Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
As we prepare for tonight’s super-huge important game between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Golden State Warriors, I thought it would be a good idea to take some time and talk to Nate Parham of Golden State of Mind about where the Warriors are at right now, and just how good this Warriors team is.
The other part of this conversation is a conversation I had with Nate about how the Rudy Gay trade affects the Griz-Warriors matchup.
Our questions are in bold, followed by Nate’s answers. Be sure to check out GSoM for anything and everything Warriors-related, and a big thanks to Nate for answering our questions.
So many of the Warriors’ issues the past two or three seasons have seemed to boil down to health. Is that still the case, or has some of that gotten worked out?
Well, it’s impossible to say the Warriors are past the days of injuries being a problem when Andrew Bogut still isn’t playing everyday - he’s missed substantial time, obviously, and Stephen Curry has missed time here and there this season after tweaking his ankle.
The bigger thing is that the pieces of this team just fit together far better than any Warriors team in two decades (and probably even before that in terms of pure complementarity). Curry and David Lee are having All Star caliber seasons, of course, but when Klay Thompson is hitting from deep, Harrison Barnes is able to get to the basket, they’re moving the ball offensively and the bigs are rebounding well this team is just hard to beat.
Over the past few seasons, any injury to a starter was just devastating; the most pleasant surprise of this season is that they remained right in the thick of the playoff race playing essentially without Bogut.
How badly does this team miss Monta Ellis? Is it something that even occurs to fans, "man, if only we still had Monta Ellis"?
To answer your second question first, I do know that some fans miss Ellis - I recall leaving Oracle Arena after a win recently and some fan lamenting that Ellis wasn’t still in uniform.
Monta Ellis was exciting to watch, he played hard on offense, and he was a link to the We Believe team that broke that absurdly long playoff drought. There were times when it did feel that Ellis was the only guy on the roster who could create his own shot consistently and that matters. Of all the things that contributed to losing during his tenure in the Bay, it was hard to ever blame him; if anything, Ellis was a guy who could keep things exciting. So if you’re looking for that one dude who can get you a bucket in iso set after iso set, yes, the team misses Ellis.
But I’d find it really, really difficult to look at the team’s record now and that during Ellis’ tenure after the Baron Davis era and say that the team "misses" him at all. Without going too deeply into how the team’s dynamics have changed with the departure of Ellis, they’re winning games and in the playoff hunt now. It’s hard to ask for anything more than the team has given us this season.
Tonight’s game will probably go a long way to framing those sort of expectations, but I have to say that the Grizzlies are less scary to the Warriors now than before for the simple fact that it feels like the Warriors bring out the best in Gay - he has averaged more points against the Warriors than any team in his career (21 PPG) on 47.8% shooting. Not bad. So taking away that slashing wing threat feels like a relief, no matter what his other faults might be.
The fact remains that the Warriors have just been beaten on the interior in the first two meetings though so it’s only cautious optimism that things will indeed get better for the Warriors in this matchup now.
What’s the ceiling for this year’s team? Are fans expecting more than just "make it to the playoffs"? Are you?
I have to be honest: I was not expecting this team to be nearly this good, particularly playing so much without Bogut. So I’ll be happy just to be able to watch my squad in the playoffs. Winning a round? That’s gravy to me.
Personally, I’d put the ceiling at a second round playoff appearance. But the ceiling for this unit this year is really hard to identify, and I don’t mean that in a purely homerific sense - they’re still right in the mix for the fourth seed and Bogut isn’t even playing consistently yet. Without Bogut, they’ve won their series with the Clippers 3–1. They’ve beaten OKC and Miami as well. So the ceiling with Bogut playing everyday in game shape? I can’t sit here and tell you they’re contenders after losing as badly as they did earlier this week to Houston and OKC, but they’re a team that can clearly challenge the best teams in the league this year. As surprising as almost everything about this season has been, how can we count out further surprises?
Again, a big thanks to Nate Parham for taking the time to participate.