Season preview: G.S. Warriors
The Warriors' most pressing question: Can they thrive without a proven PG?
Scoring shouldn't be much of a problem, even after Baron Davis' departure
Don Nelson and team president Chris Mullin both enter the season as lame ducks
SI.com will analyze each of the NBA's 30 teams as regular-season tip-off approaches. For a complete list of team-by-team breakdowns, click here. The information in the "Go figure" category below is provided by Roland Beech of 82games.com.
Warriors at a glance
Last season: 48-34
Notable additions: Corey Maggette (FA), Marcus Williams (trade with Nets), Ronny Turiaf (FA), Anthony Randolph (R)
Notable losses: Baron Davis (signed with Clippers), Mickael Pietrus (signed with Magic)
Coach: Don Nelson (367-334 in 9½ seasons with Warriors, including 90-74 since returning to the team in 2006; 1,232-920 overall in 29 NBA seasons)
Reasons for hope
1. They still have weapons. The loss of Davis hurts, but the Warriors return several important players from a team that won 48 games a year ago while leading the NBA in scoring (111 points per game). Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis, Al Harrington, Andris Biedrins and Kelenna Azubuike combined to average nearly 75 points. With Maggette capable of replacing Davis' scoring production (21.8 points last season), Golden State should have more than enough firepower to keep scoreboard operators busy. "We're still going to play up-tempo," Nelson said. "That's not going to change."
2. Maggette can fill it up. After Davis opted out of the last year (and $17.8 million) of his contract to take a five-year, $65 million deal with the Clippers, the Warriors retaliated by signing Maggette to a five-year, $50 million deal. While they might have overpaid, the 6-foot-6 swingman is a pure scorer who averaged 22.1 points, 5.6 boards and 2.7 assists last season and should thrive in Nelson's fast-paced style. Maggette's ability to get to the foul line (and cash in) also will be welcomed.
3. The mad scientist is in the lab. Nelson is not the second-winningest coach in NBA history by accident. Now in his 30th season on the bench, the three-time Coach of the Year knows how to mix and match personnel to build winning clubs. Nelson admits he might have to do more teaching this season with Davis gone and six key players under age 23, but his vast experience and willingness to experiment mean the Warriors can't be counted out.
Reasons for worry
1. They don't have a QB. Davis' departure leaves the Warriors without a proven point guard. Ellis was supposed to be the guy, but the 6-3 combo guard tore up his ankle in a moped accident this summer and will miss at least the first month of the season. Williams has been a backup his first two seasons. C.J. Watson played sparingly as a rookie last season. Barring a trade for an established playmaker, Golden State could find itself with all those scorers on the floor and nobody to get them the ball.
2. About that defense ... The Warriors ranked last in points allowed (108.8) and 25th in field-goal-percentage defense (46.8) last season. While much of their struggles are due to the small lineups favored by Nelson, they still lack the personnel to match up defensively against most teams. Turiaf should help some, but Maggette has never been considered a good defender and it is highly doubtful that young forwards Brandan Wright or Randolph will be able to step in and handle opposing big men.
3. Nellie has one foot out the door. In the final season on his contract, the 68-year-old Nelson is a lame duck. So is team president Chris Mullin, who lured the old coach out of retirement in Hawaii a few years ago to help turn around Golden State's fortunes. Nelson faces a big challenge trying to deal with strong personalities like Jackson, Harrington and Maggette, as well as teach youngsters such as Williams, Wright, Randolph and Marco Belinelli, especially if those players feel he won't be around next season. "It doesn't matter if I'm on a one-year or a 10-year [contract]," Nelson countered. "I'm in charge. There's no lame duck in me." Maybe so, but will his players go along?
Keep an eye on ...
Ellis' return. Ellis' injury means the fourth-year guard not only won't be able to provide his 20 points a game through November but also that he won't have the chance to use training camp to get acclimated to the point guard position. Even if Ellis makes a timely return, it seems fair to wonder if he will ever be comfortable in that role the rest of the season.
With Davis on the court last season, the Warriors averaged 113.9 points per 100 possessions compared to 106.2 points when he was on the bench.
It's dangerous to count out a Nelson-coached team, especially one with the kind of firepower these Warriors possess. But Golden State is without a trigger man for its unconventional attack, and the interior defense remains a question mark. Add in Nelson's uncertain future, and it looks like another season out of the playoffs in the Bay Area.
Sports Illustrated's NBA preview issue will be on newsstands Wednesday, Oct. 22.