"We Believe" might have been the Golden State Warriors’ postseason slogan but the rest of the NBA and its viewers were treated to a style of basketball that was unreal. Al Harrington
, 6-8, at center? Tiny (comparatively) 6-5 forwards guarding the 7-foot MVP? Nellieball was in full effect and this style of play invigorated the league and prematurely ended the Dallas Mavericks 67 win season.
The Warriors might be have been last year's postseason darlings but they know that they won’t surprise many teams like they did last season. Going back to the drawing board, Chris Mullin made some interesting gambles that could adversely affect the Warriors upcoming season.
First, he traded away fan favorite and longtime franchise player Jason Richardson to the Bobcats for potentially intriguing North Carolina lottery draftee Brandan Wright. Believing that the team had enough offensive firepower, Mullin brought in Wright because of his length, pure athleticism and endless ceiling of potential. Mullin also brought in another superb first round player in Marco Belinelli, who can shoot from almost anywhere on the court.
Mullin also took the patient route in dealing with his own free agents whom many assumed would get lucrative deals. Because of his patience, he was able to retain the services of Matt Barnes whose lock down defense on Dirk Nowitzki was crucial to the Warriors’ first round upset of the Mavs. Mickael Pietrus signed the Monday before training camp.
The Warriors seem to want to remain in the niche of trying to figure exactly what they are capable of. Baron Davis played like an MVP during the playoffs and if he can stay healthy for the majority of the season, the Warriors should be good enough to be sixth or seventh in the Western conference -- at least. If he doesn’t or if Mullin’s gambles don’t bear rewards, expect a season where the team struggles to live up to its lofty expectations.
The beauty of Don Nelson
’s coaching is that, besides Davis as point guard, every player should be able to play multiple positions. Several players should be playing different roles this season and filling the role of shooting guard will be last season's Most Improved Player, Monta Ellis
Davis and Ellis provide an interesting duality in the Warriors backcourt. Both are point guards who can score and pass. So in Nelson’s system, both will take turns with those duties. While the size of the backcourt might create some defensive liabilities (both Davis and Ellis are listed at 6-3).
Troy Hudson, Belinelli and Kelenna Azubuike provide versatile options off the bench for the Warriors backcourt. Hudson is a veteran point guard out with something to prove after a subpar season in Minnesota and Azubuike provides bruising size similar to the Knicks’ Quentin Richardson.
The Warriors’ frontcourt is as much of a staple of Nellieball as one can expect. While the team will probably return to a more conventional lineup featuring Stephen Jackson
at the 3, Harrington at the 4, and Andris Biedrins
at the center spot, that doesn’t mean that teams should rest easy in their game planning. The team has actually added more firepower to allow Nelson to use several different looks throughout the seasons.
Jackson and Harrington will be expected to do more of the slashing and posting up that was successful for both last season. Biedrins might be the Warriors last (and some would say first) line of defense. Off the bench in addition to Wright, the team added shooter Austin Croshere to the mix. At 6-10 and 235 pounds, Croshere has more than enough size to play almost any frontcourt position in Nelson’s lineup. Rounding out the mix is the last years lottery pick, Patrick O’Bryant, who didn’t get to play much due to a serious injury suffered in the beginning of the season.
-- Alex Labidou
The 2007-08 season of the Golden State Warriors provides Bay Area basketball fans "A Great Time Out!"
While Ellis had a dynamic season, he seemed to be too tentative during the postseason. Ellis is too good of a player to be quieted again this season. He needs to improve on his breakout season and become a consistent option for his teammates. If he does, the team should have a nightmare backcourt for teams to guard against.
-- Alex Labidou
||The Warriors went 16-5 over the last 21 games of the 2006-07 regular season to clinch the No. 8 seed in the playoffs, setting up their historic upset of the No. 1 seeded Mavericks in the first round.
Twenty-Ninth Season, Ninth with Golden State
Eighteen times, 75-91 (.452)
At this point, what else is there to be said about Don Nelson? He’s an offensive genius who gets the respect of all of his players and opposing teams because of his vigorous game planning. Last year’s complete shut down of league MVP Dirk Nowitzki was astonishing and his ability to get the most out of any player was equally impressive.
This year, Nelson will have to prove to his naysayers that last season wasn’t a fluke and that making the playoffs is his book isn’t enough. He has to show that he can lead a championship contender.
-- Alex Labidou
KNOW YOUR WARRIORS
Al Harrington once sang a duet with Rosie O’Donnell on her talk show.
Anytime you lose a guy that scores 20 points per game, that’s going to hurt. I’m sure they can get the scoring from other places, but a guy that’s been a key cog in that engine, that’s a tough loss.
Belinelli is pretty talented offensively, but he doesn’t guard anybody. He’ll fit Nellie’s system, he’ll have some big games, but I don’t see him bringing any intangibles to the game which I think is what they need to get over the top.
Those last four spots in the West to me depend on injuries. If they can stay healthy, possibly they could fight up for higher than a No. 8 seed. Baron Davis hasn’t been healthy for a full season for quite a while, so if he misses 15 games again like he’s accustomed to, then they’ll be right back down there fighting for one those bottom spots.
It would help if their bigs developed, but Nellie doesn’t play that way. He doesn’t count on those guys. I thought Shawn Bradley could have ended up being a good player, but he played for Nellie and Nellie didn’t use him properly.
Brandan Wright will help them some. He’s athletic and can finish plays.
Biedrins is a perfect guy for Nellie’s system.
-- Western Conference Scout