Warriors general manager Bob Myers believes he has put together a roster that has a real chance to win the NBA title. He also knows so much has to go Golden State’s way between now and June for that to happen.
The streaky Warriors (25-15) will hit the season’s halfway point tonight at Oklahoma City, and they’re still as tough as any team to figure out. Golden State has shown it has the potential to achieve the league’s ultimate prize — or just as easily fall far short.
“Until you’ve actually seen success in the playoffs with your roster, it’s hard to predict what success may or may not come,” Myers said. “I think certain teams that have been there before like the Heat and the Spurs who are bringing back the same core, of course they know those rosters work. We’re still figuring that out.”
The Warriors proved in the playoffs last year that, when healthy, they could beat anybody. They’ve done just that for most of this season, too, putting together even longer stretches of success.
Golden State is 20-5 when its regulars — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut — are in the starting lineup. The Warriors also are among the league’s best defensive teams in opponents’ field-goal percentage (second), rebounding differential (third) and points allowed per 100 possessions (fourth).
“It’s scary to think how good we are when we click on all cylinders,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said.
But there are still troubling trends, too.
The Warriors average 17 turnover per game, the second most in the NBA. The bench also ranks at or near the bottom in almost every efficiency category, though Golden State is counting on a rejuvenated Jordan Crawford — acquired in a trade from Boston on Wednesday — to shore up the spot behind Curry the way Toney Douglas never could.
Some of those growing pains were expected after standout reserves Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry departed in free agency, when the Warriors opted to sign Iguodala to a four-year, $48 million deal instead. Harrison Barnes is still adjusting to his role off the bench after starting as a rookie, and Golden State is counting on the 21-year-old forward to blossom again this spring.
Even with the reserves struggling, the Warriors put together a 10-game winning streak — with seven victories coming on the road. Other times, such as a 123-116 home loss to Denver on Wednesday night, the Warriors fuel fodder that maybe they’re still a flawed team.
“We’re worried all the time,” Myers said. “I’m never not worried. I’ll be worried tonight. I’ll be worried tomorrow. That’s what we do. We’re always trying to get better.”
Few expected the Warriors, who had made the playoffs just once since 1994, to make the postseason last year. Winning — and winning big — would surprise nobody now.
The Warriors are on pace for 50 wins, three more than last season — when they earned the Western Conference’s sixth seed, upset Denver in the first round and lost to San Antonio in six games.
“If you look at last year, we went to Miami, we expected to have a shot to win the game. Our celebration at the end of the game was like, ‘Wow. We won. We got it done,’” said Curry, who’s likely to make the All-Star team for the first time. “This year we went down there and won the game and we had a sense of like, ‘This is what we’re supposed to do.’”
Perhaps most importantly, the Warriors are healthy at a time when so many other top teams are coping with injuries to star players — notably Oklahoma City (Russell Westbrook), the Los Angeles Clippers (Chris Paul) and Los Angeles Lakers (Kobe Bryant) in the West.
Iguodala missed 12 games with a left hamstring injury but has been every bit the player the Warriors had hoped since he returned. Jermaine O’Neal (left wrist) is likely out another two to three weeks, and fellow backup center Festus Ezeli (right knee) should return in March to give the bench another boost.
If the Warriors can just keep their core healthy, they believe they have as good a shot as anybody to chase a championship.
“We got a long way to go,” Myers said. “We still have a lot of tough games coming up. We learn something every night by watching the team. It’s still a group of guys who haven’t played that many games together. So we’ll see how cohesive they become and hopefully improve as the season goes on.