This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.
In recent history, the NBA’s Western Conference has been superior to the Eastern Conference. The West is usually much more competitive and talented up and down the conference. This year is no different, and, if anything, the West is even more competitive. For example, there are four teams in the Western Conference that are outside of the top eight that are right around .500. In the Eastern Conference, the fourth-best team is the Boston Celtics, who have an 8-12 record.
The Golden State Warriors finally seem like a legitimate contender in the Western Conference, but with this intense competition in the West, can they survive? After so many years of mediocrity and pure dysfunction, the Warriors have a versatile roster this season, they play stellar defense, and they have established an identity and a winning culture. All of this suggests that the Warriors will be a successful team in the Western Conference. They currently have an 11-8 record, which doesn’t seem that impressive or good enough to survive in the West. However, their record doesn’t tell the whole story.
First of all, the Warriors have had one of the toughest schedules in the NBA so far this season. They have played the most road games in the Western Conference, and they’ve played the fewest games against Eastern Conference teams. After completing a four-game road trip, the Warriors played one game at home Tuesday night before heading out for a three-game road trip. The Warriors are getting tested early with their tough schedule. Therefore, their record doesn’t exactly show how good this Warriors team is.
Second, the Warriors are loaded with talent, and their record doesn’t show that either. This is arguably one of the best rosters the Warriors have ever had. They are loaded, and they can boast the fact that they have six proven starters. In the starting lineup, they have a future superstar in Stephen Curry, they have a shooter and an excellent defender in Klay Thompson, they have a versatile, complete player in Andre Iguodala, they have a consistent double-double machine in David Lee, and they have a fiery, passionate defensive anchor in Andrew Bogut.
The addition of Iguodala has made them a legitimate title contender. His versatility is extremely valuable to this team, and his presence elevates them to an elite level. He can rebound, he can pass, he can run the offense, he can push the ball in transition, and he has a high basketball IQ. His defense is the most valuable aspect of his game though. Before his injury, the Warriors were fourth in the NBA with a 96.5 defensive rating. Since then, they have a defensive rating of 106.8. The Warriors need Iguodala healthy to stay competitive in the West.
Speaking of health, the Warriors need Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry to stay healthy in order to survive in the Western Conference. Those two have been labeled as “injury-prone,” but, for the most part, they have been relatively healthy this year. Bogut has only missed one game this season, for a suspension, and Curry missed three games with a bone bruise on his left ankle and a concussion. Bogut and Curry need to each play at least 65-70 games for the Warriors to stay competitive.
The Warriors also have a fairly deep roster. With Iguodala starting, Harrison Barnes is coming off the bench now. This automatically makes the bench stronger. He’s started to adapt to the role of sixth man, and he’s really starting to excel. He is that perfect spark off the bench for the Warriors.
Before he got injured, Toney Douglas had some solid performances also. He brings his tenacious defense to the bench. Also, Draymond Green has improved significantly from last season. He lost about 15-20 pounds in the offseason, which has improved his endurance, agility, and his three-point shooting. He has been extremely valuable off the bench this season. Nemanja Nedovic started off the season slowly, but his confidence has grown a lot and he’s shown how fearless he can be. He’s out-played Kent Bazemore, so he’s been the primary backup point guard in Douglas’ absence.
Jermaine O’Neal has also been invaluable to the Warriors. On the court, he’s a stellar defender, and he can post up and pull up from mid-range. Off the court, he’s even more valuable. He provides veteran leadership, and he’s become quite the motivator. O’Neal’s toughness and passion are contagious in the Warriors’ locker room, and his presence makes the Warriors have better team chemistry.
The Warriors have a strong roster, and they’ve proven they can compete against the best teams in the West. They have matched up well with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers this season, and they hung tough in their playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs last season. It might still be tough for the Warriors to get into the top four of the Western Conference, but they are more than capable of surviving and staying competitive in the West.