The Golden State Warriors have one of the game’s best scorers, one of its most productive double-double generators, one of its best rookies from last season, and the No. 6 overall pick in this summer’s NBA draft.
In other words, they have a lot of valuable assets, and life could certainly be a lot worse in Northern California. But it remains to be seen whether the mere presence of Monta Ellis, David Lee, Stephen Curry and Ekpe Udoh will translate into wins. Last year, the Warriors only stacked up 26, and they’d sure love to improve on that figure this season.
2009-10 Record: 26-56 (fourth in Pacific Division, 13th in Western Conference, missed playoffs)
Celtics’ record vs. Warriors: 195-128 all time, 1-1 last season
Familiar faces: Coach Don Nelson (played for Celtics for 11 seasons), Jeremy Lin (graduated from Harvard this spring)
Key additions: David Lee (sign-and-trade with Knicks), Lin (undrafted free agent), Ekpe Udoh (draft), Dan Gadzuric, Charlie Bell (both traded from Bucks), Jannero Pargo (free agent), Dorell Wright (free agent)
Key losses: Ronny Turiaf, Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike (all traded to Knicks for Lee), Corey Maggette (traded to Bucks for Gadzuric and Bell), Raja Bell (signed by Jazz), Anthony Morrow (traded to Nets), C.J. Watson (traded to Bulls)
Burning question: Will David Lee be a good fit?
The Warriors have a lot invested in their hopes that the Lee experiment will work out in Golden State.
For starters, there’s the $80 million that they plan on paying him over the next six years. And then when you consider the Warriors gave up a package of Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike, Ronny Turiaf and a future second-round pick in a sign-and-trade deal with the Knicks to acquire Lee, the expectations are only going to build higher.
But it’s more than that. Taking Lee on is a big risk because it may redefine the Warriors’ style — Don Nelson runs a running, gunning, fast-paced team. His guys are athletes if nothing else. And Lee has never been a guy praised for his athleticism — he gets by on intelligence, instinct and tremendous hustle. What does this mean? Will Lee redefine himself to fit into the Warriors’ system? Or will the Warriors rewrite their mission statement to revolve around Lee?
It’s not as though Lee is the only piece of the puzzle in Golden State. Ellis averaged 25.5 points per game last season, and Curry showed tremendous promise as a rookie. But a lot depends on how Lee manages to gel with the talent around him. If it works, the Warriors have a solid nucleus to build around for the next six years. But if it backfires, they’re in trouble.
2010-11 outlook: They’re getting there, they really are. But if you’re asking this ragtag group of youngsters and journeymen to make the playoffs in a jam-packed Western Conference, you’re asking a lot. This Warriors team will improve on last season, as Curry continues to grow and Lee begins to make himself at home in Golden State. But they’re still a couple of years and a couple of extra pieces away from being contenders. Patience is a virtue, and the Warriors shouldn’t lose sight of that.
Did you know? The Warriors haven’t had an All-Star since Latrell Sprewell made the Western Conference squad in 1997. Ellis, Lee and Curry all have a chance to help the franchise buck that trend this winter.