As has been the case for decades, we have no idea what to expect from the Warriors this season. However, unlike in all of the other years, this time it's because a new ownership group and a new coach are taking control of the team and may actually bring some measure of sanity to one of the NBA's worst run franchises. So while there are questions aplenty about what the future looks like for the Warriors, for the first time in a long time that question is actually being asked with hopefulness in the fan's voices.
What we know for now is that this roster is still basically attuned to Don Nelson's offense-always, defense-never basketball philosophy, and that changes will be in store as this year (and subsequent years) roll on. For instance, there is no way that the club is looking at keeping Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis together in the backcourt as a long-term solution. Ellis was seen as the future of the team's guard rotation after Baron Davis ditched the team for the Clippers, but an ill-timed moped accident and the emergence of Curry last season have thrown that plan out the window. While Ellis has been saying and doing all of the right things this summer in an attempt to smooth things over with management and fans, there just isn't enough basketball for both he and Curry to coexist in the same backcourt – especially without Nelson around to let the team shoot the ball 86.5 times per-game. That means that, sooner or later, Ellis is going to be traded away because if there is one thing that IS certain about this club, it's that Curry has supplanted Ellis in the team's pecking order.
We also know that, for the worst rebounding club in the NBA last season (83.4 rpg, 44.4 rebound rate), David Lee is going to be a big help. He was top-20 in rebound rate last season, and his 11.7 rpg was third in the league. While some complained that his numbers were inflated by the fact that the Knicks had no other rebounders around him, the same could be said of the Warriors this year, so his numbers shouldn't take a meaningful hit. While he'll also be counted on as the team's primary big man as an offense option, the most superficial asset he brings to this club is his outstanding rebounding instincts and it will help the team tremendously both finish defensive possessions and corral second possessions for the team itself. It was an expensive acquisition (5-years, $50-million, in addition to sacrificing Anthony Randolph, Kelena Azubuike and Ronny Turiaf) and the overall cost may prove overly steep, but in terms of curing what ailed them, Lee does provide a useful addition.
Outside of those areas, though, no one can be quite sure what to expect of this team. New head coach Keith Smart is, expectedly, preaching an increased focus on defense this year. However, with the personnel at their disposal it's hard to see the club making huge strides in that area. It's also uncertain how this team uses the $14-million in expiring contracts they have on the books, if they opt to trade them for assets or if they opt to allow them to expire while reaping the savings. While new owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber had the cash to buy the team, you can't be certain how interested they are in being a free-spending tandem when it comes to the team's roster. Maybe they'll be generous, maybe they'll be thrifty. No one can say at this point exactly what their takeover means for the future of this club.
No matter how many games they win or lose this season, though, they've already come away a big winners this off-season by finally moving away from their embarrassing path and into a new (if uncertain) future.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUP
PG - STEPHEN CURRY
People were pretty divided with regards to Curry when the Knicks were so vocally chasing him in anticipation of the 2009 draft. While his ability to shoot was not in question, some were unsure of how well he'd handle the responsibilities of being a full-time point guard. Well, post-All-Star break (when he had his role with the team fully cemented), he went for 22.1 ppg and 7.7 apg – better numbers than Derrick Rose in his rookie year – and he shot a ridiculous 44% from three despite shooting from distance six times per-game. He was also third in the league in steals last year, averaging 1.9 per-game, and after being a key part of the Gold Medal winning Team USA squad this summer, his future looks as bright as any of the plethora of young guards currently populating the league.
SG - MONTA ELLIS
While Ellis was somewhat derided last year for his low-efficiency offense and selfish style of play, he still shot 45% from the floor and averaged a career-high 5.3 assists per-game last season, hardly numbers to be embarrassed about. He also played in a system that demanded a certain lack of restraint out on the court, and when you can score 25.5 ppg in the NBA it's hard to reign yourself in, especially when being coaching by Don Nelson. This year will be a test for Ellis, though, as he is now third in the pecking order of the club (behind Curry and Lee) and will have to endure a season's-worth of trade speculation regardless of the quality of his play. It may well turn out that we know very little about Ellis' game despite his having played five years in the league already (and he hasn't even turned 25 yet) because his more traditional basketball kills are going to be called on more than ever this season. Whether we learn about his game as a Warrior or as a member of another squad, however, may be the defining question regarding Ellis' future in the NBA.
SF - DORELL WRIGHT
Wright was a somewhat surprising expenditure for the Warriors this summer, especially considering his $11-million deal will never pay the dividends that his reserve, Reggie Williams, looked poised to offer despite making just $762, 195 this year. Wright averaged 7.1 ppg and 46% shooting in 71 games last year with the Heat, whereas Williams played 24 games with the Warriors as a D-League call-up last season and dropped 15.2 ppg on 50%, while throwing in 4.6 rpg for good measure. While Wright certainly has more years under his belt, Williams showed more in half of a season than Wright has in his whole career. While the transfer of ownership left some confusion over the direction of the team-building this summer, this move didn't make much sense for either the old regime or the new one and needs some serious justification out on the court . We'll see if Williams can continue his upward trajectory and unseat Wright in the starting five at some point this season.
PF - DAVID LEE
The one thing that Lee does not want to see happen this season is Anthony Randolph finally blowing up in his first season with the Knicks. There are a great number of people who feel the Warriors gave up too quickly on Randolph, and that Lee, while a recognizable name, is not worth the what it took to bring him to Golden State. To help his cause, he's going to have to play better defense than he's ever played in his career. He allowed a score on 64.3% of the pick-and-rolls he saw last season, and despite his notoriety as an All-Star he only offered 0.8 improvement in PER over his opposition at the power forward spot Per-48 minutes. The Warriors wanted him and they got him, now it's up to Lee to justify what it cost them to bring him into town.
C - ANDRIS BIEDRINS
In one season, Biedrins went from being a 12-and-11 big man to a 5-and-8 big man, and at $9-million per-year, that isn't going to cut it. Biedrins blames Nelson, the emotionally-crippling coach that he felt intentionally undermined his development as a professional. If he were talking about any other coach people would have laughed him off, but with Nelson most are willing to take what he says as pretty close to the truth. Regardless of what caused his epic downturn, the club is very eager to work with him to restore his game to it's former standard because for a team that is so bad in the areas he excels in (defense, rebounding, shot blocking), they need him to be at peak efficiency this season. We'll find out pretty quickly if Nelson was, in fact, the one to blame for his troubles or if Biedrins just isn't the player most thought he was when he signed his big extension.