2018 NBA Playoff Preview: Golden State Warriors
Season Recap - The Golden State Warriors will enter the postseason as the 2nd seed in the Western Conference but will be without their starting point guard and two time MVP, Stephen Curry. They ended the season on somewhat of a sour note, going 4-6 in their last 10 games with a few embarrassing blowouts but the playoffs are an entirely different animal. The regular season was mildly disappointing due to chronic injuries to their 4 All-Stars which gave the Houston Rockets the chance to secure the 1st seed and have home-court advantage in a potential Western Conference Finals matchup. Additionally, the loss of Curry, for the time being, is a huge blow to this Golden State team. Their offense has predictably been considerably worse without him and he is expected to miss at least the first round of the playoffs.
Biggest Strength- The Warriors biggest strength is their star power and experience. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson are all All-Stars and champions whose talent alone should give them a competitive edge over most teams in the league. Steve Kerr has done a wonderful job building an offensive and defensive system that maximizes the height, length, shooting ability, and versatility of his top guys to create this juggernaut. Even without Curry, the Warriors at their peak are tough to deal with on both ends of the floor.
Biggest Weakness- What is alarming for the Warriors is their lack of depth and shooting coming off the bench. Patrick McCaw is out at least 4 weeks with a back injury and Omri Casspi was recently waived to make space for Quinn Cook, leaving the Warriors wing rotation rather thin. Shaun Livingston does not attempt 3s and Andre Iguodala is shooting an ugly 28% from deep this year. Both players bring value outside their shooting by being able to defend and make plays for others but the opposite is true for Nick Young. While he is a solid shooter who is hitting 37% of his shots from 3 this year, his defense and one-dimensional play has been disappointing for the Warriors this year. Durant and Thompson are excellent scorers but if they are facing double teams and their teammates are unable to knock down shots, the Warriors offense will suffer.
Team's X-Factor - With a healthy Stephen Curry, the Warriors are still one of the top 2 teams in the league along with the Rockets. The problem is the Warriors will most likely have to go through Houston to win another title and there are no guarantees about Curry's health. Along with the sprained MCL, he has suffered multiple ankle sprains this season that have kept him off the court. It is likely that Curry will miss at least the first round of the playoffs and maybe more if the Warriors advance further. In his absence, the Warriors will start Quinn Cook who has played well enough to earn a multi-year deal with the team after being called up from the G-League. While Cook has been good, he is nowhere near the talent that Curry is. The biggest X-factor for this team is when Steph will return and if he'll be 100% healthy when he does.
Player to Watch – Andre Iguodala is the player to watch for this team throughout the playoffs. His numbers across the board have regressed this year and it could be a sign that he will soon be on a steep decline from the defensive force he once was. He's a staple of the Warriors best lineup where they play Draymond at center but he needs to be good defensively and knock down 3s on offense in order for it to work. It is entirely possible that he will be able to ramp up his play in the postseason and be as good as he has been the past three years but either way he will be a big factor in the Warriors success.
Estimated Playoff Run - The Warriors still have great odds to win the championship this year. Even with Curry unavailable, they are a well-coached team with superstar talent and years of playoff experience. They will certainly miss their starting point guard but they have survived in the playoffs without him before and they may have to do it again. As long as Curry returns in good health before the Western Conference Finals, this team should be playing for another title in June this year.