2008-09 Season In Review
Golden State Warriors
2008-09 Season In Review
On the surface, it’s easy to dismiss the 2008-09 Warriors as having had a disappointing season. It’s easy to be upset that the Warriors went 29-53 and missed out on the NBA Playoffs. But go a little deeper and it becomes quite clear that the Warriors, the youngest team in the NBA when the 2008-09 season tipped off, showed tremendous growth throughout the year under far less than ideal circumstances.
“I’m not disappointed at all. I anticipated a hard year, and it was a hard year,” Head Coach Don Nelson said prior to the Warriors’ home finale on April 13. “I’m very pleased with how the young guys have been productive and have grown with the minutes they have received.”
As has been the case for the last few years, the Warriors’ were one of the most exciting teams in basketball to watch this season. Golden State ranked second in the league in scoring with 108.6 points per game, and seven different players had at least one game with 30-plus points. Opposing defenses couldn’t focus on just one player, as Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis, Jamal Crawford and Corey Maggette each carried the reputation of being established scorers in this league. In addition, Andris Biedrins, Kelenna Azubuike and Anthony Morrow were capable of lighting up the scoreboard on any given night.
At full strength, the Warriors would have featured the most scoring depth in the league. Unfortunately, injuries were all too common during the season and the team was rarely at full strength. Five of the team’s expected top eight rotation players missed at least 20 games due to injury and/or illness, and as a result, the Warriors never played a game with a fully healthy lineup. In fact, the team had at least three players out in half of their games this year, and six players out in 10 games.
With Ellis (out 57 games this season), Brandan Wright (41), Maggette (31), Marco Belinelli (27), Biedrins (22) and Jackson (21) out for so much of the season, Coach Nelson was often left with few options when determining a starting lineup . But with so many players missing so many games, opportunities began to emerge for many of the team’s younger players.
And perhaps no player took more advantage of this opportunity than Anthony Randolph. Selected with the 14th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft out of LSU, the 6-foot-10 forward seemed to make at least two or three are-you-kidding-me plays a game. Learning from veterans Stephen Jackson and Ronny Turiaf among others, Randolph, the youngest player in the NBA at 19 years old, matured on the court throughout the year and finished out the season as one of the most consistent players on the team. Taking on an increased role over the last 12 games of the season, Randolph responded on both ends of the floor by averaging 13.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.4 steals in those contests.
“We’re very comfortable with his development this year,” Nelson said. “I’m positive about that, I wasn’t positive early, so there’s a change. I think he’s made a nice step and I feel good about the direction he’s going.”
Lakers forward Lamar Odom was also complimentary of Randolph following the Warriors-Lakers game on February 18.
"He's two times as athletic as I was at that age … He should set his goals high. He has All-Star potential, Hall of Fame potential, with that size, his ability to put the ball on the floor, he can shoot the three, he can pass. If he stays focused, the sky is the limit for him."
Randolph, however, wasn’t the only rookie to make a splash with the Warriors, as Anthony Morrow also had a season worth boasting about. Morrow, an undrafted rookie out of Georgia Tech, first earned a trip to Warriors Training Camp by shooting an unbelievable 73.9 percent from three-point range on Golden State’s Summer League entry. Morrow didn’t cool down much once he made the Warriors’ 15-man roster, as he proceeded to lead the NBA with a 46.7 three-point percentage. Morrow, who two weeks into his NBA career dropped 37 points in a win over the Clippers on November 15, became the first player in franchise history and the first rookie in NBA history to lead the league in three-point shooting.
The future of the Warriors certainly looks bright with Randolph and Morrow earning more responsibility in the years to come, but whether or not the Warriors make the playoffs in the near future will heavily depend on veterans like Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson. Once he recovered from off-season ankle surgery, Ellis showed that he is capable of taking his team to the next level. After playing off the rust of missing the first 43 games of the season, Monta finished off his season strong by averaging 25.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists over his last 11 games. In his final and best game of the season, Ellis took part in a memorable shootout with Sacramento’s Kevin Martin and finished with a career-high 42 points in a 143-141 overtime win over the Kings on April 1. Ellis, however, suffered a non-related and less-serious ankle injury in that contest and sat out the final two weeks of the season.
“I feel comfortable that Monta is back where he was at one time,” Nelson said.
Jackson, meanwhile, was also having another productive season before a toe injury shut him down for the last 10 games of the season. The 9-year veteran paced the Warriors with 20.7 points and 6.5 assists per game, and he really turned it on in February when he averaged 27.3 points, 8.1 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game. Jackson became the first Warrior to average 25 points, eight assists and five rebounds for an entire month since Guy Rodgers did it in November of 1965. During that span, Jackson logged his first career triple-double (2/4 vs. Phoenix) and had back-to-back games with 30 points and 10 assists.
Jackson’s fellow captains Andris Biedrins and Ronny Turiaf will form a powerful duo in the middle for years to come. Biedrins, the longest tenured Warrior, has improved in each of his five seasons and he opened the 2008-09 campaign with 10-straight double-doubles. Ankle injuries temporarily interrupted his season, but the 23-year-old still managed to average career-highs of 11.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. Backing up Biedrins for much of the season, Turiaf’s contributions and influence stretched far beyond the numbers. In addition to his ever-present energy and charisma, Turiaf provided a defensive presence in the paint and he was among the league leaders in blocked shots.
Despite the team’s losing record, the Warriors had many memorable moments during the 2008-09 campaign. But with proven veterans leading the ship, along with the continued improvement of the team’s young talent, the greatest memory of all might be where the 2008-09 season leads to next.