The Golden State Warriors ascended to the top of the mountain once again in the 2016-17 season, winning the NBA title. The regular season saw the Warriors post a 67-15 record before trampling playoff teams to the tune of a 16-1 postseason record.
With four all-NBA caliber players under contract and quality role players around them, the sky is the limit once again for this squad. On paper, this iteration of the roster looks to be even stronger than ’16-17. Here is the 2017-18 Golden State Warriors season preview.
Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Golden State Warriors Season Preview
What Worked Last Season
Once the Warriors signed Kevin Durant last summer, it was clear that they had accumulated an incredible amount of talent. The group figured things out quickly, and the Warriors led the NBA in nearly every advanced offensive statistic. Overall, they finished first in offensive rating (113.2) and second in defensive rating (101.1). Their 12.1 net rating led the league as well.
Individually, the star-laden Warriors all had impressive regular seasons:
Stephen Curry, the reigning two-time MVP, took a step back statistically while integrating Durant but still averaged 25.3 points, 6.6 assists, and 4.5 rebounds. He also hit a NBA-record 13 threes(!!!) in a single game.
Meanwhile, KD immediately acclimated to his new digs and had his most well-rounded season ever with averages of 25.1 points, 8.3 rebounds*, 4.8 assists, 1.6 blocks*, and 2.2 turnovers* on 53.7% shooting*. Durant zeroed in on his defense and helped alleviate concerns about Golden State’s rim protection.
Draymond Green shot poorly last season (41.8% shooting, 30.8% from three), but he still stuffed the stat sheet with 10.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 7.0 assists. He also doubled down defensively and (finally) won the Defensive Player of the Year award (2.0 steals*, 1.4 blocks*).
Klay Thompson famously said, “I’m not sacrificing s**t (offensively)”, in an interview with The Vertical last summer. He backed it up by averaging 22.3 points* on 17.6 shot attempts*. Thompson also guarded the best opposing backcourt player every night and dropped 60 points (in 29 minutes) on the Indiana Pacers.
The team rotated a three-man group at center (Zaza Pachulia, David West, and JaVale McGee) with largely positive results. The rest of the rotation included veteran super-subs Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston and young guards Ian Clark and Patrick McCaw.
Coach Steve Kerr rode the mantra “Strength In Numbers” all the way through the Finals. In the end, the sheer talent in the Bay won out, and the Warriors soundly defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-1 in June. Kevin Durant won Finals MVP, averaging 35.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 5.4 assists.
*denotes career-best stats
What Needs Improvement
Despite the accolades, there are several areas where Golden State could improve. To some extent, looking for what needs improvement with the Dubs is nitpicking.
One of these areas is defensive rebounding. The Dubs often play small with shooters all over the floor which can hurt them on the defensive glass. In ’16-17, the Warriors ranked 29th in defensive rebounding percentage (only above the hapless New York Knicks). Teams that are more physical on the glass can wear down the Dubs and get Draymond Green in foul trouble.
Another area to watch involves turnovers. Golden State plays at a hyperactive pace (fourth-fastest in the NBA) and live-ball turnovers can be an issue. The Warriors had the league’s eighth-highest turnover percentage last season. At times, Curry and Green attempt to wow the crowd with a flashy pass that leads to an opponent’s fastbreak.
A third and minor issue is that the Dubs can be too reliant on outside shooting. Even with three of the best shooters in the league, sometimes those long-range attempts don’t go in. When the threes aren’t falling, the Warriors look almost human. Teams like the Cavs and the Houston Rockets are built to take advantage of periodic Warrior slumps.
Make no mistake, the Warriors got even better this offseason. They re-signed Curry, Durant, and every other major free agent. The three departures were Ian Clark, Matt Barnes, and James Michael McAdoo. What little roster turnover the Dubs had, GM Bob Myers seems to have upgraded.
Clark’s spot became veteran scorer Nick Young aka “Swaggy P”. Barnes’ turned into Omri Casspi, a stretch four who once dueled with Steph for a quarter. McAdoo was replaced by rookie Jordan Bell, a versatile shot-blocker whom Draymond has already taken under his wing.
The Warriors now have a full season of Durant under their belt, which should terrify opposing teams. Superteams in the NBA tend to be at their best during their second seasons as a unit (’11-12 Heat, for example). There will be no awkward Steph-KD dynamic as they try to figure out how to play together. The Death Star Warriors will be fully operational.
2017-18 Warriors Predictions
In the regular season, expect the Dubs to claim the top seed in the loaded Western Conference yet again. Barring injuries, the squad will sniff 70 wins even with the regular resting of their stars. Coach Kerr has more weapons than ever at his disposal, and he will keep everyone fresh. Expect the Warriors to have a regular season record around 69-13 before entering the playoffs.
The daunting Western Conference is loaded with more stars than ever after an all-star exodus from the east this summer. Jimmy Butler, Paul George, and Paul Millsap all went west, and Carmelo Anthony might be on the way. Golden State will look to capitalize on this league-wide uncertainty of teams integrating stars.Even with teams adding firepower, the Warriors are still the team to beat.
The NBA Playoffs are dependent on player health. If the Dubs are healthy, they shouldn’t have much trouble winning the West. The LeBron-led Cavs are presumed to be the eastern favorites, but their future is cloudy with Isaiah Thomas‘ hip issues.
The team is primed for another championship, and it would be fairly surprising if a healthy Dubs team did not claim the Larry O’Brien trophy once again. A run of three titles in four years is almost unthinkable for a franchise mired in mediocrity for decades prior to 2012. The Warriors know NBA success is fleeting; look for them to stay golden as long as possible.
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