Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Warriors and the Bay Area: 2005-06 Season Preview
By Blogger

Baron Davis probably had no idea. After being traded to the Warriors last season and instantly making them a credible franchise, Davis probably didn't anticipate how much he would mean to basketball fans in the Bay Area. For the first time in my memory, the Warriors had brought in a top-tier baller in the prime of his career, the reverse of the usual formula. Mitch Richmond. Tim Hardaway. Chris Webber. Latrell Sprewell. Gilbert Arenas. Larry Hughes. Antawn Jamison. Earl Boykins. All the way down to the Mario Elies, Chris Gatlings, and Donyell Marshalls of the world. They left, and they were happy to leave. Of course, Cliff Robinson came to Oakland, as did Muggsy Bogues. And who could ever forget the Mookie Blaylock Era?

Judging by Warrior fans' reaction to Davis's exploits with the team, you'd think he'd led them to a 33-1 record. He showed up at a San Francisco Giants game about three weeks after being traded. When the crowd saw him on the JumboTron between innings, he got a standing ovation. KNBR then brought him into the booth to chat during the next half inning. If the Warriors make the playoffs as anything higher than an eight seed, hysteria will commence, and Davis will own the Bay Area.

But, unfortunately, I don't think it's meant to be. There are obvious parallels for the 2005-06 Warriors. With such a sad division (Sacto is the only team that's clearly better than Golden State, the Lakers are a twelve-sided die, the Clips are the Clips no matter who's on the team, and Phoenix lost Amare for a good chunk of the season), it's conceivable that with a little luck they could pull a 2002 Nets and storm into the playoffs by riding Davis for all he's worth and taking full advantage of the weak competition, as Zach envisioned in his playoff predictions. The problem with that scenario is twofold: First, Davis would have to stay healthy for the whole season, something he hasn't been able to do since 2002. With a margin for error this low, missing fifteen games could be killer. Second: The supporting cast would have to step up the way those Nets did, which is probably asking too much.

Is Mickael Pietrus the next Kerry Kittles? Will Andres Biedrins and Adonal Foyle match up to Todd MacCullough? Can Mike Dunleavy hope to be the Warriors' version of Keith Van Horn? There's no way in hell that Diogu or Troy Murphy is Kenyon Martin. Perhaps Jason Richardson can beat Richard Jefferson's contributions. And perhaps Davis's overall effect will match Jason Kidd's. Yes, they're not playing the 2002 Eastern Conference, but there's still no way I can buy the Warriors to be anything more than an outside threat at the eight seed since they only have two surefire NBA starters (Davis and Richardson), and a wealth of sixth or seventh man types. This is what everyone forgets when watching the team. Yes, they look good when they run the floor, but with Foyle, Murphy, and Diogu slated to get significant minutes, often together, I can't imagine they'll be much good once the sample sizes start becoming significant. I was amazed when my buddy, Aaron, called me just to say he thought the Warriors would be really good this year. He's pretty knowledgable about basketball, but he was putting them in the Western Conference semifinals based on a single preseason game. Just because they look like a real basketball team doesn't mean they're a good basketball team.

Let's indulge in some gut feelings:
1) The young core will not improve nearly as much as everyone seems to believe. Dunleavy will remain a marginal NBA starter. Murphy will remain a nice big body off the bench. Diogu will be one year away from breaking out. Pietrus is the best bet to improve; I see him becoming the destitute man's Nick Van Exel, providing a good charge in place of either Davis or Richardson, such that Mike Montgomery will probably start using even more three guard sets by year's end.

2) Baron Davis won't play more than 65 games.

3) The Kings will finish ahead of them. The Lakers will finish ahead of them. The Suns will finish ahead of them. The Clippers will be close behind.

In the end, I can't get past the half-empty glass. Baron Davis has been a shot of adrenalin for this team and its fans, but he's no Jason Kidd circa 2003. He's no Reggie Miller circa 1996. He's a perennial Borderline All Star who has happened to be in a good mood for the past half year. If he wills them to the playoffs, then congratulations should be posted right away, 'cause it'll be four and out against the Spurs. If they don't make the playoffs, then let the annual lottery watch begin. I was at a Giants game at Candlestick when the JumboTron displayed footage of the Warriors being awarded the third pick of the 1993 draft. A rumble, then a roar went up. That's right, a roar. We deserve a good team. It's just not happening this year.


Blogger Greg said...

A whole post dedicated to the Warriors. Awesome.

Man, I used to love the Warriors back in the day. Run TMC, Hardaway's UTEP two-step, etc.

Then Don Nelson went and traded away Chris Webber and ruined basketball for me. It was a Michigan fan and a Warrior fan's dream. Shattered by a fat guy with awful hair and the inability to coach a basketball team. Ah well. Nice post though. I hope B.Davis is the spark the Warriors need.

12:19 PM  

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