Greetings, sports fans! The Assessing the Enemy series returns to 3 Shades of Blue this week focusing on the Pacific Division! In case you missed it, last week we took a look at the Northwest Division, and the Southwest a week prior. So without further ado…
Enemy: Golden State Warriors
Coach: Mark Jackson
Potential Starting 5: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee, Andrew Bogut
Other Key Players: Brandon Rush, Jarrett Jack, Draymond Green, Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson, Carl Landry
Threats: Outside shooting, Rebounding, Depth, Firepower
Grizzlies 2011-12 Record vs.: 4-0
If Warrior fans are going to be a happy bunch this year, there’s going to have to be a lot less of what we see in the picture above. Troubling health issues plagued the organization last season, as its star point guard, Stephen Curry was forced to have his 2011-12 campaign clouded with a mist of DNP’s. Even when he was playing, you could tell the ankle issues were hanging over his head. So midway through the year, longtime staple of the franchise, Monta Ellis, was shipped out to Milwaukee, for the return of talented, but also oft-injured Andrew Bogut. The Curry/Ellis backcourt was immensely talented, and fun to watch, but it left the team very uneven in terms of depth. “Fun to watch” is fun to watch, until the ‘L’ column begins to stack up. They brought in Mark Jackson last year to impose his strong defensive will on the team. It was a valiant effort, but he didn’t exactly have the right personnel for the job. When they traded for former number one overall pick, Bogut, Golden State finally brought a strong defensive anchor to its frontline. Another area of sore need was the small forward position. Dorell Wright can shoot the ball like no tomorrow, but isn’t quite the all around player that you want in your starting lineup. So the Warriors must have been ecstatic to have Harrison Barnes fall into their lap in the draft. In addition to Barnes, they drafted Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green, and acquired steady point-man, and Stephen-Curry-ankle-insurance, Jarrett Jack. Essentially what we are left with is a case of sacrificing a bit of talent for a lot more balance. After a few years of less-than-desirable results, fans (and 3 Shades of Blue reader, theGrizzFan) have high hopes heading into this season, and for good reason.
When you take the Warriors roster into account, it’s hard not to notice the sheer amount of firepower. The parade obviously starts with the ringleader, Stephen Curry. With Monta out of town, this is his team, and he’s going to have to show that he is healthy and ready to rise to the occasion. For most of Curry’s career, he’s always found a way to do so. At just about every level, he has found a way to stand out above the crowd. He surprised the college hoops world with the tear that he went on at Davidson, leading that team to a level that probably few outside of the locker room believed they were capable of reaching. Then, rumblings arose that he wouldn’t be able to translate that game to the NBA… so he became more of a point guard. What’s impressive is that many two guards lacking true size masquerade as a point, but Curry has honed his craft, and manages to actually look like a point guard in the process. But my point of this post is that the Warriors have added dimension to this roster, so enough about Curry. Behind him at the guard spot lies tough journeyman, Jarrett Jack, and the young, but competent Charles Jenkins. At the two guard, Klay Thompson blossomed a bit late in his rookie year, but when he did, he emerged as a real cornerstone for this team. His scoring ability is very impressive, and he should only benefit from the return of a healthy Curry. Behind him is Brandon Rush. When you have a tough-minded coach like Mark Jackson, that mentality always seems to rub off on a few players on the court, leaving the coach’s fingerprint on the team. On the Grizzlies, we’ve seen it with the evolution of Mike Conley. Well sportsfans, Brandon Rush seems to be that guy for Golden State. Rush has always been a pretty decent shooter, but last season he put on display some surprisingly good shot-blocking ability, which can really have an impact on games. Harrison Barnes should see some similar effects of being coached by Mark Jackson, and can really be something special in this league. Then we see the frontline of the Warriors that may end up being better than it has been in the past decade. David Lee is an incredibly efficient power forward, who possesses Kevin Love-like ability to put up a double-double on any given night, but will give up a ton of points on the other end. Enter Bogut. Andrew Bogut is a shot-eraser, who should provide loads of stability on both ends of the floor, at a position where his greatest predecessor of recent memory in Oracle Arena is Erick Dampier. Finally, I’m not going to go into any detail here, but keep an eye on Jeremy Tyler.
We swept the Warriors last season. Two one-point victories, one blowout, a new pair of shoes, and a four point win in April. Minus the pair of shoes, but it sounded like a shopping list. I digress. In dissecting the matchup, it’s notable that we’ve got two similar coaching mentalities driving the engines of their respective teams: two tough, former point guards, with decorated NBA resumes, and laudable leadership capabilities. As for the individual matchups, Marc and Bogut are a bit similar, Zach and David Lee are a bit similar, and Rudy and Barnes are a bit similar. Homerism aside, I still think we get the slight edge in all three of those. As for the backcourt, offensively they blow us out of the water, and defensively, the script is flipped. Thus with the backcourt somewhat of a wash, and the frontcourt in our favor, and taking into account our success last season against the team, I’m going to give the edge to the home team (of this blog, that is). The Warriors are not quite equipped with a group of proven NBA winners, but I seriously wouldn’t suggest sleeping on them.