After months of uncertainty and questions of whether there will even be one, the 2011-12 NBA season finally gets underway Sunday.
The Golden State Warriors will be one of 10 teams to play on opening day. The Warriors open at home against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Warriors had a very active offseason.
Owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber brought in Jerry West as an executive board member. Rick Welts was hired as president and chief operating officer. Agent Bob Myers was hired to be the next general manager-in waiting and Mark Jackson was hired as head coach.
Kwame Brown was the big free agent pickup. The Warriors traded for Brandon Rush and had a solid draft with Klay Thompson, Charles Jenkins and Jeremy Tyler.
So what can we expect from the Warriors, who finished last season with a 36-46 record?
Redefining “rookie head coach”
Although Jackson has zero coaching experience, he played point guard in the NBA for 17 seasons and made the playoffs 14 times. Jackson has been coached by some of the best ever, including Lou Carnesecca, Rick Pitino, Larry Brown and Pat Riley.
Jackson has the knowledge of the game and knows what it takes to win. He will have the Warriors mentally and physically prepared for each game. There will be no locker room issues because Jackson will be respected by the players.
Jackson has made defense a priority and having Michael Malone as his lead assistant will help immensely. Malone is known as a defensive guru and will be a great asset for Jackson.
Jackson has said he will hold players accountable on defense. So far, all the Warriors seem to have bought into Jackson’s defensive philosophy. But will the Warriors be successful?
The Warriors still have an undersized starting backcourt. Brown and Ekpe Udoh are the Warriors’ two best defenders. Doesn’t exactly inject fears into the opponent. If Andris Biedrins can play like he did in the final preseason game against the Sacramento Kings, without the foul troubles, he will help.
We’ll see what Jackson and Malone can come up with defensively. The Clippers will provide an immediate test.
The Warriors will start the season with 14 players on the roster.
Stephen Curry –Curry has the most to gain from Jackson as head coach. Right ankle will be a concern all season.
Monta Ellis – Elllis led the NBA in shots per game the last two seasons. He won’t be this season.
Andris Biedrins – Biedrins will bounce back this season, but how much?
David Lee – No matter what numbers Lee put up, his contract will always be questioned.
Dorell Wright – Wright won’t come close to making 194 3-pointers this season.
Kwame Brown – How patient will the fans be with Brown, the big offseason acquisition?
Klay Thompson – Thompson shot 6 of 25 in the preseason and missed all eight of his attempts from 3-point range.
Ekpe Udoh – Udoh showed a bit of a post game in the preseason.
Ish Smith – Smith is by far the quickest Warrior on the roster.
Brandon Rush – Rush’s value is his versatility.
Dominic McGuire – McGuire can play the 3 or the 4.
Charles Jenkins – Jenkins will provide some toughness off the bench.
Jeremy Tyler – How much playing time will Tyler see?
Chris Wright – Wright showed some potential in the final preseason game.
PG – S. Curry, I. Smith, C. Jenkins
SG – M. Ellis, B. Rush, K. Thompson
SF – D. Wright, D. McGuire
PF – D. Lee, E. Udoh, C. Wright
C – A. Biedrins, K. Brown, J. Tyler
The Warriors have a tough schedule to open the season. Seven of the first 10 games will be against playoff teams from last season.
From the two preseason games, differences can already be seen from last season.
The Warriors are not putting up as many 3s and are looking to pass more in order to get a higher percentage shot. There are more intensity on defense, especially from Biedrins.
The Warriors will have a deeper bench this season, which isn’t saying much. But it will help the Warriors down the stretch when they have to play four games in five nights, including a back-to-back-to-back, in a lockout-shortened 66-game season.
Since the day he was hired, Jackson hasn’t changed his stance that the Warriors will be a playoff team this season. With how young the roster is and the way it’s constructed, it’s difficult to see the Warriors being one of the top eight teams in the Western Conference.
The Warriors gave Jackson his long-awaited coaching opportunity in the NBA. How will he do?
Jackson will make a difference, but not enough. The Warriors finish 31-35 and miss the playoffs. However, the Warriors are on the right track.
Follow Philip on Twitter.