Playoff Contention: Golden State Warriors
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The story of the Warriors' year is really a tale of three seasons (two good, one bad).
There was Act 1, where Golden State got off to a golden start both offensively and defensively, thanks to the stellar play of Stephen Curry, along with undersized big men All-Star David Lee and Carl Landry playing bigger than expected to fill in for the first-half loss of center Andrew Bogut. The Warriors could not have asked for anything more than this 22-10 start, with two rookies (Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli) playing key minutes as starters.
Act 2 was not as kind, as things fell apart defensively (107.3 defensive rating, fifth worst in the NBA), and Golden State went through a middling 11-17 record during the middle part of their schedule, from January 5 to March 2.
Then Act 3 gave Golden State hope again, as Bogut finally returned to the lineup, giving valuable defensive support to the team (98.4 defensive rating, third best in the NBA) and assisting the offensive games showcased by Curry, Lee, Landry, Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack. The Warriors are 12-6 in their last 18 games, playing a favorable schedule where 14 of those games were at home.
It is this healthy squad that is most dangerous now, with five proven scorers anchored by an established veteran defender.
Can they pull off an upset in the franchise's first playoff appearance since their last memorable upset of No. 1 seed Dallas in the 2007 NBA Playoffs?
But this up-and-coming group of young players led by a preacher of a coach in Mark Jackson definitely believes they can.
Let's look at this team since March 4 when Bogut returned to the lineup, healthy for the first time all season. The starting unit with Curry, Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Lee and Bogut has a +6.5 net rating per 100 possessions in 240 minutes together since the center's return March 4. The better lineup is Coach Jackson's closer unit where he subs out Barnes for Jack and a three-guard look with the two big men, averaging a +15.7 net rating in 158 minutes together since March 4. These numbers dwarf the team's most-popular lineup used during the 2012-13 season--Curry, Thompson, Barnes, Lee and Festus Ezeli--where that quintet had a +0.9 net rating in 488 minutes together. That's right, if you are a first-round opponent of the Warriors, you are catching them at the wrong time of the season. Golden State's best bench lineups seem to involve keeping Lee in the game to play with sixth and seventh men Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry. As a unit, that trio has a +6.9 net rating in 774 minutes together.
THE 5,000 MINUTE RULE
The 5,000 Minute Rule says most championship teams have five-plus players together for at least 5,000 minutes before they win a championship, and the Warriors have three players in The 5G Club: Andris Biedrins (11,352 minutes with the Warriors), Curry (8952) and Lee (7519).
LORD OF THE RINGS
Richard Jefferson is the only Warrior who has played in a championship series, starting for the New Jersey Nets in both the 2002 and 2003 NBA Finals, when the Nets finished second to the L.A. Lakers and San Antonio Spurs, respectively.
Hollinger Playoff Odds say Golden State has a 1 percent chance to reach the 2013 NBA Finals and 0.3 percent shot to win the NBA championship; Basketball-Reference says the Warriors have a 0.4 percent shot to reach the 2013 NBA Finals and 0.0 percent chance to win the title.
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C ANDREW BOGUT: 30 games, 25.3 mpg, 6.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 14.3 PER, +2.8 Net, +1.3 On/Off
C Festus Ezeli: 74 games, 14.0 mpg, 2.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 8.9 PER, -1.5 Net, -4.5 On/Off
C Andris Biedrins: 51 games, 9.4 mpg, 0.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 7.9 PER, -5.9 Net, -8.8 On/Off
PF DAVID LEE: 75 games, 36.9 mpg, 18.6 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 19.3 PER, +3.2 Net, +5.4 On/Off
PF Carl Landry: 77 games, 23.0 mpg, 10.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 17.8 PER, -0.4 Net, -4.1 On/Off
SF HARRISON BARNES: 77 games, 25.3 mpg, 9.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 11.4 PER, +2.2 Net, +0.9 On/Off
SF Draymond Green: 78 games, 13.4 mpg, 2.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 7.3 PER, +0.4 Net, -1.9 On/Off
SF Richard Jefferson: 53 games, 10.3 mpg, 3.1 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 10.0 PER, +3.3 Net, +1.8 On/Off
SG KLAY THOMPSON: 78 games, 35.8 mpg, 16.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 12.7 PER, +1.7 Net, -1.7 On/Off
SG Kent Bazemore: 58 games, 4.3 mpg, 2.0 ppg, 0.3 apg, 12.2 PER, +4.0 Net, +2.4 On/Off
SG Brandon Rush (injured): 2 games, 12.5 mpg, 7.0 ppg, 1.0 apg, 12.0 PER, +12.7 & +7.4
PG STEPHEN CURRY: 74 games, 38.3 mpg, 22.5 ppg, 6.9 apg, 20.8 PER, +2.3 Net, +2.2 On/Off
PG Jarrett Jack: 75 games, 29.7 mpg, 13.0 ppg, 5.5 apg, 15.9 PER, +2.3 Net, +1.3 On/Off
PG Scott Machado: 6 games, 3.5 mpg, 1.3 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 6.0 PER
2011-12 GONE WARRIORS (.348)
SF Dorell Wright: 61 games, 27.0 mpg, 10.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 15.0 PER, -4.9 Net, -3.5 On/Off
PG Nate Robinson: 51 games, 23.4 mpg, 11.2 ppg, 4.5 apg, 18.0 PER, +1.4 Net, +3.7 On/Off
SF Dominic McGuire: 64 games, 17.6 mpg, 3.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 11.8 PER, -4.0 Net, +1.2 On/Off
PG Charles Jenkins: 51 games, 17.5 mpg, 5.8 ppg, 3.3 apg, 12.4 PER, -11.6 Net, -4.4 On/Off
C Mikki Moore: 7 games, 16.9 mpg, 3.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 6.3 PER, -7.8 Net, -7.3 On/Off
C Jeremy Tyler: 42 games, 13.5 mpg, 4.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 10.4 PER, -9.9 Net, -5.5 On/Off
PF Mickell Gladness: 18 games, 12.4 mpg, 3.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 10.5 PER, -11.0 Net, -6.8 On/Off
SF Chris Wright: 24 games, 7.8 mpg, 2.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 18.6 PER, -4.4 Net, -2.5 On/Off
* Warriors that did not play in 2012 NBA Playoffs; returning players in boldface