This team just seems to keep getting all the breaks. After a miracle season that saw them upset the defending Western Conference Champion Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the Playoffs this team has just seen the good times continue to roll.
They were able to jettison the contract of Jason Richardson without taking on any major salary in return (just the rookie scale contract of Brandan Wright). They drafted the player many are calling the steal of the draft in Marco Belinelli. They were able to wait out Matt Barnes on a contract extension and got him to sign for another year on the cheap. They were able to wait out Don Nelson on a contract extension and were able to get him on the cheap, too. All they have to do is lock-up centre Andris Biendrins to a contract extension and they will have capped-off a nearly perfect summer.
But that isn't all that went Golden State's way this summer. For all that last season was a turning point for this franchise, the still only narrowly made the eighth spot in the Playoffs and the departure of Richardson tends to overshadow any new acquisitions that the team made in the last couple of months. With that said, a couple of challengers for their Playoff spot have fallen out of the running in recent weeks. Elton Brand ruptured his Achilles, essentially ending the Clippers season, and Greg Oden underwent microfracture surgery, effectively doing the same to Portland. So long as this team can hold off New Orleans and Sacramento, they should be blitzing again come next April.
That blitz, though, will be a key storyline to how this season plays out for the Warriors. While it was a wonderfully effective system at masking some of the deficiencies this team had in size and rebounding, it's only going to be so effective in the post-season. Even Phoenix, after their first season utilizing Mike D'Antoni's run-n-gun system, rounded out their attack some in the ensuring years to try and avoid being nothing more than a novelty act. The same pressure is now going to be applied to the Warriors. Without Richardson, point guard Baron Davis is now the only proven, consistent scoring weapon this team has. Guys like Monta Ellis, Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington are all great when they're on, but all three shot below 40% in the Playoffs and it took Baron Davis playing the best basketball of his life to keep the team afloat. For all that this team had a turnaround year last season, they were all over the map, even prompting Don Nelson to doubt whether this team was even going to make the Playoffs as late as last March.
This is the problem with success, though, it breeds expectations and now this team is going to be expected to make the Playoffs this year. There is no room for this team to narrowly miss the post-season and still call the year anything but a failure. Playing their running game is fine since it plays to their strengths, but like any team they are going to have to find ways to improve upon their own system if they hope to improve upon their consistency issues from a year ago.
The Warriors are in a fine place right now, still riding high on their successes, and they are not bogged down by the weighty contracts of Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy, Jason Richardson and Adonal Foyle anymore. They have plenty of assets and an innovative coach who makes them work, and if one piece doesn't work they have plenty of interchangeable parts that can slide into his place. The question for this team now isn't what kind of success they are going to have but rather in what ways are they going to improve upon last year's success? They have a plethora of options at their disposal when it comes to lineup possibilities as well as trade possibilities, which means it's just a matter of deciding how those possibilities will play out as this team looks to move from a novelty act to the real deal.