Fifty-seven percent of league GMs in a 2014-15 NBA.com survey said the Warriors are the most fun team to watch. Grantland christened last year’s Warriors as League Pass champs, another feather in the cap of fun-towatch team rankings. Even the nickname by the backcourt Curry/ Thompson duo, “The Splash Brothers,” evokes summer theme-park fun. But truth be told, the Golden State offense is far from golden. Yes, the NBA’s SportsVU cameras may reveal that Curry has the best pull-up jumper in the NBA (11.1 pull-up points per game at 53.6 effective field goal percentage for 853 pull-up points, 197 more than his closest competitor, Kevin Durant), while sidekick Thompson is the catch-and-shoot king (9.2 catch-and-shoot points per game at 60.5 effective field goal percentage for 737 catch-and-shoot points, 55 more than Dirk Nowitzki). But as a team— which includes bench play and sees time on the court when the Warriors’ main 5 isn’t dominating its foes—the Warriors have p l e n t y o f offensive struggles. You cannot just look a t the 818 minutes when Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Lee and Bogut share the floor, posting the NBA’s third-best plus-minus score (+256), with 112.0 offensive and 97.0 defensive ratings. You also need to see the other 3100-plus minutes, when various subs mix-and-match with the aforementioned five. This is where the Warriors struggled on offense in 2013-14, and they are counting on several things to improve their status as the NBA’s 12th-best offensive team (105.3 points per 100 possessions): 1. They need newcomer Shaun Livingston to be every bit the player he was for the Brooklyn Nets—running the point when Curry is resting, while also being a complementary 2-guard sidekick if need be; 2. They need Brandon Rush to return to healthy 2011-12 Warriors form; 3. They need Harrison Barnes to improve (he appears lost at the 3 spot, and only seems to play well as a stretch 4 nowadays). Iguodala and Green are guaranteed to be fine complementary parts, suiting their game to the specifics of the reliables around them (Green improved his three-point percentage from 20.9 to 33.3 last season; Iguodala, when needed, even played 8 percent of his minutes at point guard in 2013-14). Throw in David Lee in the paint or as an uptop screener—where he excels with Bogut— and the Warriors know they can count on Lee for 18 points and 9 rebounds a game, as they have the past three seasons. After all, that’s what D-Lee does in his 33 minutes per game, scoring consistently and taking four out of every five shots somewhere within 10 feet of the basket. OUTLOOK These Warriors have 60-win potential, just as the Los Angeles Clippers, the Pacific Division rival, have 60-win potential. Just as the San Antonio Spurs. Had it not been for the injuries to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Oklahoma The Warriors have all the pieces in place for a serious run at the tough Western Conference crown. Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images City Thunder were a good bet for 60. While they might not reach that total, they will be a dangerous team down the stretch when the injured Thunder duo return. And don’t forget the Trail Blazers, Rockets and Mavericks. What we’re saying is the Warriors play in a tough Western Conference. You have to dominate, and these Warriors, in short bursts, have shown they have the wherewithal to do so (check the plus-minus scores on that Curry-Thompson-Iguodala-Lee-Bogut quintet again if you doubt). If Green garners as many Sixth Man award votes as Manu Ginobili and Jamal Crawford or if Livingston has the impact that Reggie Jackson did off the bench last season, then the Warriors can hang with the big boys. If not, they’ll still win 50-plus and give the aforementioned all they can handle. We’re picking them to beat the Clippers for the Pacific title, then take a wait-and-see attitude toward what the playoffs bring. SPOTLIGHT: Klay Thompson With Kevin Love riding high next to LeBron James in Cleveland, all eyes from Diego to The Bay will be on Klay Thompson this season, with second-guessers doing their thing, wondering What If the Warriors had pulled the trigger on that trade that would have brought Love to Golden State for Thompson and Lee. It’s all hindsight now, but don’t think Thompson won’t feel the pressure and hear the whispers throughout the 2014-15 campaign, especially if the Warriors sign him to a junior max contract, now that he has practically forced Golden State to do so. Don’t get it twisted. Thompson is a very good two-way player. He may be one of the three best 2 guards in the West, along with Manu Ginobili and James Harden. But in order to shake the doubters, Thompson’s Warriors will have to win big. They’ll have to show the value of team chemistry. They’ll have to show how important it was to keep The Splash Brothers together, not to mention show how well he can play with Livingston, Barbosa, et al. Making the All-Star team will be nice. Averaging 18 points per game again will be standard. But the best way Thompson can shine in his new spotlight is by including more teammates in the shine and continue the winning. As a gold-medal winning shooting guard who logged the second most minutes for USA Basketball at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, Thompson should know all about that by now. The only way you shut people up is by winning everything.
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