Better Know an Opponent: Golden State Warriors Edition

Ezra Shaw

A Question & Answer Session with Golden State of Mind

Sunday morning I had the chance to exchange emails with Golden State of Mind writer Nate Parham (here he is on twitter!) about the Warriors. Below are my questions and his answers. He also had some great questions for me I'll be sure to link here when they are posted.

Look for a Mavs-GSW preview later this afternoon!

Be sure to visit Golden State of Mind to learn more about the Warriors.

1. The Warriors are just about an eighth of the way through the season. What sort of grade would you give the team thus far?

A B minus; I think playoffs were a high-end goal for me once I saw how the rest of the Western Conference shaped up this season. So given that the Warriors could easily be 7-2 this season had a few things gone their way, I'm satisfied but they haven't necessarily exceeded expectations - they've won the games you might expect them to win and fell just short in a couple of others. When you take into account that they've done it with Andrew Bogut out or limited due to injury and suffered through some awful shooting nights, that's not that bad.

2. Injuries have hit so many Western conference teams and the Warriors are no different. How has the team responded to Brandon Rush's ACL tear and the uncertain return timetable for Andrew Bogut?

The most impressive thing about how they've responded to the Bogut and Rush injuries is that a number of players have stepped up. At center, Festus Ezeli has done just about as much as we could expect for a rookie center - having someone who can defend and rebound in the post is sort of novel in these parts. Biedrins has actually been productive on the boards this season - though not necessarily for anything else on a consistent basis - which is a huge plus. And Harrison Barnes has personally exceeded my expectations.

3. You mentioned Harrison Barnes, he "fell" to the Warriors in June's draft. How's he worked out so far?

Having watched some of Harrison Barnes' sophomore season at UNC, summer league, and the preseason, what I've liked most about him is that he learns, adjusts, and improves at a somewhat remarkable rate. Beyond his numbers over the last few games, what really stands out is that he's not settling for a lot of the off-balance, contested jumpers that lowered his shooting efficiency in college and has aggressively attacked the basket even against defenders like Andrei Kirilenko who figured to be a challenge for the rookie. His ball handling has improved dramatically and, to extend the previous point, a large part of that is him just looking more decisive about attacking gaps in the defense and not "playing around" with the ball so much.

There are some Warriors fans who look at the past 2-3 games and start to wonder how big a star Barnes can become, but right now I'm just happy that this particular team has a rookie with enormous potential due to his work ethic and basketball intelligence.

4. Tell me about Klay Thompson; he's have a rough year shooting the ball but I love his game. What's his role for the Warriors this year and what sort of player could he become?

Entering this season, I was hoping Thompson would become more of a penetrator because I wasn't entirely sure that Barnes would provide that as the other wing in the starting lineup. But with Barnes showing the ability to get to the rim and score the way he has, Thompson can settle in as more of a spot-up shooter and coming off screens.

He just has to make the shots.

I guess you can look at a second-year shooter missing shots in two ways: a) he's just regressing to the mean a bit after lighting people up while the Warriors were not-so-subtly tanking for a lottery pick last season or b) the scout has caught up to him and people are taking away his strengths and forcing him out of his comfort zone.

Or it could just be a random slump.

For now, I'm not worried - even Ray Allen misses shots occasionally - but I'd think like many other players on the team things will get better once Andrew Bogut is on the floor and his passing ability (compared to Ezeli or Biedrins) opens up the offense a little.

5. What are the goals for the Warriors this season?

As I said before, playoffs is a high-end goal for me this season and is really contingent on the health of Bogut and Curry. I think the lower bar that I'm hoping for is to get somewhere around .500, even with Bogut out. If they could do that, it would be a significant improvement over recent years since the 2007-08 season and that would be a big step forward.

Otherwise, of course you want to see the rookies develop. I'd love to see Draymond Green develop into a legit rotation player and his recent performances suggest that he's starting to adjust. Ezeli and Barnes are already starting and, at least in my opinion, exceeding the expectations I had for them at this point in the season.

But the other thing I think we'd all like to see is the Warriors beating teams they're "supposed" to beat - can they beat teams when they're at less than full strength or at a serious matchup disadvantage? Even that would be a huge step.

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