As training camp gets set to begin, it is apparent that no more trades will occur before the season starts, and the team we have now is the one we will go to war with. Stephen Jackson confirmed as much in his presser yesterday. A lot of interesting moves occurred this offseason, but in sum they did not amount to the makeover that many, including myself, were looking for. Jamal Crawford was removed for expiring contracts. He was picked up initially as insurance against Monta being unable to play, and as it became apparent that Monta would recover fully, there was simply no place for him on the team. He’s too good, and too expensive, to be a part-timer. Stephen Curry was drafted, not for need, but because Nellie views him as a great basketball player, and possibly the point guard of the future. Marco Belinelli was moved for Devean George. As with Crawford, there was simply no room for the Italian Bird on the team. Anthony Morrow (and Stephen Curry) beat him out for the role of shooter off the bench. The addition of George, as well as free agent Mikki Moore, signals the intent of Don Nelson to play bigger this year, and to raise the intensity on defense.
The big move that fell through, Biedrins for Stoudemire, could have been a game changer. But I have very high hopes for the roster we have, contingent upon the play of the Warriors’ two emerging stars, Monta Ellis and Anthony Randolph. If Ellis returns to his form of two years ago, and Randolph proves his summer league performance was no fluke, we will have one of the most exciting teams in the league. We will almost certainly have the fastest team in the league end to end. Is there another point guard in the league faster than Monta Ellis? A power forward faster than Anthony Randolph? A center faster than Andris Biedrins? This team will fly.
But there is something else special about this emergent team that no one — not the media, not the bloggers, and not the fans — is currently anticipating. This team, for the first time since Nellie took over the reins, has the pieces to play real defense. With the addition of the now 7′ tall Anthony Randolph to the lineup, we suddenly have one of the longest front lines in basketball. Randolph, Biedrins and Turiaf are all terrific shot blockers, and eager, hard-nosed and mobile defenders. If, as I anticipate, Nellie goes with Azubuike in the starting lineup alongside Jackson, then the Warriors lineup will feature 4 quality defenders. When you add defensive specialists Mikke Moore and Devean George to the mix off the bench, you have the makings of a team that can be pretty special defensively.
While lighting it up on the offensive end. I’ll give a more detailed forecast of the Western Conference in a later post, but for now I’ll simply say that I am convinced that this Warriors team is a playoff contender.