlog: B+. They were able to nab the third-best player on the market, Iguodala, and somehow shed two albatross contracts in the process (Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins). Losing Jack and Landry hurts, but their inexpensive replacements (Toney Douglas and Marreese Speights) can provide similar-enough production.

J.M. Poulard, Warriors World: B-. The Iguodala signing was great, especially since it also dumped the contracts of Biedrins, Jefferson and Brandon Rush, but it weakened a solid bench. It's debatable if their overall production will be reproduced.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Warriors World: B+. After the Iguodala trade, the only bad contract might be the guy who represented Golden State in last year's All-Star Game, David Lee. There is, however, the chance that Iguodala's becomes the next bad deal. For now, the Warriors have the first team that could conceivably contend since Jimmy Carter was president.

Jack Winter, Warriors World: B+. Most teams would stand pat after its most successful season in more than 20 years, but Warriors general manager Bob Myers had other plans. So much roster turnover will hurt from a chemistry standpoint, but the addition of Iguodala alone makes that sacrifice worthwhile. Useful periphery such as O'Neal, Douglas and Speights is just icing on the cake.


2. What's the biggest question facing the Warriors in 2013-14?


Adande: How well-made are their shoes? Their kicks had better provide good ankle support for Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut. Bogut played only 56 games the past two seasons combined, and while Curry is coming off his best season, the playoffs reminded us of how fragile his ankles are. As fun as the Warriors can be, they'd be better served with the traditional inside-out combo Bogut and Curry can provide.

Buha: Health concerns aside, how does the addition of Iguodala and reintroduction of Lee affect Golden State's offense? The Warriors played their best basketball of the season with four wings spreading the floor and 3-pointers raining from the heavens. Despite Lee and Iguodala's versatile skill sets, neither are potent 3-point shooters. Can Mark Jackson make this work?

Poulard: Whether or not to trade one of their young, cheap perimeter players for help on the interior. Festus Ezeli is currently injured and Andrew Bogut and Jermaine O'Neal have proven to be injury concerns. Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson both have enough value that it's possible they could bring in a solid, veteran big man.

Strauss: I wouldn't say it's health. I'd say it's whether the Warriors are a championship team, even if healthy. For years, injuries have equalled preemptive excuses for Golden State. Let's set the risk of injuries aside, and ask if this team can truly win a title.

Winter: Can they stay healthy? As strange as it sounds, Golden State boasts one of the most talented and versatile rosters in the NBA. The only thing keeping this team from contention will be recurring injuries to Curry and Bogut. Both players showed up to camp in fantastic condition, but preparation only takes you so far; they'll need some luck to stay healthy, too.


3. Who's the Warriors' most intriguing player?


Adande: Curry. Nothing's more fun to watch than the emergence of a star, and last spring served as Curry's declaration for entry into the superstar draft. But if that "draft" were held today, he'd be on the fringe of the lottery. Another stellar season, followed by a strong postseason, and we could start talking about Curry as a top-10 NBA player.

Buha: Barnes. Is he a future All-Star candidate or merely an above-average role player? Somewhere in between? The expectations are high in Year 2, and it'll be interesting to see how he responds to increased responsibility on both ends. His rapid development has the potential to make Lee expendable.

Poulard: Barnes. He's the Warriors' wildcard: If he has a good season, Golden State can challenge for the Pacific Division title; if he is average, the Dubs are probably the fifth- or sixth-best team in the West. Many believe he's made the leap. If he has, watch out.

Strauss: Barnes, especially now that he's missing preseason games with whatever "foot inflammation" means. Barnes created a lot of offseason buzz, played terribly this preseason, then quickly disappeared. He's talented, but he must fight for minutes in a newly crowded wing rotation. That's a fight worth watching this season.

Winter: Barnes. Golden State's surprising playoff run last season was spurred by playing the 6-foot-8 then-rookie as a nominal power forward out of necessity. With Iguodala in tow and Bogut healthy, the theory is Jackson will employ similar lineups even more in 2013-14. How Barnes adjusts to his new role -- no matter what it turns out to be -- is the variable that could swing the Warriors' season.


4. What's one bold prediction about the Warriors?


Adande: Curry will be among the NBA's top 10 in assists. Passing isn't the first thing that comes to mind when we think of Curry, but he averaged just fewer than seven assists a game last season. Improving that number by even half an assist would get him into the top 10.

Buha: Lee will be traded. If Joe Johnson's and Rudy Gay's contracts can be moved, Lee's can, too. He's not a bad player. He just doesn't fit with the Warriors' floor-spacing identity. I'm not sure how much they can get in return, but his departure is inevitable.

Poulard: The Warriors will be a top-10 defense by season's end. They will have to work a few things out, but between Iguodala, Bogut, Douglas, O'Neal and the emerging Thompson, Jackson has his fair share of good, if not great, defensive players to lock teams down in 2013-14.

Strauss: Curry will break his own record for 3-pointers made in a season. He averaged nearly two more attempts after last season's All-Star break than before it. Launching often is the new normal for Curry, and based on preseason action, Iguodala is the first Warriors player to actually spot Curry when he's open for corner 3s.

Winter: Bogut makes an All-NBA team. Major injuries to his elbow and ankle since an All-NBA third team selection in 2010 have made it easy to forget the sizable impact Bogut can have on both ends of the floor. Those flashes of dominance we saw against Denver in May served as a harbinger for what's coming this season.


5. Prediction time: How far will the Warriors go this season?


Adande: We'll see less of the Warriors in the 2014 playoffs, because they'll be gone in the first round. They're a good team, but if one of the Clippers, Spurs, Thunder, Rockets and Grizzlies won't make it to the second round, how will the Warriors?

Buha: First-round exit. The acquisition of Iguodala was significant, but there are still at least five teams out West that look better on paper. Throw in the injury volatility of half the roster and a return to more conventional -- and less effective -- lineups, and it's difficult to see them replicating last season's magical playoff run.

Poulard: First round and out. The Warriors will face the Houston Rockets and lose in a fantastic seven-game series loaded with treys. The tandem of Iguodala and Bogut will give James Harden and Dwight Howard all they can handle, but the Rockets' superstars will end up carrying them to the second round.

Strauss: I'm leaning toward 51 wins and a second-round exit. The Warriors' biggest flaw on offense is that they can't draw fouls. I predict this flaw becomes (eventually) fatal, but not before an exciting, mostly successful season unfolds.

Winter: The Western Conference semifinals. Golden State is among that cluster of teams sitting just below San Antonio and Oklahoma City in the conference pecking order. The Warriors could win 55 games and even knock the Clippers from their Pacific Division throne, but it won't be enough for tangible playoff progress on last season. Maybe next season.

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