Golden State Warriors: 5 Players That Must Step Up In 2013-14
NBA Finals Or Bust: Who Will Answer The Call?
The Golden State Warriors have gone 38 years without an NBA Finals Championship, but their front office has irrefutably made the best moves possible to put an end to the horrendous drought.
One of the front office's most important moves this offseason was one it decided not to make. The Warriors were in on the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, but it would have taken trading either Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes. Instead, in a more astute decision, Golden State inked Andre Igoudala to a four-year deal. Add bench guys Jermaine O'Neal and Toney Douglas to the mix and this Warriors team is the best the franchise has put on the floor since winning its last Finals title.
But with plenty of quality teams in the Western Conference, a trip to the NBA Finals will be no easy ride. Each player on the Warriors will need to perform at his highest ability in order to accomplish this lofty goal. Golden State will be led by Stephen Curry, who has evolved into a top-three point guard in the NBA, and forward David Lee. The Warriors know what they will be getting out of those two men, but what can they expect from the others?
The target is an NBA Finals Championship for the Warriors this season. You'd have to think that anything less will be a disappointment for this craftily assembled squad. Here are five players that will need to strengthen their play in order for the Warriors to fulfill their towering ambitions.
5. Jermaine O'Neal
Jermaine O'Neal will not only be important to the Warriors on the court but in the locker room as well. Golden State will look no further than the 17-year veteran for leadership this upcoming season. O'Neal, a six-time All-Star, will need to provide direction and guidance for Golden State's young roster while providing quality minutes off the bench. O'Neal adds depth to the Warriors big-man crew and will need to step up in the absence of Festus Ezili, who was projected to miss 6-to-9 months after knee surgery in June.
4. Toney Douglas
Six-year veteran Toney Douglas comes to the Warriors from the Sacramento Kings trying to fill a vital hole in the Warriors roster. Former backup point guard Jarrett Jack signed a free-agent contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers during the offseason, and Douglas was brought in to fill Jack's shoes. Jack averaged 12.0 points and 5.6 assists in 29.7 minutes while receiving just four starts during his only season with the Warriors. Douglas will need to emulate those numbers to keep Golden State competitive off the bench.
3. Klay Thompson
Aside from the defensive side of his game last year, there's really no area to knock the way Klay Thompson played in his sophomore season. Thompson scored 16.6 points a game, averaging 2.6 three pointers per in 2013. He was also a huge contributor to the Warriors' postseason run. However, the Warriors will need him to step up his game on both sides of the ball even further. This is especially the case now that Harrison Barnes has sustained a left foot injury. While Barnes may not miss any time to begin the regular season, the injury may come back to haunt the Warriors later down the road and Thompson better be ready to hear his number called.
2. Andre Igoudala
There is little doubt that Andre Igoudala will have a poor season in 2013 — knock on wood — but he will have to perform like the player he has his entire career. He will have to perform like the man the Warriors front office is paying him to be. After signing a four-year deal worth $48 million, Igoudala will be under a bit of pressure to make an immediate impact for the Warriors, but rightly so. He'll need to provide the strong defense he's known for — the kind of defense from a guard position the Warriors have been hunting down for some time now. He'll have a little less pressure on his shoulders now that he won't be the No. 1 scoring option, but he shouldn't let off the pedal one bit.
1. Andrew Bogut
For years, the Golden State Warriors search for a reliable big man to anchor their abundant guard play. They've found him — Bogut is the man the Warriors have been searching for. He played in just 32 games last season for Golden State, but his 7.7 rebound average helped David Lee in the paint immensely. He elevated his game in the playoffs, averaging 10.9 rebounds and 7.2 points per game. During the two series against the Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs, Bogut showed his true importance to this franchise's success. Especially with back-up center Festus Ezeli out a good majority of the season, Bogut will need to be the healthy, consistent player the Warriors know he can be.