As the season progresses, the odds that the Golden State Warriors will have a spot in the 2013 postseason just keep getting better and better.
Experts often expect them to regress, but every time it looks like they might be headed in that direction, they quickly right the ship with a few key wins. Granted, the Warriors have not ensured themselves of a playoff berth just yet, but things are certainly looking very bright at the moment. This begs the question: Assuming the Warriors do reach the postseason, what kind of damage can they once they get there?
Probably a little more than you think.
Because the Warriors are in their first season of being a good team and they don’t have a full-blown “superstar” (although Stephen Curry and David Lee are very close), it’s easy to write this team off as a surefire first-round loser. Don’t be so hasty, though. They match up pretty well against a lot of the top teams in the Western Conference.
If the playoffs started today, the Warriors would be matched up against the Memphis Grizzlies, who have one of the toughest defenses in the NBA. Essentially, a series like this would be the ultimate battle of offensive and defensive prowess. If the Grizzlies could disrupt the Warriors flow, and force them to take bad shots, they would likely be victorious.
But if the Warriors play their normal brand of energetic basketball and the Grizzlies are forced to match them basket for basket, we could see Memphis go down fairly quickly. If this series were to happen, it would likely come down to who could control the tempo of the game. The team that is most comfortable will the style of basketball being played will have the best shot.
Now, suppose the Warriors do vanquish the Grizzlies, or whoever their first-round opponent ends up being., where would they go from there? If they hang on to the No 5 seed they currently occupy, that would mean a matchup against the top seed would be eminent in the conference semifinals (unless the No. 8 seed pulls off an upset, which seems unlikely).
That could be any of the current top three teams in the West–the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs or Los Angeles Clippers. Let’s break down each matchup and see how the Warriors might do.
Suppose they draw the Spurs. That would certainly be a challenge. The Spurs are the most well-coached team in the NBA (or at least tied with the Chicago Bulls) and their veteran players have yet to show any serious signs of wear and tear. Still, the Warriors could likely hang around with them simply due to the potency of their offense. The Spurs rely on the excellent shooting of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, as well as the abundance of 3-point shooters on their roster.
The Warriors, however, could likely match them in that department. Curry is a deadly 3-point shooter and just a great scorer in general. Klay Thompson has continually improved as well, while the energetic bench tandem of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry rarely struggles to put points on the board.
Additionally, if Andrew Bogut is healthy, he could take on Tim Duncan and prevent him from being his usual dominant self. Meanwhile, Lee would draw a matchup against Tiago Splitter or Boris Diaw, neither of whom could do a great deal of damage. Hard as it may to be to believe, a healthy Warriors team would have a decent shot against the Spurs, assuming their lack of playoff experience doesn’t become too problematic.
And what about the Thunder? Well, that would be tricky, because Oklahoma City has Kevin Durant, who is one of the two best players in the league and is capable of taking over a series by himself. The Warriors, while not horrible on defense, do not have have the kind of defenders who could stop a player like Durant. This means they would have to win the series by outscoring the Thunder, which is not a completely unreasonable thought.
They are a deeper team and have a stronger bench, which may be enough to overcome the dominant presence of Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Warriors would not be favored in this matchup, but their depth and their offensive prowess are enough to keep them from being counted out,
Finally, the Clippers. This would be an amazing point guard duel between Curry and Chris Paul. CP3 would have to be favored in that matchup since he has more experience, is a far superior passer and plays much better defense. Still, Curry is one of those players who can thrive in a way that defies logic once he gets hot. If he can be his usual deadly self from beyond the arc, the Curry-Paul duel could get very interesting.
We’d also see a fascinating front court match-up between Lee and Blake Griffin. Both players thrive in the post, although Griffin is considerably more aggressive with his constant dunking. Once again, if Bogut is healthy, he would draw the matchup with the high-scoring Griffin, while Lee would be given the considerably easier task of guarding DeAndre Jordan.
Still, this would be a good showdown because Lee and Griffin have very similar stats and the result might come down to who can outlast the other and who ends up wilting. Lee doesn’t get the recognition that Griffin does, but he should hardly be taken lightly in this matchup.
Really, there’s no team who the Warriors would have absolutely no chance against. Now, this isn’t to say we should make them the favorites, because they would have to overcome some obstacles to get out of the first round, much less challenge the favorites later on, but they shouldn’t be written off either. This is a deep, talented, fast-paced team that no in the West should be ignoring.
Maybe they’ll be victims of their inexperience, or the Grizzlies’ killer defense, but they’re just talented enough to make a serious playoff run. Everyone else in the West should take notice.
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