Wait a second.
Didn't the Warriors win one playoff series? Didn't they get manhandled in the second round by a team with severe chemistry problems?
And didn't it take a Mets-like collapse from the Los Angeles Clippers to get them there in the first place?
Haven't we been down this road before—team overachieves in short-run, but runs into rebounding issues when other team realizes that their second tallest player is 6'8"?
So why on earth would I bother comparing another Don Nelson run-and-gun mockery to the Western Conference's elite?
I'll tell you why.
Because no dungeon master worth his weight in geldings would bet against the Warriors this year. And after a few key changes, this Don Nelson team can humiliate each and every team in the NBA on any given night.
Some of these changes took place during the off-season—others are forthcoming.
But enough with the empty-handed diatribes—let's talk about what actually needs to go down for the 2008 Warriors to become synonymous with the phrase, "Elite Western Conference Team."
1. Baron Davis Stays Healthy
As several insightful analysts have already mentioned on Bleacher Report, the Warriors "chose wisely" when they decided to hold off on extending Davis' contract.
Not that I question Baron's desire to win, but...
Weight problems + injury problems + contract year = no extension until results are delivered.
Contract year + being the most talented point guard in the league = awesomeness.
It's called logic people.
2. Improvement from Andris Biedrins
All signs point to continued improvement out of 21-year-old Euro-Center Andris Biedrins. By the way, few things feel as good as having a highly disciplined center who's athletic and extremely unselfish—and who's 21.
I tend to disagree with the common-place sentiment that Andris needs to make an active effort to put on pounds. With natural growth and moderate effort in the weight room, his ability to bang down low with Tim Duncan will come in due time. Until then, he's better off optimizing his ability to run up and down the court—in Nellyball.
For this season, I'd like to see some improvement with the jump shot. It would be great to see him up his range from five feet to say, eight feet, and get the ol' free throw percentage up above 60.
3. More Help From the Front Court
Al Harrington is what Al Harrington is: an Antawn Jamison-like 3-4 tweener. Except he's a poor man's Antoine Jamison. (Sigh.)
Harrington's a good fit to play 30 minutes a game against slighter competition, but against the well-balanced bullies (see San Antonio, Utah), he's about as useful as Microsoft Entourage.
Which brings us to Chris Mullin's major point of emphasis in the off-season: building depth in the front court.
Enter Brandan Wright and Stephane Lasme.
Wright, the highly touted power-forward out of UNC, is about to turn 20. Head coach Don Nelson is already playing down any and all expectations for his rookie season. And when Don Nelson plays something down, I can't help but think this guy is in for a major breakout year.
Having Don Nelson as your head coach is fantastic. You take whatever he says, turn it 180 degrees, and you know exactly what he thinks. It's a beautiful system.
Stephen Lasme is a Paul Milsap admirer who, in spite of his small size, rebounds and blocks shots in a Dennis Rodman-like manner. If he's athletic enough to be productive in the pros, he'll be a perfect fit on a Warriors' team that needs guys who don't like to shoot.
The Warriors need desperately for either Wright or Lasme to competently fill a spot in the rotation. And if they don't...well thank God we have that $12.1 million trade exemption to use on a power forward.
4. Better Depth
By the second round of the playoffs, the Warriors were essentially playing with a six man rotation. That doesn't fly on a team that plays at light speed.
Looking at the roster as it stands today, you have to be a little more pleased with the depth chart:
PG: Baron Davis, Troy Hudson
SG: Marco Belinelli, Monta Ellis, Kelenna Azubuike
SF: Stephen Jackson, Matt Barnes, Mickael Pietrus
(Pausing for a second)...What team in the league has as much talent in as many interchangeable parts in the backcourt? It's borderline frightening.
It seems like a good time to address the Jason Richardon trade: The biggest fear isn't the loss of his scoring...it's his rebounding abilities that the Warriors will really miss.
As a result, Barnes and Pietrus will likely log more minutes at the two in crunch-time situations.
PF: Al Harrington, Brandan Wright, Austin Croshere, Stephane Lasme
C: Andris Biedrins, Kosta Perovic, Patrick O'Bryant
Not bad, huh?
And yes, you'll hear people say that you can't win championships with a run-and-gun team.
But you'll also hear people say that you should never fight a land war in Asia.
Looking at this roster, I predict that the Warriors finish with 50+ wins and reach the Western Conference Finals.
More to come on this before we kick off the season...
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