The Journey To Opening Night
So here we are, one day away from the start of the 2012-13 campaign. It’s been a long, but not uneventful summer, in which the Warriors roster has undergone some major developments. As we sit here on the eve of the Warriors’ season opener, let’s take a moment to recap the offseason that was:
The Dubs were counting their blessings at the beginning of the summer, as a string of fortuitous events offered the opportunity to drastically improve the overall talent and depth of the roster. First, the Warriors were the beneficiaries of a crucial coin flip, in which they were awarded the seventh slot in the NBA Draft Lottery. Had the Warriors lost the coin flip, they would have been slotted eighth in the NBA Draft Lottery, and due to the stipulations of a trade made years ago, that pick would have been forfeited to the Utah Jazz in the 2012 NBA Draft, resulting in a situation in which the Warriors were without a lottery pick. Considering the way last year’s lockout-shortened season concluded, that could have been a critical blow to the hopes and aspirations of the team in the immediate future. But alas, the basketball gods appeared to be on the Warriors’ side…and this wasn’t the only time.
Certainly, the value of a lottery pick in the draft cannot be overstated. For a team devoid of large amounts of cap space, the draft is the smartest and most-fiscally responsible method of improving the product on the court. But draft picks themselves don’t score buckets or lock down opposing players – it’s what you do with the picks that determines their true value. So, on draft night, the basketball gods struck again…and again…and again. With the 7th, 30th and 35th picks, the Warriors stared at the draft board and saw a name available they didn’t expect to be there, and jumped at the opportunity to select them. Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green fit multiple needs in terms of talent, character and position, and just like that, they were donning the blue and gold. Already with a core of established talent in Stephen Curry (healthy), Klay Thompson (primed for a breakout season according to NBA GMs), David Lee (20.1 points, 9.6 boards last year) and Andrew Bogut (on the verge of making his Golden State debut), the Warriors were fortunate to add three more quality rookies on draft night, and they rode that momentum into free agency, where more crucial developments would soon ensue.
The Warriors didn’t have a ton of room under the cap, but that didn’t stop them from addressing multiple needs in rather efficient fashion. First, seeking to improve their backcourt depth behind Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the Warriors acquired guard Jarrett Jack from the Hornets in a three-team trade. A seven-year NBA veteran, Jack possesses the size to play both guard positions, as well as the skill and experience to lead the Dubs’ second unit when the starters need a breather. While Stephen Curry has recovered from his offseason ankle surgery, to get a backup the caliber of Jack was an absolute coup. After crossing that off their checklist, the Warriors then moved to addressing the remaining needs along their bench, specifically at the forward positions. Brandon Rush and Carl Landry were signed to identical deals, giving the Warriors arguably their most talented bench in recent memory. Landry, a five-year veteran who seemed to dominate the Warriors upon every encounter throughout his career, will now switch sides and man the low post for the Dubs, a delightful sight for Mark Jackson no doubt. Add in Rush, who looks to build upon last season’s breakout performance, and suddenly the Warriors have a roster that goes at least two deep at every position. And perhaps best of all, they didn’t have to break the bank in order to do so. Every addition the Warriors made this offseason has come at a reasonable price tag that simultaneously served to provide an influx of talent, while not hindering the future financial flexibility of the team. This is the type of forward thinking that can often make the difference between perennial success and failure.
However, as any decent cook knows, just because you use the tastiest ingredients, it’s no guarantee the end product is going to melt in your mouth. The Warriors management has put together the most well-rounded and talented roster the team has had in quite some time on paper, but until that product is put on the court, there’s no telling how it will all gel together. However, the early signs are certainly positive. The Warriors were the only team in the NBA Summer League to finish undefeated at 5-0, and while that league is largely comprised of rookies, non-starters and roster invitees, the team continued its winning trend in the recently completed NBA preseason, in which the Warriors tied for the most wins in the entire league.
Sure, it’s not the regular season and teams don’t necessarily feature the lineups they are likely to send out on the court starting tomorrow night, but it’s not like the Warriors were any different in that regard. Twelve Warriors averaged 10 or more minutes per game in the preseason, meaning that the distribution of minutes is actually much closer to reality than one might initially think. Regardless, a win at any time of year is a good thing, particularly for a team with a recent history of losing. If the Warriors hope to take the next leap into the upper echelon of the Western Conference, the first step towards that goal is to establish a culture of winning, where winning is the expectation, not the aspiration. The Warriors have taken advantage of the opportunities to establish that culture of winning thus far, and should be commended for it. Ultimately, however, the true merit of this roster will be judged by their ability to maintain that winning culture over the course of the arduous 82-game regular season, which begins in Phoenix tomorrow night. There will be ups and downs, highs and lows; that is an inevitability in today’s NBA game. But it will be the precision with which the team navigates that rollercoaster ride that will determine exactly how successful this 2012-13 version of the Warriors will be.
So, with that said, strap yourselves in Warriors fans…it should be a wild ride.