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By TED SILLANPAA

The Warriors’ Stephen Curry has become the go-to, clutch-shooting star that every really good NBA team needs. It’d be foolish to think Klay Thompson can’t become a star, too, despite his early season woes. David Lee’s having a career season.

Golden State has been winning consistently because head coach Mark Jackson and assistant Pete Myers are throwback NBA tough guys who finally put together a Warriors’ team that plays defense, plays it well and doesn’t back down even when overmatched physically. And, there are lots of games where the Warriors are physically inferior, particular around the hoop.

There are still only a very few teams that I can imagine winning the NBA title. I look at things realistically, rather than simply asking myself, “Can Team A beat the Spurs? Can Team B defeat the Heat? Could the Thunder lose to Team C?” I ask myself if I can imagine any team beating the Spurs four times in seven games and think, “Well, the Warriors couldn’t, but the Thunder can.” Then, I wonder, “Is there a team that I can imagine beating the Thunder four times in a short series?” I come up with the Miami Heat. And, even with a complete inability to rebound that haunts them today, I can’t imagine any team beating the Heat in a best four-of-seven series.

That translates into my guessing that LeBron James can find four ways to make the Heat the superior team in any seven-game series. The other day he played center on defense and point guard on offense against the Timberwolves. So, it has become impossible to overestimate his value or his talent.

The Warriors are closer than any of us would have dreamed to being a team that, if the stars aligned, could win a short series against any of the teams most consider championship contenders. Longtime NBA coach Stan Van Gundy said that if the Heat were to defend its title playing small, with pencil-thin Chris Bosh at center, it would be the first team to go small and win an NBA title in his memory. (Van Gundy knows the game. I believe him.)

That leads us to the Warriors. If guys like Van Gundy believe teams have to rebound and protect the rim to win the NBA title, the Warriors have to figure out how to win without relying on playing Lee at center with four perimeter players beside him. That makes for the best collection of talent that the Warriors can put on the court, but it makes it hard to rebound and defend the lane.

So, the Warriors have their star … they have their veteran having a career year and they have two rookie small forwards in Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green who can actually defend the great wing players in the NBA. They just need to be able to find a lineup that includes a guy to guard the lane and the rim that still enables them to win consistently. (Even when they find that big guy, the other four players have to slam the boards, too. Every possession.)

It doesn’t appear that Andrew Bogut will be back healthy any time soon. If the Warriors had Bogut, at his healthiest and best, they’d be just a notch below the Thunder and Spurs as NBA Western Conference contenders. Without Bogut, rookie Festus Ezeli becomes the player the Warriors need to become an increasingly effective part of the offense because he, alone, has the physical presence and skill to block shots, rebound and defend in the post.

This is in no way a knock on the Warriors. No way. For Jackson to have the club playing well enough that they’re a big man away from becoming legitimate championship contenders is amazing and worthy of praise.

They just need Ezeli to mature faster and faster every week — and they need to keep hoping against hope that Andris Biedrins can find ways to contribute under the hoop long after his once promising career fell to pieces.

If the athletic, hulking Ezeli can become a shot-blocking, rebounder who can defend the best NBA post men … the Warriors could, I would imagine, beat lots of NBA playoff teams in a best-of-seven series.

Who would ever have dreamed Warriors fans could have such heady thoughts right now?

 

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Comments

6 Comments

  1. swiller

    If Bogut can come in before the playoffs (with a half dozen warm up games), that seems the best and only chance this team has to go far. The Warriors will continue to play good exciting ball in the regular season to secure a rare playoff birth. A healthy Bogut is required for any deep playoff chances.
    Ezeli will be a great luxury off the bench. Harrison Barnes is going to really bust out soon too. Excited about the Ws in January..Wahoo!

    January 22nd, 2013 2:15 pm

  2. overtime

    Swill…I guess we’ll have to see where they wind up in the playoff seedings, too. It’s conceivable they can meet a team early they can beat without their having a guy in the middle and the ability to run a halfcourt offense through the post. Ted

    January 22nd, 2013 3:29 pm

  3. Jaws

    I am just excited to be having these discussions about the warriors. As I ponder what could have been with a healthy Bogut and Rush for the full season

    January 23rd, 2013 12:05 am

  4. overtime

    Jaws…I hope you’ll read and continue to share your thoughts. I’ve followed the Warriors from the time I was a kid … when Rick Barry was a kid. So, the fact that the Warriors finally have an interesting, tough, competitive team that’s been put together wisely is of great interest here. TED

    January 23rd, 2013 12:49 pm

  5. Jaws

    I am with u started watching as a kid and never gave up on the team..tonight beating OKC was a treat I believe like u said they are a tough smart center like Bogut away from truly contending

    January 23rd, 2013 11:40 pm

  6. overtime

    Jaws…It was an interesting game from a different kind of Warriors team, that’s for sure. As I listen to endless rants from supposed experts who explain exactly what types of talents a team needs to win, I often recall the 1974-75 Warriors NBA titlists. They had Rick Barry, a legitimate superstar, and a group of players even a big fan like I was at that point knew little about. Teams no one expects will or can do well in the postseason sometimes do really well. So … we probably ought to keep that in mind when the Warriors manage to beat a team as good as OKC. TED

    January 24th, 2013 1:10 pm

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