The Golden State Warriors have been the sixth-seeded team in the Western Conference playoffs each of the past two seasons. Can they overcome the NBA odds and win the whole conference in 2015? Here’s three things that have to happen for them to do so.
1. Injuries To Players On The Spurs And Thunder
In all likelihood, the Warriors could play really well and yet still finish behind both the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder in the West standings. The Warriors could conceivably finish higher than every other team in the West, but not those two. It’s just too much to ask of the Warriors, who do not have enough frontcourt depth or defensive muscle to be able to rise to a win total in the area of 60. Golden State could top out at 53 to 56 wins, but anything more than that doesn’t seem fully realistic. The Warriors have too many weaknesses to go any higher in the NBA. They could, however, fight past the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers were in a very difficult position against the Warriors in Game 7 of that series, but managed to somehow survive. Golden State could surpass the Clippers, as well as other playoff teams such as the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers. Golden State could, on its own, be the third seed. It would need injuries to elite players to get a top-two seed in the West.
2. Andrew Bogut Has To Be Healthy In The Playoffs
The Warriors’ best player is Stephen Curry and the team’s second-best player is Klay Thompson, part of the “Splash Brothers” that have made this team so hard to defend. However, if there’s a player the Warriors have to have healthy at playoff time other than Curry or Thompson, it’s clearly Bogut, a very talented center but one who has been plagued by a relentless parade of injuries in his professional career. Bogut has not been anywhere close to full strength in each of the last two playoffs and out of commission in some of those playoff games. Overall, he’s only played 99 combined games over the last two regular seasons.
When he’s in reasonably good shape, Bogut plays nasty low-post defense is alters shots near the rim. He has averaged 1.8 blocks per game as a Warrior. He’s also a quality rebounder as evidenced by the 10.0 rebounds per game he provided last season.
He gives this team the tough defensive presence it requires in order to contain opponents. Golden State can score, but with Bogut in good shape, the Warriors can also limit opponents. If Bogut can avoid a prolonged injury, things can come together.
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3. Steve Kerr Fits Right In
This was one of the head-scratching moves of the offseason. Mark Jackson was a coach who took a struggling franchise, one that hadn’t done much of anything since a 2007 first-round upset of the Dallas Mavericks, and guided it back to the playoffs in 2013. The Warriors then returned to the playoffs the next season. That’s not been an easy thing to do in Oakland in the modern NBA, but Jackson did it despite no prior NBA coaching experience. The Warriors seemed to have a good thing going, but ownership didn’t get along well with Jackson, and so the decision was handed down to let him go. Steve Kerr steps in, and while he’s a smart basketball man, he has also not had any prior head coaching experience. Kerr really needs to hit it off with the players and understand their needs if Golden State really is going to cash in on the 12/1 NBA odds and go all the way in the West.