The Warriors' starting frontcourt: power forward David Lee, left, and center Andrew Bogut. By Jeff Chiu, Associated Press

Sports Illustrated’s latest issue, the 2012-13 NBA preview, projects the Warriors as the 11th seed in the West.  This blog has predicted that the Warriors will challenge for the playoffs this season, and Sports Illustrated isn’t that far off.  They don’t project wins, but they have Golden State finishing three spots out of the eighth seed, so one can assume that they would be contenders at some point during the season.

The whole thing is predicated on health as we know, particularly the nagging injury histories of point guard Stephen Curry and center Andrew Bogut. If injuries strike and those two are yanked from the equation, it’s a completely different story — the Warriors would be contending for the top spot in the lottery, not a playoff berth.

Sports Illustrated seems to agree.  In their best-case scenario, they don’t go as far as to predict a playoff berth, but insist the team would be laying “the groundwork for future playoff runs.” Their worst-case scenario projects injuries to Curry and Bogut, ending in a roster overhaul. Ouch.

What was really striking about the Warriors preview was the Enemy Lines segment, in which Sports Illustrated publishes some thoughts about the team from an anonymous rival scout. Usually these scouting reports are honest and straight-forward, but this year’s seemed particularly brutal about the Warriors.  The secret scout was especially critical of Bogut, David Lee and Andris Biedrins. Nobody disagrees with Biedrins, but Bogut and Lee are up for debate.

Here’s what the scout wrote about Bogut:

The Warriors are making Andrew Bogut out to be the face of the franchise along with Curry, but I don’t see it. Bogut is nothing special (emphasis mine). He’d be good if he was your fifth-best guy.

First, I don’t know if the Warriors are trying to make Bogut the face of the franchise with Curry. Curry is the face of the franchise, period. The Warriors’ marketing of their other players is probably split fairly evenly between Bogut, Lee and Klay Thompson. It’s also hard to imagine how someone who watches basketball for a living could characterize Bogut as “nothing special.” That seems a stretch. If you want to discredit Bogut because of his injury history, fine. But when healthy, Bogut is one of the five best centers in the NBA. He’s an elite rebounder, underrated scorer and strong defender. What more do you want from the center position, a position that has high demand and a scarcity of talent in the NBA?

The scout also found a new way to criticize Lee. If you’ve heard this criticism before, let me know know in the comments, but this is the first time I’ve ever heard it:

“Everyone says David Lee is a great guy, but talk about overrated. He’s looking for his own numbers big-time. I’m guessing he leads the league in rebounds off missed free throws. The story you hear from the Knicks is that his teammates used to call him FEMA, because he’s never there when you need him.”

Wow, if Comedy Central has an opening, they should book this guy — he’s a comedian! I love how he shares Lee’s reputation for being a good guy, only to turn around and question his character and integrity by essentially calling him a stat-hog.  The rebounds-off-missed-free-throws “guess?” I’m not sure anyone keeps track of that stat (I’m sure someone does; they keep track of everything in the NBA), but that’s the first time I’ve ever heard that accusation leveled against Lee. It’s also the first time I’ve ever heard of rebounding missed free throws as a bad thing. Would the scout prefer that Lee doesn’t try and get those rebounds? I think there are legitimate, substantial reasons to criticize Lee, his defense being first on the list.  But Lee plays hard, he cares about his teammates, and if his recent comments about being an All-Star are any indication, he at least understands that winning is the most important stat.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for the NBA season to start. I enjoy the prognostications and preseason games, but it’s time to put those away and start seeing something real by which we can judge this team and these players.

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