A top-5 team overall and an absolute buzzsaw of a squad when healthy, the Golden State Warriors played some gorgeous defense in 2013-14. When Bogut and Iguodala were on the court, even at sub-optimal strength, the Warriors were simply superb. Iguodala choking out opposing perimeter stars allowed Thompson to blanket point guards, shutting off the foundation of most offenses while an extremely smart Bogut lurked in the shadows. Throw in Thompson and Green's ability to suffocate perimeter players and one could start to reason that Mark Jackson's firing was less than deserved. The fact that they dragged a Curry/Lee tandem, one that played huge minutes, to a top-shelf defense was a testament to how great All-NBA First Team Iguodala played and the potential this season's core presents.
2013-14 IN REVIEW
2nd in Pacific Division - 6th in Western Conference
Lost to LAC (4-3) in the Western Conference Quarterfinals
Last year's Golden State Warriors entered the season with as much hope as they've had in a long time.
With the addition of Andre Iguodala, the Warriors were as promising as nearly every team on paper and held a team goal of advancing in the playoffs for the first time since they upset the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the 2007 Western Conference Quarterfinals. The trio of Iguodala alongside the "Splash Brothers," Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, would be arguably the most dynamic perimeter rotation in the NBA.
After getting viciously snubbed from the 2013 Western Conference All-Star squad, Steph Curry came back with a vengeance and established himself as not only one of the best guards, but one of the best players in the NBA. Curry posted career highs in scoring (24 PPG), assists (8.5 APG - 3rd in NBA) and rebounding (4.3 RPG) while leading the league in three-point field goals (261). Needless to say, he wasn't left off the 2014 All-Star roster.
Third-year sharpshooter Klay Thompson had his best season to date, as well, putting up a career high 18.4 points per game while finishing just behind his teammate with the second-most three-point field goals of the season (223). Despite the young ages of the "Splash Brothers," this is one of the best tandems we have ever seen in terms of shooting the basketball.
Unfortunately, second-year forward Harrison Barnes took somwhat of a step back in 2013-14 campaign that could be summed up as a "sophomore slump." Barnes put up over 16 points and six rebounds per game in the playoffs of his rookie season, but the addition of Andre Iguodala hindered his usage and development as he had a difficult time establishing a rhythm off the bench last year. He matched his rookie production of nine points and four rebounds per game, but was less efficient and far more inconsistent than he was in the second half of 2012-13.
David Lee didn't make the All-Star team like he did in 2012-13, but he was still easily one of the most productive bigs in the league with over 18 points and nine rebounds per game. His interior sidekick Andrew Bogut played more than double the amount of games he did in his first year in Golden State the previous season, appearing in 67 games and averaging 7.3 points and 10 rebounds per game.
However, Bogut's injury history would come back to haunt him yet again as the ninth-year vet fractured his ribs in April, forcing him to miss the remainder of the season. Over the last three seasons, Bogut has missed 135 games and has been unable to live up to what he is physically capable of at full strength.
As big a blow as Bogut's injury was for Golden State, after what seemed to finally be a healthy season for the seven-footer for over five months, the Warriors reached the 50-win plateau for the first time since 1993-94.
Golden State earned the sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs for the second consecutive year and went up against the hungry Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the postseason. Despite big time performances from Steph Curry and Draymond Green, who played an extended role in Bogut's absence, the Warriors fell in a dramatic high-scoring Game 7 affair, where the Clippers dropped 70 points in the second half of the ballgame.
The Warriors did not advance in the playoffs, but it is difficult to say that it was a disappointing postseason display without their defensive anchor in Andrew Bogut. Overall, it was an extremely exciting season for Warriors fans for a team that was certainly one of the most enjoyable teams to watch in 2013-14. Sure, you would have liked to see them at least make it to the second round, but this was one of the best years the franchise has ever seen.
