Today at ESPN.com Chad Ford has an article detailing why the Golden State Warriors are going to be the surprise team of the year much like Phoenix was last year. He argues that Baron Davis will be the catalyst to spark a running and gunning team and that wing mates Jason Richardson and Troy Murphy will fill the lanes on breaks while others like Mike Dunleavy rain down the open threes. This is a nice article, but it is flawed for many reasons.
Firstly this resurgence depends on Baron Davis, and of late Baron Davis has been anything but dependable. Take a look at how many games Baron has played per season over his career:
'99-00 - 82
'00-01 - 82
'01-02 - 82
'02-03 - 50
'03-04 - 67
'04-05 - 46 (played 18 games with the Hornets and 28 games with the Warriors)
Supposedly Baron showed up to camp last year out of shape and unhappy about not being traded out of camp, and this year his weights down and his knees and back are rested. I remember a similar story before the 2003-004 season about Baron whipping himself into shape by running five miles a day, working out intensely, and eating a low carb diet that was heavy on fish. That was supposed to make him an iron man and help him tear through the season making the Hornets dark horse contenders. Baron didn't make it through that year unscathed, and since the 2001-2002 season, he hasn't played a lot of games. What makes Chad Ford think that a player with back problems (oh, those go away easily) and knee issues is going to be ready to remold one of the leagues worst franchises? There's a reason New Orleans was willing to dump Davis for Speedy Claxton and Dale Davis last year. He's damaged goods and comes at a high price, Baron's $85 million dollar contract has four years and $65 million dollars remaining on it. Baron can opt out of his contract in 2008, but that's unlikely given the his breakdown in physical health the last few years. When healthy, Baron is certainly an elite point guard who is also physical and a great scorer. Sadly though, Baron is rarely healthy and his penchant for playing above the rim is likely to land him on the injury list for significant stretches of this season. That's the first issue.
The second issue the players surrounding Baron on the floor. Jason Richardson is a very good shooting guard who seems to be increasing in ability with each passing year, but after that the Warriors are a little thin. Troy Murphy is a heavy, plodding power forward who while having an ability to hit threes (39.9% from downtown), doesn't exactly fit the bill of a quick and powerful fast break finisher. After Murphy the rest of the roster is filled with inexperience or unproven talent like Mike Dunleavy. The Suns of last year had a proven all-NBA point guard in Steve Nash who had led his former team deep into the playoffs. They had a certifiable freak of nature in Amare Stoudemire, a rare big man with track and field speed, power, and moon hops. He also had the hands to handle those passes from Nash making the finishes. Out on the wings the Suns had Quentin Richardson, a proven marksman and Joe Johnson, a talented player still developing. Oh and Shawn Marion has appeared in a few all-star games himself. In fact, last years Sun's had three bona-fide All-Stars who were healthy and ready to go. The Warriors have one proven All-Star who can't stay healthy and nobody of particular merit after that.
From where I sit, this years Warriors look nothing like the team that "surprised" the league last year. They look like a bunch of pretenders who are going to get the Bay Area turned on briefly, but once Baron Davis goes down (and he will) the house of cards collapses with it. Sorry Warriors fans.