One of the three questions we were asked was a two-parter. The first part asked us to detail the Warriors’ greatest strength. I won’t divulge how I answered that question here, but I’ll provide a spoiler for Part B of the question.
What’s the Warriors’ greatest weakness?
After thinking long and hard, I went with the Warriors’ undersized backcourt. I’m not sure if Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry can succeed together, guys. It’s a fun idea, but what about when they face guys like Kobe Bryant or Dwyane Wade, two-guards in their prime who can overpower either Warriors guard …
Sorry, old habits die slowly.
I went with Golden State’s interior defense. The Warriors were tied with the Kings (who we’ll mention in a little bit for another reason) for 27th in the league in blocks with 4.2 per game last season. Andrew Bogut was probably the most intimidating presence in the paint we saw in both playoff series for any of the three teams involved, and he missed 50 regular season games in 2012/13. If Bogut is healthy for the entirety of the 2013/14 campaign, the blocks go up. More to the point, opposing teams won’t feel at ease close to the basket.
But “if healthy” is a huge leap of faith for a guy who has missed 104 regular season games over the last two seasons and an average of 36 games per season over the last five. The only other interior defender of note is Jermaine O’Neal, who isn’t exactly durable either. O’Neal has an excuse. He has played 1,057 games including the playoffs. Festus Ezeli (whose first name gets autocorrected to “Fetus” by most smartphones, so be forewarned) won’t be back until December at the earliest.
That’s why Dewayne Dedmon may make this team over Seth Curry and Joe Alexander. The Warriors have plenty of guys who can shoot. They have plenty of guys who can defend the perimeter. Rebounding isn’t an issue, because despite the defensive shortcomings of David Lee and Marreese Speights, both guys can board.
IF INJURIES HAPPEN, TEH WARRIORS WILL BE HAVING TEH PROBLEMS.
Yeah, I’m falling back into old habits again. Let’s move on to another reason to worry, one I didn’t mention in the previously mentioned roundtable.
Figuring out how to close games may be an issue.
That they lost a double-digit lead on Wednesday night in Sacramento thanks in part to a 9-point fourth quarter (in a game played on the dirtiest court I’ve ever seen, by the way) doesn’t matter much, because it’s preseason. But Adam Lauridsen has a point: “the Warriors closed the game with their best players on the court, and those players weren’t able to save the win.”
The Warriors let an 18-point lead with eight minutes remaining dwindle to two points before closing out the Nuggets in Game 6. In their next game, the Warriors squandered a 16-point lead with eight minutes remaining in San Antonio, eventually losing in double-overtime.
Just two games? Sure, and the Warriors’ fourth quarter point differential (+0.5) was 11th in the league last year while their total point differential (+0.9 per game) was 12th. The Warriors weren’t an awful fourth quarter team; they even went 14-7 in games decided by four points or less last year.
But Jarrett Jack is gone now, and despite his questionable defense and tendency to overdribble, his fearlessness and ability to get his shot off when the game bogs down will be missed.
When the Warriors are moving the ball, jumping passing lanes and hitting their shots, they can really get cooking. But at the ends of games there’s no offensive hierarchy that provides a clear plan of attack. That’s up to Mark Jackson to create, a sense that the team isn’t searching for the way to utilize their offensive skills as games draw to a close. Jack isn’t coming back, and Jackson and his staff need to figure out a way to get Curry open shots late in games.
The hype surrounding this team is getting a little nuts right now. On Wednesday afternoon there was an issue of Sports Illustrated in my mailbox that said, “The New Showtime … Steph Curry and Golden State Are More Than Entertainers–They’re True Contenders.”
The pressure of expectations is mounting, and that pressure isn’t felt before games or during the first, second or third quarters. It shows up when games are in the balance. Part of the challenge they’ll face this season is figuring out how to close out games against teams that see the NBA Previews and the magazine covers and, as a result, won’t let the Warriors sneak up on them.