On paper, the Golden State Warriors look like a team ready to challenge for playoff contention. Stephen Curry is fantastic when he's healthy. Truly a fun and special player. I'm not sure he's an ideal point guard, but that's ok. Klay Thompson was one of the most surprising rookies last season, and looks poised to be a deadly scorer for years to come. Harrison Barnes, expected to open the season as the starting small forward, can grow and thrive now that he'll no longer be asked to lead his team. David Lee is a solid power forward, and a reliable player on the floor. Andrew Bogut, when healthy, is one of the top centers in the league. And then you have the incredible bench depth of guys like Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush, and Carl Landry.
But that's only if you don't look too closely. Look too closely and the cracks start to appear. The Warriors are a used car that looks great until you pop the hood. The salesman is trying to hurry you to the office to get started on that paperwork, because every extra minute you spend looking at that car is another minute it could fall apart in front of you. Aside from the obvious injury histories of Curry, Bogut, and Lee, the Warriors have plenty of cracks.
Harrison Barnes beating out Jefferson for the starting small forward spot likely says more about Jefferson than it does about Barnes. Barnes is going to have some growing pains. He's considered "NBA-ready", but some would argue he was never NCAA ready. He never fully lived up to the expectations he had entering North Carolina. In the NBA, he's going to need to develop a three point shot, he needs to commit on the defensive end, and he needs to learn how to contribute without the ball. Those aren't red flags. Those are issues that many rookies need to work through. But as a starter on a team many pundits think will sneak into the playoffs? That's where I see the red flag.
The biggest issue I see for Golden State is their coach, Mark Jackson. Last season was his first experience as a coach at any level. He wasn't an assistant coach. He wasn't a head coach at a lower level. He was a broadcaster. I'm not convinced that he's ready or able to step into the role of head coach at the highest level of the game and succeed. It's not Jackson's fault, it's the fault of Warriors ownership and management. How Jackson was deemed more appealing than long-time assistant and then interim head coach Keith Smart is beyond me. It's not to say Smart is a perfect coach, but he's spent his post-playing career preparing to be a head coach in the NBA. That counts for something. It's something that can't be replicated by being a "coach on the floor". Many "coach on the floor" point guards become head coaches in the NBA, but they pay their dues as an assistant first. They learn what it is to be a coach.
If Bogut and Curry stay healthy, a lot of these issues will be mitigated. Bogut and Curry, on talent alone, can overcome a lot of these issues. Talents fixes a lot. But there is nothing to suggest that both players will play the majority of the season. Bogut will likely miss time to start this season, having practiced today for the first time since his injury. Curry re-injured his ankle in the preseason. He'll probably play in the season opener, but every minute played on Curry's ankles is borrowed time.
A quick note: I really liked the addition of Jarrett Jack. Jack is a really nice back-up, and should be able to fill in nicely whenever Curry misses time. I don't think it's the type of move that puts the Warriors over the top or anything, but I like the move for the Warriors.
It's frustrating, and not just for Warriors fans. The team looks fun. It looks like it should be good. But there are so many elements of its creation that are flawed. I can't buy into the Warriors hype. I expect them to be solidly in the lottery again this season, and they may not even need to tank to do it.