Thursday, May 17, 2012

Warriors Season Review: What Went Right

Since the regular season ended a few weeks ago, we haven't really done an assessment of the Warriors 2011-12 season here at The Rundown. We figured we'd go ahead and break it into two parts: The Good from from this past season, and the bad.

A Healthy Bogut Will Be Huge!
We'll go ahead and start off with the positives that came out of this season, and even in a year in which the Warriors were decimated by injuries, there were still some very good things to build off heading into 2012-13. The first thing that comes to mind for me is obviously the acquisition of Andrew Bogut, who will give the Warriors a talent at center they haven't had in decades, assuming he can stay on the floor. He'll be paired in the Warriors front court with our choice for their 2012 team MVP, David Lee, who performed much better in his 2nd season with Golden State (20 PPG/9.9 RPG). The Warriors did have to pay a steep price in order to get the Aussie big man, parting with their longest tenured player and one of the most talented guards in the NBA in Monta Ellis, as well as a rising defensive big man and 2010 first round pick, Ekpe Udoh. However, this trade helped the Warriors accomplish more than just adding a much needed presence in the middle. The deal also helped ensure the Warriors held onto their much needed top-7 draft choice, which they won in a coin toss after the season. They still have to go through the lottery, but they most likely will stick at 7, which is a big coupe considering they have very little cap space to work with. Another big deal this team made that could pay off was attaining both Richard Jefferson, who played well for the Warriors, and the Spurs first rounder in exchange for Stephen Jackson. Jefferson not only provides veteran leadership that this young team desperately needs, but he also could represent an upgrade at small forward in 2012-13 if the Warriors end up going with him over the one-dimensional Dorrell Wright. That extra first round choice could end up helping the Warriors if they want to move up in the draft, or if they just sit where they are, they'll should end up with two solid talents with two first round picks in a very deep draft. One thing the Warriors have successfully done in recent drafts, dating back to the selection of Monta Ellis, has been using their lower picks and 2nd round picks wisely. Even last years choosing of Jeremy Tyler and Charles Jenkins are looking like two solid value picks after the way each player ended the season.

Another rookie, the W's first rounder and 11th overall choice in last June's draft, Klay Thompson, really made parting with Ellis a much easier pill to swallow. In fact, if you compare the two guards play over the last month and half of 2012, you'll see very similar stats, despite each being completely different players. In his 29 starts in place of Ellis, Thompson averaged 18 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal while shooting a sturdy 42% from beyond the arc for the year. In comparison, for Milwaukee in 21 games, Ellis averaged
K. Thompson: Breakout Rookie!
just 17 points and shoot 26% from 3-point range. Again though, each are two completely different players, but Thompson showed us this year that he's more than just a catch-and-shoot guy. While he's not at Ellis' level in terms of distributing the ball and going to the rim, he's a solid ball-handler with good passing smarts and should play extremely well with Steph Curry. Lee was the teams MVP, but Thompson was the teams breakout star. The Warriors also eliminated their small backcourt issue, and even though I made it quite clear here that I'd have much rather dealt Curry than Ellis (even before Curry's ankles became built of glass), they just weren't going to get as much value for Curry, with the ankle issue looming, than he'll provide them when he gets healthy (assuming that day comes). Also Curry is more of a pure point guard than Monta, and has much of the same skill-set but he's a better shooter than Monta too. With Jefferson, Curry, Thompson and the likely return of Brandon Rush, the Warriors have some guys who can snipe from beyond the arc and that element will be very fun to watch next year with Lee and Bogut inside kicking balls out to the shooters. I know a lot of the Warriors potential for next year and beyond is based on the health two players, Curry and Bogut, but I really like the direction this team is headed in, with all the draft choices and the young nucleus already in-tact. Again, I think they need to prioritize Brandon Rush over any of their other free agents, as he not only brings positional flexibility, but a ridiculous efficiency in both field goal and 3-point percentages.

I'd also like to see Nate Robinson retained after a strong year from him in absence of Curry and Ellis. He was the one guy who the Warriors could count on to bring the ball up the court and run the offense after the ladder two players became unavailable. In 51 games, he put up an average of 11 ppg, 2 rpg and 4.5 apg in only 23 minutes of play. He'd again provide some stability and a veteran backup to Curry, who will likely have his playing time limited to begin the season as he just underwent surgery that has an expected 3-month rehabilitation window before he can get back on the court. The season doesn't start until October, so that will give him some time to regain strength before training camp, but the Warriors will definitely take it easy on him. Same with Bogut, though Curry plays point guard and relies heavily on his cuts and drives for much of his offense and production. Still, with Bogut's historic injury issues, the Warriors certainly won't overwork him too much too soon.

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