Saturday, December 29, 2012

'Dubs Being Carried by Their 'Big Three'

We're a little over a third through the 2012-13 NBA season, and with the book closing on 2012, the Warriors will look to bring their success into the new year and continue to be the biggest surprise in the NBA.

It's not that the Warriors didn't have expectations coming into this season, but a huge part of those expectations were based on the premise of Andrew Bogut being healthy. The fact that they've gotten nothing out of their big man, and have stayed strong through a 20-10 start is what's caught every body's attention and will have Mark Jackson looking at a coach of the year award should it continue. It's been a team effort on the Warriors part to say the least, but they wouldn't be were they are right now if it weren't for the play of three particular players. Those guys are Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and David Lee, who are all playing extensively for the first time together and have shown to have excellent chemistry. Although his shooting percentage could use a bump, Curry has been putting up career numbers otherwise, averaging 20 points, 4.5 boards and 6.5 assists in 38 minutes per night. The key number here is the minutes played, as Curry was coming off a brutal year in which his ankles would not hold up. David Lee is also putting up career numbers with 20/11 per night to go with over 3.5 assists. He's been especially key rebounding the ball, which has helped soften the blow without Bogut.

Then there's been Klay Thompson, who's averaging 16 points and 4 boards per night. His numbers don't necessarily jump out at you, but the 2nd year guard has seen a lot of minutes against bigger, better defenders while seeing plenty of minutes at small forward, and he's not missing a beat. Like with Curry, Thompson's shot selection could use some improvement, which would lead to a higher field goal percentage, but he's only going to get better with the more time he sees.

As for their other two starting players, the Warriors haven't been getting much, so it's a good thing they've been getting that consistent play out of the aforementioned three, and also getting huge boosts from the bench out of Draymond Green, Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack. Rookie Harrison Barnes has appeared to have taken a step back after really coming on strong to start the year. His minutes and production have taken a major hit with the emergence of Green coupled with the fact Jackson likes to run that 3-guard look a lot with Curry, Thompson and Jack. Fellow rookie Festus Ezeli is also going through a bit of a slump. He's still playing pretty well defensively, but really is obsolete offensively, gotten in early foul trouble frequently and has shown a propensity to turn the ball over in droves. He's still done better than expected after being pressed into duty in absence of Bogut, and was showing the ability to rebound, play exceptional defense while doing a great job on offensive glass in November. He's just got to start doing it with more consistency.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Warriors Proving They're Legit

If anyone had doubts about the Warriors 14-7 start to the 2012-13 season and thought this team would come crashing back to earth on this lengthy road trip, think again.

The Warriors came up with perhaps their most impressive victory of the young season Wednesday night, rolling into South Beach and beating the reigning Champion Miami Heat on an impressive last second layup by the rookie Draymond Green. The Dubs were hanging with Miami all night long, even holding the lead throughout most of the contest, but what really impressed me was the way they closed the game out down the stretch. As he's been doing a lot recently, Mark Jackson stuck with the small lineup of Jarrett Jack, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee, Carl Landry and a lot of Draymond Green down the stretch, and for the fifth straight time on this 7-game roadie, that group closed out a Warriors win. Klay Thompson led the Warriors charge with 27 points, 7 boards and 4 assists as he thoroughly outplayed Dwayne Wade and did a tremendous job in containing the dangerous off-guard. David Lee also chipped in another 22-13 night to help overcome a bit of an off night out of Steph Curry, and that's another sign that this team is for real. When your top scorer gets shut down, and you still find a way to defeat the consensus best team in the NBA, you know you've got something special going on.

Things have been going so well for Golden State lately, that talk of Andrew Bogut and whether he'll be able to return to get back and contribute to the team this season has shifted to the back-burner. The Warriors have been using a combo of Fesus Ezeli (the defense/rebounding specialist) and Carl Landry (the offensive weapon) to help fill the void left in the middle by Bogut, and although they don't posses the size of the 7-foot Aussie, you can't complain about the results they've been providing. Stephen Curry, who's having an all-star type season, is also helping overcome the loss of Bogut. Heading into this season, Curry was coming off ankle surgery and I don't think anyone knew how he was going to hold up and respond as the season went on. But we're know 6 weeks in, and Curry looks as good as I've ever seen him. He's always been a top-notch shooter with the ability to go to the hole, but his vision, handling and passing skills have come such a long way from when he was sharing the rock with Monta Ellis. He made a behind the back pass off a drive to an open Harrison Barnes the other day that reminded me of a Steve Nash dish. His confidence is growing by the day, and he's becoming the true leader of this team in just his fourth season. The front court has been essential in the Warriors success this year, but the reason why they've gotten off to their best start in decades is because of number 30!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Warriors Start Big Trip With a Win

Despite being without their starting center in Andrew Bogut, and not knowing exactly when or if he'll return for this season, the Warriors have gotten off to a solid 11-7 start and started their big 7-game roadie off with a victory Wednesday night.

You could tell early on that Andrew Bogut was never at 100% this season, and despite him not being ruled out for the year yet, the Warriors will not be expecting anything out of him anytime soon. In his absence though, we've seen Festus Ezeli and Carl Landy really step up big in taking those minutes. Ezieli has been getting the starts and has been seeing a lot of time against some pretty good centers, like Roy Hibbert and Greg Monroe, and he's done a terrific job in containing those guys. Landry has been called upon when the W's go with the smaller, more dynamic look, and he's been one of the most efficient scorers off the bench in all the NBA this year. While they aren't Andrew Bogut, a first-team defender and one of the few star 7-footers in the league, they've done better than I think anyone was expecting them to thus far. Ezeli has been especially impressive with the way he's stepped up on the defensive end as a rookie. I mean, he's giving the Warriors quality minutes out there and is playing like he's been in this league 10 years.  You can only imagine where this team would be with a full deck with the way they're playing right now.

Steph Curry has been out of his mind over the last two weeks, as he just got done completing his 4th straight game with 20+ points and 10+ assists. For a guy everyone calls a "shoot first" guard and not a true PG, he's done a helluva job running this offense and leading the Dubs to a 3-1 record during that span. It really does look like the ankle issues are in the rear view mirror, as he's looked as quick and durable as I've ever seen him since becoming a Warrior. He and Klay Thompson have really done a solid job in leading the Warriors offensive attack, and David Lee has been monstrous on the boards and clutch down the stretch in games as well. You don't get off to a start like this without getting a little something from everyone on the team and that's what the Warriors are getting right now. Contributions out of Jarrett Jack and Draymond Green have been crucial off the bench lately as well, in addition to Landry. Even Andris Biedrins has put together some quality minutes when he's being called upon. I know it's still way early, but if the Warriors can get Bogut back by mid-season, they're looking like a legit contender, and easily the best Warrior team since 2006.