The season is still two months away, but most of the rosters are set, barring the requisite Michael Jordan comeback rumor (just kidding, but only a little). We have an idea where our team stands, but we can't really know unless we discuss everyone else. In that spirit, I'm going to throw up a "competition discussion" thread for each of the other 29 teams over the next month or so. We'll go in alphabetical order from A to Z. Today's team: Golden State.
Last year's record: 42-40
Playoffs: Beat Dallas 4-2, lost to Utah 4-1.
In: Brandan Wright (draft), Marco Belinelli (draft), Kosta Perovic (draft), Stephane Lasme (draft), Austin Croshere (free agent).
Out: Jason Richardson (trade), Adonal Foyle (buyout).
Projected starting lineup: Baron Davis, Monta Ellis, Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington, Andris Biedrins.
Bench (in no particular order): Sarunas Jasikevicius, Marco Belinelli, Matt Barnes, Mikhael Pietrus*, Kelenna Azibuike, Brandan Wright, Austin Croshere, Patrick O'Bryant, Kosta Perovic, Stephane Lasme.
So what do we think? Will Nellieball continue to succeed even without Jason Richardson? What effect will the long contract negotiations between Nelson and owner Chris Cohan have on the season? Can Baron Davis replicate his playoff magic? Will Stephen Jackson stay under control? Will Brandan Wright justify trading away Richardson?
The obvious historical precedent to this edition of Nellieball is the 1990/91 Run TMC team, led by Tim Hardaway, Chris Mullin, and Mitch Richmond, who upset second-seeded San Antonio in the first round of the playoffs before falling to Magic and the Lakers. Following that season, Nelson traded Richmond for the right to select rookie Billy Owens, a move that many feel killed the team's progress. In point of fact, however, the Owens trade was a good move, at least initially. With Owens in the fold as a starting 3/4 type, and with Sarunas Marciulionis replacing Richmond, the Warriors actually won 11 more games and were the third seed with a 55-27 record. They were upset by a streaking Sonics team in the first round, but you couldn't deny that improvement occured. In reality, it was a combination of the Tim Hardaway injury, the Chris Webber/Don Nelson feud, and the Joe Smith pick that killed Golden State's momentum.
Fast forward 15 years. In trading Richardson, seen as a key cog on the wing, for Brandan Wright, the Warriors have essentially replicated the Richmond/Owens swap. Does that mean that they'll actually be better this year, contrary to popular belief?
My guess is no, and there are a number of reasons why. First, people significantly underrate Marciulionis as a player. Look at his per-40 numbers as compared to Richmond's from 1990-92. They're really quite similar. I don't think Monta Ellis or Marco Belinelli can replicate Marciulionis' 1991/92 production.
Second, the Warriors don't have nearly as many big men as that 91/92 team had. In 90/91, the Warriors' big men were the decrepit Alton Lister and the quirky point forward Tom Tolbert. In 91/92, they had Owens, an improved Tyrone Hill, Chris Gatling, the surprisingly decent Victor Alexander, and Lister. The quality isn't amazing, but that's a lot of quantity. This year's Warriors have a guy in Andris Biedrins who's better than all those guys, but besides him, there's just the raw Brandan Wright (who surely won't replicate Owens' production in his rookie season), Al Harrington (who plays like a small, so he shouldn't even count), Austin Croshere, who reached his peak six years ago, and the unproven Patrick O'Bryant/Stephane Lasme/Kosta Perovic trio. Give me the 1991/92 big men any day of the week.
See, the two keys to Golden State's improvement in 91/92 were Marciulionis and improved interior play. I don't see anyone replicating Marciulionis this year unless Monta Ellis takes another significant jump, and I don't think the Warriors bigs will be any better this year than they were last year. Add it all up to a mediocre finish.
I say 36-46.