Projected Record: 49-33 (5th in West)
Head coach: Steve Kerr
2013-14 record: 51-31
2013-14 ORtg: 105.3 (12th)
2013-14 DRtg: 99.9 (3rd)
Players in: Steve Kerr (coach), Aaron Craft, Jason Kapono, Shaun Livingston, Brandon Rush
Players out: Mark Jackson (coach), Hilton Armstrong, Steve Blake, Jordan Crawford, Jermaine O’Neal
Projected Starting Lineup: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee, Andrew Bogut
Not much has changed in Golden State… So it seems.
The biggest difference is at head coach. Gone is Mark Jackson, the famously demonstrative coach, former player, and TV analyst, and in his stead comes Steve Kerr, a less bombastic former player and TV analyst. Kerr, statistically the best three-point shooter in NBA history, inherits two of the best shooters ever: Stephen Curry (who ranks third all-time) and Klay Thompson (who ranks 17th), and the team later signed Jason Kapono, who ranks second behind Curry in three-point percentage among active players.
Seeing Curry & Thompson, you might think the Warriors made their bread-and-butter on their offense. You’d also be wrong. The Warriors, led by stalwarts Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala, actually ended last season with one of the best defenses in the league, and were only one of three teams to allow fewer than one point per possession last season.
It’s hard to know what the Warriors will look like defensively with Kerr, a first-time coach, at the helm. But on the other end, they’ll shoot a ton, and probably lead the league in three-point attempts, especially if Iguodala (35.4 percent shooting from 3 last year) and Harrison Barnes (34.7 percent) can continue to improve their long-range shooting. When they need to go inside, they’ll look to David Lee; Lee, who developed a mid-range game with the New York Knicks, shot over 82 percent of his attempts from within 10 feet last season, his highest since joining the Warriors, and averaged 19.8 points per 36 minutes, second only to Curry on the roster.
Their depth is a concern. They did lose Jermaine O’Neal, a staple of their defense off the bench for 44 games last season, and they’ll have to hope that Marreese Speights can make a leap forward defensively. They did bolster their backcourt by signing Nets fan favorite and longball maestro Shaun Livingston to a three-year deal to back up Curry & Thompson, but lottery pick Barnes hasn’t improved in two seasons in Golden State, and outside of their top seven, there’s not a lot of talent for Kerr to use.
They’re also also betting on players who’ve struggled with injuries: Bogut hasn’t played more than 70 games in a season since 2008, Stephen Curry endured ankle problems two seasons ago, and Iguodala has missed significant time in three of the last four seasons. If they run into injury troubles, they’ll tumble down the ranks in a hotly contested Western Conference.
That said: if they’re on, they’re explosive. Curry is on pace to shatter Ray Allen’s recently-set three-point record: he’s hit 905 threes and averaged 2.7 three-pointers per game through age 25, both the best in NBA history, and he’s an ironclad top option on a fast team. Thompson isn’t far behind as a shooter, and Iguodala is one of the league’s most underrated playmakers.
They’ll win a ton of games on the talent of their top players alone. But unless they make some surprising leaps forward, it’s hard to see them making a deep playoff run.