Looking ahead to tonight’s home game against the Memphis Grizzlies (7:30 p.m., CSN-BA), let’s look at what we’ve learned about this team through the first three games of the season.
1. The Warriors are better than we thought
I think this is true. Most people had the Warriors winning 35 games, and I still think that’s about right. But I think that prediction looks more attainable now than it did before the season. When I predicted 35 wins, I thought it was an optimistic projection. After watching this team through three games, I feel that with a healthy roster, 35 wins is more than attainable.
2. The Warriors are in the upper tier of the Western Conference lottery teams
Read over that sentence again and it seems like a backhanded compliment. But considering where the Warriors have been the past couple seasons, it demonstrates progress, which is all fans should hope for. Already, the Warriors have beaten the Rockets and the Clippers. They demonstrated impressive offense against the Rockets and were good on both ends of the floor against the Clippers. Tonight’s game will be a good test. Memphis is an up-and-coming team that some think could challenge for the final playoff spot in the West (though I think that’s a stretch). Right now, they look like a better team than the Warriors. A victory tonight could be the best win of the season.
3. The defense is still a work in progress
And that’s being kind. The Warriors have played three games this season and in two, their defense has stunk. The defense looked really good against the Clippers, but if the Warriors want to improve their defense — and they must improve their defense if they want to climb that ladder in the West — they have to bring consistent effort. It wasn’t there against the Rockets and it certainly was nonexistent against the Lakers.
4. David Lee is fantastic and frustrating at the same time
Lee is really fun to watch on offense. He hustles, he’s more athletic than you’d think, he’s an intelligent offensive player. But when you put him against a good defensive power forward or a good defense geared to take him out of the game, that might be his kryptonite. He was miserable against Pau Gasol and the Lakers. In addition, his defense is really poor. It’s not for lack of effort, I think Lee tries hard on that end of the court. He’s just not good. I don’t know if that will ever change. So, Lee brings a lot of good to the table, which I think outweighs the bad. But the jury’s still out.
5. Dorrell Wright was a good signing
He came cheap (3 years, $11 million) and has been the best story on the Warriors this season. Wright is the Warriors’ best defensive player, he is better-than-advertised on offense and he’s a solid rebounder from the SF position. What more can you ask for? I don’t think he’s the Warriors’ best player, I just think that so far, he’s been the most consistent and the most valuable. He’s averaging 19 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal and a block per game. I don’t know if he keeps up that production, but so far, it’s much more than I expected from him.
6. Stephen Curry is very valuable
Curry went down with an ankle injury against the Clippers and missed the next game against the Lakers. Granted, it was the Lakers. The Warriors wouldn’t have won in L.A. even if Curry was healthy and playing. But, it’s no coincidence that the offense looked disjointed and confused against the Lakers. As much as Ellis is the Warriors’ best offensive player, Curry is the guy who makes it all work. The Warriors need him healthy.
7. Monta Ellis is maturing
Ellis has shown a lot of good things this season, notably a tendency to play within the offense more than we’ve seen in recent years. That’s very important. When Ellis is playing within the flow of the game, he’s very valuable to the team’s chances of winning. When Ellis takes over and the Warriors’ offense becomes heavy on iso — the Rockets game notwithstanding — the Warriors become a worse team. If Ellis could play every game like he did against the Clippers, it would be outstanding.
8. Is the Warriors bench still a weakness?
The bench played well against the Clippers (everybody played well against the Clippers) and were OK against the Lakers. The bench will probably be inconsistent all season. But upon further inspection, I like what I’ve seen out of Rodney Carney and Brandan Wright has been OK. If Curry comes back, that puts Reggie Williams back on the bench, which helps. It still lacks depth, but the Warriors might be able to get some help from its second unit this season.
What have you learned about the Warriors so far? If you have other thoughts on the first three games, post them in the comments field.