Golden State Warriors (2008/2009 Record: 29-53)
Key Additions: Stephen Curry (rookie)
Key Losses: Jamal Crawford
After winning 48 games in 2007-08, the franchise’s most in 14 seasons, the Warriors won just 29 in 08-09 following the loss of Baron Davis to free agency and a number of injuries to several key players. The team appears to be healthy this season (other than Brandon Wright who might be back in March) and has added early rookie of the year candidate Stephen Curry so on paper Golden State stands to improve. However, reality may intervene causing this team to take another step backwards.
Even before the season started leading scorer and team captain Stephen Jackson announced his desire to be traded. Since then Jackson has had a screaming match with head coach Don Nelson at an exhibition game which led to a two game suspension and fine. Whether the Warriors’ front office can find a suitor for Jackson or not the damage has already been done. Even if Jackson does spend the entire season in Oakland, his production is bound to drop. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Not only does Golden State stand to lose the production of its best two way player in Jackson, Captain Jack’s public pouting has already cast a negative shadow over the organization as a whole.
Star guard Monta Ellis has already expressed sympathy with Jackson’s complaints and has voiced his own dissatisfaction with the structure of the Warriors team, particularly the drafting of new backcourt mate Stephen Curry. Ellis’ frustrations with the front office are hardly new. In 2008 the guard expressed anger with the Golden State organization following his 30 game suspension last season when he tore a ligament in his left ankle while riding a moped (an activity prohibited by his contract). Will Ellis be emboldened to make a similar trade demand if Jackson is appeased by the Warriors? Will Ellis still want to extricate himself from the poisonous locker room atmosphere even if Jackson’s demand is ignored? Even if neither player is moved, the on floor product is bound to be impacted.
Fortunately it isn’t all doom and gloom for the Warrior faithful. Rookie guard Stephen Curry is expected by many to immediately assert himself as one of the best players of the 2009 draft, and sophomore forward Anthony Randolph should make a huge leap in both his scoring and rebounding production.
The team will also continue to play at a break-neck pace and point up a lot of points under veteran coach Don Nelson. However, if the team loses its best perimeter defender in Jackson or he simply doesn’t play with the same level of determination in seasons past, the Warriors stand to see a decline in its already 28th ranked defensive efficiency. That’ll mean a lot of losses.
2009/2010 Season Record: 23-59