The optimists around the Bay Area like to say that the Warriors' 29-win season in 2008-09 was primarily the result of too many injuries and a very young roster.
The pessimists say that last year's significant step-back-- from 48 wins the season before -- was mostly the result of poor management decisions that yielded a mismatched roster with too much overlap on the perimeter and not enough bulk on the interior.
The goal in 2009-10 is to figure out which side was right.
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To be sure, the Warriors had their share of injuries a season ago. They were without their most explosive scorer, Monta Ellis, for most of the season, and overall the Warriors had the third-most games lost to injury in the NBA.
It's true, they are young. The Warriors will rely heavily this year on Anthony Morrow (24), Ellis (23), Andris Biedrins (23), Stephen Curry (21) and Anthony Randolph (20). Not to mention Brandan Wright (22), who is expected to miss the first few months of the season with a shoulder injury.
So there are some pieces here. Problem is, the pieces don't fit well together. There is still not a true point guard on the roster, or anyone on the team capable of drawing a double-team.
Put it this way, it helps when a running team has a point guard to make transition decisions, and it's also beneficial to have a guy in the low post you can throw the ball to when the game slows down.
And there's just no getting around the fact that Stephen Jackson, a player who can dominate the ball and the locker room, doesn't want to be a Warrior. With Jackson, it's not so much that he'll be a daily distraction but rather that his presence and the way he plays will slow down the growth of the team's young core.
With Ellis out most of last season, Warriors coach Don Nelson had little choice but to put the ball in Jackson's hands the majority of the time. As you would figure, Jackson was either hit or miss. Some nights he was effective; other nights he tried to do too much. There's no secret here. Jackson is high-risk, high-reward.
What happens this season if/when Nelson tries to pry the ball out of Jackson's hands? How will Jackson respond when Nelson has Curry, a rookie, initiating the offense for long stretches?
That would seem to be a logical strategy for Nelson to employ. After all, at the end of last season, he said the Warriors' biggest weakness was decision-making ... and Curry, while not a true point, is a very good decision-maker, already probably the best on the team in that department.
Making Jackson less of an offensive factor is risky because it's a decision that will have fallout. That's the inherent issue with the Warriors as they head into the season.
They want to go young and allow their young core to grow together, but Jackson -- and to a lesser degree Corey Maggette -- isn't the kind of player who can help in that department. Not now anyway.
Last Season By the Numbers
Record: 29-53 under Don Nelson. Finished 3rd in the Pacific Division, 10th in the Western Conference.
Offense: 109.5 points per 100 possessions, 9th in the NBA. 18th in shooting, 13th in turnover rate, 18th in offensive rebounding, 3rd in free throw rate.
Defense: 113.3 points per 100 possessions, 28th in the NBA. 20th in shooting defense, 20th in opponent turnover rate, 30th in defensive rebounding, 22nd in opponent free throw rate.
Top Performers: Stephen Jackson led the team in scoring with a 20.7 points per game average. Jamal Crawford added 19.7 ppg, and Monta Ellis averaged 19 ppg in 25 games. Andris Biedrins averaged a double-double with 11.9 points and 11.2 rebounds. Ronny Turiaf led the team with 2.1 blocks per game in only 21 minutes. Jackson also led the team with 6.5 assists. According to PER, Biedrins was the team's most efficient player.
All statistics via Basketball-Reference.com.
Player to Watch
FanHouse's Matt Moore and Tom Ziller preview one player to watch from each team. Here's a snippet of Moore's post on Warriors forward Anthony Randolph.
When Randolph was drafted last year, no one really knew what to make of him. Some saw him as a true power forward that just needed size tacked on to that Shaggy-from-Scooby-Doo frame. Others saw him as a true small forward that just needed to develop some range. Then summer league happened.
The words started floating around, based off of one fact. The kids has insane handle for a guy his size. Randolph showed early on that he had the capacity for not only being trusted with the ball in his hands, but the ability to actually manage the dribble in space. Tack on a solid jumper and an energy source that makes you believe in the idea of renewable energy, and all of a sudden, the hype meter was off the charts.
See Moore's full post on Randolph.
FanHouse's Tom Lorenzo previews one fantasy sleeper to watch from each team. Here's a preview of his post on Warriors guard Anthony Morrow.
I don't think I was the only one who did a double-take when rookie gunslinger Anthony Morrow, aka Ammo, dropped 37 points on the Clippers in his first career start last season. The most impressive aspect of his performance was the shooting efficiency. He shot 15-of-20 from the field, 4-of-5 from beyond the arc and 3-of-3 from the line. Morrow proceeded to start in 16 more games the remainder of the season and coming out of nowhere he led the league in three-point shooting, draining 46.7 percent of his attempts.
See Lorenzo's full post on Morrow.
IN: Stephen Curry (draft), Acie Law (trade), Speedy Claxton (trade).
OUT: Jamal Crawford (trade), Rob Kurz (free agency).