Golden State came into this season with a load of confidence.
Stephen Curry became a superstar in the playoffs last year as the world was exposed to the Splash Brothers phenomenon. Head coach Mark Jackson led the Warriors to the second round of the playoffs and seemed to be one of the profession's young stars. And after signing Andre Iguodala in the offseason, they were supposed to break through and be one of the Western Conference's elite.
Turns out things weren't so ripe for the picking in Golden State. A slow start to the season started raising questions about Jackson's ability to take this team to the next level that have resurfaced here down the stretch.
The Warriors have ended up with the sixth seed in the West, exactly the same spot they were in last year. They'll face the surging Los Angeles Clippers in the first round, but they'll be without starting center Andrew Bogut, as he's out indefinitely with a broken rib.
All the signs are pointing to a disappointing postseason in the Bay Area, but can Curry & Co. come through?
Golden State pretty much knows what they're going to get from Curry and Thompson on any given night, but Lee is this team's wild card. The Western Conference is full of high-quality big men, and the Warriors have center Andrew Bogut to defend them. However, he's out indefinitely with a broken rib.
Lee usually handles a vast majority of Golden State's inside scoring and is their one real low post presence on the offensive end, but he can be easily exposed defensively. He's going to have to be sharp in all aspects of the game for the Warriors to be successful.
Golden State plays matches up fairly evenly with most of the other top teams in the West, but they hold a distinct advantage over the Trail Blazers. Curry has the ability to neutralize Portland's star point guard Damian Lillard, and the defensive combination of Bogut and Lee hamper LaMarcus Aldridge.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, these two teams wouldn't play each other until the Western Conference Finals, which is highly unlikely. Golden State will play the Clippers in the first round whom they split the season series with at two games apiece. Both teams are deep, athletic, and play up-tempo basketball, and the Warriors may be able to pull the upset if the Splash Brothers can catch fire.
The Spurs bounced the Warriors from the playoffs a season ago, and followed that up by sweeping the regular season series between the two teams. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich is really good at creating a defensive scheme that really frustrates both Curry and Thompson, essentially cutting the head of Golden State's offense.
The contrast of styles between the two teams also plays a big factor in the Spurs' success. San Antonio can slow the tempo of the game down, which makes the Warriors' high-octane offense a little bit more normal.
Golden State gets a great first round series from the Splash Brothers as they pull the upset over the Clippers and face OKC in the second round. Russell Westbrook's injury flares up and keeps him out of the series, allowing Curry to go bonkers from long range and carry the Warriors to another playoff upset. They advance to face the Rockets, not the Spurs, in the conference finals where they win a toss-up seven game series but lose to Miami or Indiana in the Finals.
The Warriors go cold from the field against the Clippers as Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan dominate the paint and LA wins the series in five or six games.
I expect the Clippers-Warriors series to be one of the closest and most exciting of the entire postseason, but I also don't see the Warriors winning. Both teams are nearly identical in terms of their style of play, but Los Angeles is just a little bit deeper and a little more talented.
To read Brian Rauf’s work on the go, make sure to check out the Chat Sports mobile app – download here!
Next NBA Playoff Preview
Memphis Grizzlies - What can Memphis do for an encore after last year's Cinderella run?
Back to the NBA Newsfeed