Don’t look now Warriors fans, but the season opener is only 19 days away. After last night’s 108-100 win over Maccabi Haifa, the Warriors remained undefeated and are now 3-0 in the preseason. Whether it’s a 35-0 run or a staunch display of defense and rebounding, the Warriors have shown that they can play – and win – in a variety of ways. While the preseason record ultimately has no effect on the regular season standings, don’t discount the importance of preseason performances. Particularly for a team such as the Warriors, young and filled with several new parts, the preseason offers a glimpse into the strengths and weaknesses of the roster and an opportunity to see how all those individual parts work together. There have been many bright spots and even a few surprises for the Warriors this preseason, but to recap, here are a few that have stood out:
G1: 19 pts, 7 reb, +15, 26 min
G2: 19 pts, 4 stl, 5 ast, 14 reb, +12, 36 min
The statistics really say it all – David Lee already looks to be in midseason form. While his double-double against the Jazz was just business as usual, Lee’s energy and defensive effort have to be a good sign for a Warriors team in need of some consistent veteran leadership on the court. More importantly, he’s led the team in +/- with a +27 (in the two games he’s played), showing that when your best players are leading the way, you have a great chance to win games. However, what’s really encouraging is that he’s producing those numbers without the aid of Andrew Bogut. Lee has never played with a legitimate star-power NBA center before, and surely he would be at or near the top of the list of Warriors who will benefit most by playing with the Aussie. An NBA veteran, Lee doesn’t have much left to prove in the preseason. You may see Coach Jackson limiting Lee’s minutes as the Warriors strive to keep him fresh and healthy for the regular season.
G1: 9 pts, 1 blk, 0 ast, +4, 17 min
G2: 14 pts, 2 blk, 1 ast, +12, 28 min
G3: 12 pts, 1 blk, 1 ast, 3 reb, -6, 31 min
Rush has picked up right where he left off last season, providing timely offense and tough defense as he pushes to claim the starting job at small forward. With the other four starters solidified, his competition with rookie Harrison Barnes has been one of the ongoing highlights of the preseason thus far. His ability to contribute when called upon, without demanding too many touches of the ball, is a key attribute that will be asked of whoever claims the starting job. Rush’s well-rounded performance last season combined with his veteran experience could perhaps give him a leg up on the competition. However, someone else might have something to say about that…
G1:13 pts, 1 blk, 1 ast, 2 reb, +22, 24 min
G2: 9 pts, 1 stl, 1 reb, -17, 20 min
G3: 20 pts, 1 stl, 4 reb, +19, 36 min
The Warriors’ top draft pick this season has shown glimpses of the talent that had him rated so high on the team’s draft board this summer. Within minutes of stepping on the floor in his first home game at Oracle Arena on Monday, Barnes drove to the hoop and dunked in between two Jazz defenders, displaying the athleticism that he showed off at the NBA Draft Combine. His size and ability to get to the rim are sure to be valuable traits throughout the season – the only question is, will he show them off in starter’s minutes, or will it be in a reserve role? As is natural with rookies, inconsistency is to be expected, and Barnes has shown both sides of that coin. His +22 against the Lakers was the second best +/- of any Warriors player in any game of the preseason thus far (Carl Landry was a +23 against Maccabi Haifa), while his -17 against the Jazz was (you guessed it), the worst. Eliminating those inconsistencies will be a key development if Barnes does end up claiming the starting small forward position. He’s still got plenty of room for improvement, but there’s certainly no denying the talent.
G1: 6 pts, 1 blk, 0 ast, 4 reb, +20, 22 min
G2: 6 pts, 4 blks, 1 ast, 7 reb, +1, 24 min
G3: 15 pts, 2 blk, 2 ast, 8 reb, +21, 33 min
When the Warriors drafted Ezeli with the 30th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, it’s hard to imagine they envisioned him making such an immediate impact. But with Andrew Bogut still out while rehabbing from ankle surgery, Ezeli has started every game and played significant minutes, both in number and quality. His four blocks against the Jazz set the tone for the entire Warriors defense, and his ability to use his legitimate NBA center size to block out down low has helped the Warriors remain competitive in the rebounding department. When you realize that he’s only been playing organized basketball for five years, it begins to look more and more like the Warriors may have gotten one of the steals of the draft. Surely we’ll have to wait and see how he produces when the games truly count, but the early signs are very encouraging.
Ultimately, you have to take preseason performances with a grain of salt, as the competition level isn’t always equal to what you’ll see in the regular season. Nonetheless, it’s an important time for teams to gel, and for players to prove their worth. As we creep closer to opening night, the Warriors have shown that there are many things to be excited about this season – and that’s before you even consider the potential impact of a fully healthy Bogut and Stephen Curry.
Want a closer look at how the Warriors prepare for games? Well, you’re in luck. The Warriors are holding an open practice at Oracle Arena tomorrow, October 13th from 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Head Coach Mark Jackson will be mic’d up while he leads his team through a typical practice, and fans will have the opportunity to see the Warriors work on plays and skills that will be utilized throughout the regular season. And the best part of it all? It’s absolutely FREE for fans. For more information, click here. Come on out and check out the Warriors as they prepare to embark on what should be a very exciting 2012-13 season.