So what if no one actually wants to play with this team anymore? They are still going to be a "must-see" attraction for the better part of the season. After all, there is the enduring Stephen Jackson trade demand storyline to keep track of, the self-described Rookie of the Year campaign by Stephen Curry, the ascension of Anthony Randolph (if Don Nelson will gift him with consistent minutes) and the actual possibility of this crew making the post-season. As messed up as stuff is with Golden State - and it is really messed up - this club has the raw talent on the court and on the sidelines to make a push for that eighth seed in the West.
There are three primary reasons that this club looks to be in a better position than many of their more stable brethren: they play a consistent style, they have depth at every position, and the playoff spot is there for the taking.
The most important factor listed there is the consistent style. Gripe as many do about their pell-mell offensive "system", about how it doesn't yield meaningful wins, it nonetheless is incredibly difficult to design defences for. The goal here is create mismatches and fire away against helpless defences, attempting to bury unprepared teams with an offensive onslaught. The idea is that while some teams are simply too good to be beaten that way, most of the league's clubs are susceptible to falling victim to this style. They either don't have the defensive focus to stop it or they themselves get caught up in the tempo of Golden State's game and inadvertently give their opponents the advantage. Keep in mind the goal here isn't to win each and every game so much as it is to try and catch enough teams off-guard to amass enough wins to crack the West's top eight.
Most NBA teams, especially ones considered to be developing clubs, do not have an identifiable style, which can make it hard to keep everyone on the same page. Having one, though, gives everyone on the team a solid philosophical ideology to play towards. The Warriors have one of the simplest systems to master, at least superficially, and on some nights that simply gives them the edge against their opposition. Again, it only has to give them the edge enough times to be a top-eight west coast team.
The other reasons that this team may be in a position to reach the playoffs are only slightly less relevant, though. For a club that likes to run teams ragged, having a roster that runs 10-deep is invaluable. While the club may be weak on defensive stoppers, they are an offensive juggernaut – with five players who could easily drop 20 points on any given night and a cadre behind them capable of catching fire and giving you a miserable quarter or two. Also, the eighth seed in the playoffs is very much up for grabs at this point so any advantage a team has is crucial to exploit. It could be said that New Orleans, Phoenix, Houston, and the L.A. Clippers are all one break away from either taking the lead in that race or falling right out of it. Golden State, then, could easily be considered a part of that class; they aren't a lock, but if things go their way it isn't inconceivable to imagine them mounting an attack for the spot.
Of course, it's also not inconceivable to imagine that this team will be out of it before we hit December. Don Nelson has always been one who blazes his own trail - sometimes that trail leads to success and sometimes it doesn't. His schizophrenic rosters keep anyone on his team from getting into a groove, his perplexing starting lineups sometimes overcomplicate assigned roles and his disenchantment with his personnel always seems like it's right around the corner. He can be as merciless as any coach in the NBA with his players, and that instability has had had many begging for a trip out of town in recent years.
Still, this team is as entertaining to watch as any and the fact that they are a never-ending source of off-court news only sweetens the pot. This club may even wind up with Amaré Stoudemire on its roster if Nelson grows disenchanted with Curry early enough in the season, so keep your eyes peeled because this is one show this fall worth watching.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUP
PG – Stephen Curry
If there is one reason why New York Knicks fans will turn out in droves to boo this team at Madison Square Garden this year, it's because of Curry – or rather, because they don't have Curry. He was a player linked to the Knicks at the earliest points in the draft process and he was one spot away from landing with them before Golden State scooped him up. Now instead of running the show in New York he's the Warriors' volume shooting point guard who can't be called a point guard lest it irritate Monta Ellis and causes him to demand a trade. Curry's shot needs to demonstrate some consistency, though, lest Nelson indulge his traditional bias against NBA rookies.
SG – Monta Ellis
Ellis does not want to be here. He was fined and suspended (justifiably, it says here) for his off-season activities leading to injury which led to surgery last summer, and he felt over-punished for the transgression. Combine that with the club adding a player in the draft that plays a nearly identical role (offensive-minded shooting guard masquerading as a point guard) and he has to be feeling disillusioned with his lot in NBA life. Either way, if he wants out he's going to have to make himself a desirable enough commodity on the court to get teams to come calling. He averaged just 19 ppg and 3.7 apg last season in the 25 games he did play, and that just isn't going to get it done. He has to prove he can thrive out of Baron Davis' shadow and he has yet to do so - that means he's stuck in Golden State for the foreseeable future.
SF – Stephen Jackson
He was so close to actually rehabbing his career – at least image-wise – and then he goes and makes his trade demands public. This team has been vwary about putting themselves behind any player, but they did so with Jackson and he couldn't even put on a brave face in public while working behind-the-scenes to get himself shipped out to another town. His play on the court has been remarkable since arriving in the Bay Area, but his age (31) and putrid shooting percentage (41%) aren't going to convince any team to take on his onerous salary (roughly $9-million-per over the next four years). Like Ellis, he's going to have to give outside teams a reason to acquire him, and publicly demanding a trade after a career of poor public decisions isn't the right way to go about it.
PF – Anthony Randolph
At this point his star is rising so fast he might just be overrated by the time the season kicks off. He's a splendid talent that is still playing on a club where he's going to be the fourth option on offence each night by virtue of the fact that his guards aren't going to pass up their shots to get him involved. He may be the second coming of Chris Bosh or he may simply be a guy who knew how to rack up stats when it didn't matter (like last April or in Summer League). We'll only find out with prolonged stretches of play this season, but if it turns out that his surge last season wasn't a true representation of what he can do with consistent minutes, then the club may rue not shipping him off when his stock was still high. Of course, if he does turn out to be the team's next star, how long before he too demands a trade out of town?
C – Andris Biedrins
Funnily enough, it might be the team's least offensively gifted option that has the highest favour of the club's unpredictable head coach. Biedrins was never called out by Nellie, never arbitrarily kept out of games because of suspicious disciplinary measures and he himself never complains about the state of his career. He's a very well-compensated centre who gives this team a legitimate shot at competing for the playoffs because he's willing to play defence and rebound the post, cleaning up the messes of his trigger-happy teammates. In a way he makes this team go and if he can stay healthy this year he could be reason number four as to why they could have a shot at number eight.