SUMMER OF 2014
Key Additions - Steve Kerr, Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa
Key Losses - Mark Jackson, Steve Blake, Jordan Crawford, Jermaine O'Neal
The Warriors are one of the most talented teams in the NBA and are coming off a 51-win season, but for whatever reason, they felt that it was necessary to shake up the coaching staff this summer. Golden State fired Mark Jackson as the team's head coach after three years in which he went a combined 121-109 (.526), replacing him with first-year head coach Steve Kerr. The NBA is a "what have you done for me lately" kind of league and Kerr will have to earn his keep in a brand new job description, but by all accounts, the former player and general manager has seen it all and has a lot of potential as a coach.
Kerr is experienced and intelligent with a personality that his players should gravitate towards, and he's stepping into an attractive situation with one of the best rosters in the NBA.
Golden State's rotation won't look a heck of a lot different than it was a year ago, but they've added some new faces coming off the bench. As Steve Blake returned to Portland this summer while our old friend Jordan Crawford has had trouble landing a new NBA contract, the Warriors had some spots to fill in the backcourt.
Shaun Livingston will be the first guard off of Steve Kerr's bench this season, as the Warriors signed the resilient 28-year-old veteran to a three-year deal worth over $16 million, with the final year as a team option. Livingston won't live up to the hype he had coming out of high school in 2004, thanks to that gruesome leg injury I will not link you to, but he has rebounded from the devastating accident and it is awesome to see him get this kind of contract later in his career. Last season for Brooklyn, Livingston played perhaps his best all-around basketball since leaving the Clippers in 2007, and as a starter in 54 games, he put up over nine points, three boards and three assists per game.
Livingston fits beautifully in Golden State's backcourt and will see time alongside both Curry and Thompson, providing a spark on both ends of the floor.
To fill out the perimeter rotation with different looks, the Warriors signed Brandon Rush and Jason Kapono. Kerr even talked the organization into bringing in Leandro Barbosa, as he continues to work himself back into a regular role after unfortunately blowing out his knee with the Celtics in 2013.
Rush's deal runs for two years with the second year as a player option, and he is also looking to resurrect his career after experiencing knee issues himself. Kapono hasn't played in the NBA since 2012 but at 33 years old, he may still have the touch on that beautiful spot-up J.
The Warriors also pried assistant coach Ron Adams away from our beloved Celtics, as the defensive guru will be counted on to help improve Golden State's two-way attack.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
C - Andrew Bogut / Festus Ezeli / Ognjen Kuzmic
PF - David Lee / Draymond Green / Marreese Speights
SF - Andre Iguodala / Harrison Barnes / Jason Kapono
SG - Klay Thompson / Brandon Rush / Leandro Barbosa
PG - Stephen Curry / Shaun Livingston / Nemanja Nedovic
X-FACTOR - Andrew Bogut
The Warriors are one of the most talented teams in the NBA, but they aren't going to get where they want to be without a healthy Andrew Bogut. Golden State looked like they had a chance to make some serious noise in last year's playoffs, but Bogut suffered a rib injury late in the season and was unable to suit up at all in postseason play.
Andre Iguodala is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league and Klay Thompson is steadily improving on that side of the floor, but Bogut is the absolute number one key to Golden State's defense. Festus Ezeli may be able to stay healthy and provide a lift, but without Bogut, the team's paint protection plummets in ways that cannot be internally replaced.
Bogut's history suggests that he'll miss some time at some point this season. Let's hope he can get to the playoffs in one piece.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2014-15
Steve Kerr is going to put his own stamp on this team and certain players are going to perform at different levels than a year ago, but overall, you can expect a similar regular season from the Warriors in 2014-15.
Barring a barrage of catastrophic injuries, the Warriors should win above 50 games for the second consecutive season and will have a chance to make a deep run in the Western Conference playoffs. Outlasting San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Portland and the Los Angeles Clippers won't be an easy task, but Golden State will be in the mix of teams with a shot at a conference finals appearance.
2nd - Pacific Division
4th - Western Conference
Keep your eyes peeled for the Brooklyn Nets preview, coming tomorrow morning.