Power is shifting in the West as the Memphis Grizzlies, like the Oklahoma City Thunder, have built a young, deep, and talented roster and are in a good position to take the place of Denver or Utah for that seventh or eighth spot.
So far, this season has been an improvement from last year, the most injury stricken season I can remember witnessing in any sport. The addition of David Lee has given the Warriors some presence in the front court. There are many Lee critics that get down on him for his lack of rebounding so far in proportion to his $80 million contract and what he has been able to do in the past. Lee is not a disappointment at all and acquiring him was a step in the right direction. He's not dominant, but he's a really good complementary guy and much needed leader.
Dorell Wright has been the most pleasant surprise in the Bay Area and around the NBA and should get serious consideration for most improved player of the year. Warriors fans who watched most of the games this season can see how D-Wright grew just over the course of this year, from deadly catch-and-shoot three point shooter, to confident driver to the rim and pull up for mid range shooter. Also, he has learned to run the floor on transition offense and gave the Warriors solid defense. D-Wright has done a great job triggering the inbound plays and shown he can do the dirty work of rebounding. He still has a lot of areas to improve on, but the good news is he looks capable of meeting his potential. Winning teams, playoff teams all have a guy like D-Wright.
"The Warriors don't have enough depth," the critics have said. It's true, they don't. They need a solid back up point guard. Eric Maynor, who backs up Russell Westbrook on OKC, is a nice backup point guard. The W's need a player like that. Also, they need a back up small forward to give D-Wright some more rest. The Shane Battier prototype: defender and knock down shooter.
The biggest rumor talk for the first half of the Warriors season has been looming trade rumors: "The Warriors can't have Steph Curry and Monta Ellis play in the same back court, they must trade one of them." Why and for who? The Warriors are not going to win a championship this year and are likely to miss the playoffs. Warriors fans don't want to hear it, but they are still a year or two away from playoff caliber. And that's okay, just as long as they continue to add pieces and move in a positive direction. It takes time. Why not let this team build chemistry and see what you have with the players on the roster? Why not add talent through the draft and free agency, without splitting the nucleus in place?
Look at players like Manu Ginobilli and Jason Terry. Both play for championship contenders with deep rosters and both have sacrificed to come off the bench as the sixth man because it's best for the team. Maybe the Warriors can find an Aaron Afflalo type guy or Shane Battier to start the game and bring Monta Ellis off the bench as a sixth man? Or Steph, but Monta could be very successful if the Warriors had enough depth and utilized him like the Mavs do Terry. Still far off, I know.
I don't see Larry Riley giving the rest of the NBA the satisfaction of trading Ellis or Curry, at least not this season. Let the core players (Ellis, Curry, Lee, D-Wright) build chemistry and continue to add depth. It would be foolish to take a step backward. I know Warriors fans don't want to hear this after enduring 16 years years of darkness during the Cohan era, but be patient. The new owners sank $450 million into this team and they're going to do all they can to protect their investment.
Be patient Warriors fans, it's not going to happen overnight, but the ship is headed in the right direction and they just need a little luck in the draft and a few free agent pick-ups for depth, then this team will be in the playoffs. For now, take this team for what it is: fun, frustrating, young, and rebuilding. Let them finish out the year, see what we have, and then decide.