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Team Preview: Golden State Warriors

The Warriors will be an interesting team to observe in the preseason and as the season starts. The Mike Montgomery era was predictably bland and sub-mediocre and now Don Nelson is on board to try and get the Warriors back to the playoffs after more than a decade. Last season was especially disappointing since they finished 04-05 with a flourish after the arrival of Baron Davis, and most predictions had them in the top 8 in the west. They got off to a fast start but won only 20 of their final 58 games, Davis shut it down and it was another lost season by the Bay. Nelson’s teams in Dallas scored lots of points, and the Warriors might just have enough fire power to run with the best of them. If the team goes with a small lineup, it could make for a whole bunch of players with fantasy relevance.

The Stud: Jason Richardson, SG
It was another year of steady improvement for J-Rich, who has established himself as one of the league’s most reliable – and anonymous – top scorers. I suppose that’s what happens when you play in Golden State for a team that has missed the playoffs in each of your five seasons and the seven before that. What allowed Richardson to make the leap last year was his emergence as one of the league’s top three-point gunners. He’s gone from 1.0 to 1.7 to 2.4 3pg in the last few seasons, and only six players hit more than him from long range last year. Throw in solid durability (he missed one four-game stretch before missing three of the season’s final seven games), plenty of minutes, being the team’s #1 option and a solid all-around game and you’ve got a borderline fantasy stud, despite his lackluster, volume shooting (including from the free throw line). J-Rich finished 35/31 on the player rater and slots as a pretty safe third round pick. Because of where he plays and because he’s never had a huge breakout, he’s never been a really hot name coming into the season and that’ll be the case again. There’s nothing wrong with safe and reliable, though.

The Support: Baron Davis, PG
And then there’s this. You might be saying, Shouldn’t he be the slacker? It’s Baron Davis, after all, the man responsible for the most ruined fantasy basketball seasons two years running. And that’s very true. He may very well miss another 30-40 games. But one thing is for sure – Baron’s coming at a discount for the first time in many years. Davis has earned a reputation as an injury-prone player who packs it in when things aren’t going his way. People are tired of him. Thanks to Yahoo’s very nifty Fantasy Profile, I was able to go back and see where Davis went in my last few drafts. Starting with last year and working backwards, here’s where he went in my league: 20, 16, 23, 19. He was a second round pick each of the last four years. That most certainly won’t be the case this year. Davis certainly wasn’t at his best when he was on the court last year, but he was still good enough to put up 17.9/4.4/8.9 with 1.9 3s and 1.7 steals. Even with his miserable shooting, those are still come crucial numbers. Baron could very well slip to the fourth or fifth round of your drafts this season. He’s still a risk there, but not nearly as much as he is in the second round. If you miss on your second round pick, you’re most likely in for a long season. If that happens in the fifth round, you can manage. The talent is obviously there, and he’s getting (yet another) fresh start under Nelson. It’s all about value, and for the first time in many years Davis might — might — offer some.

The Supporting Support: Troy Murphy, PF
I’m just not a big Murphy fan. He’s a decent bet for a double-double on any night, but a PF who shoots 43% and doesn’t even block a half shot per game is going to be a liability on most fantasy teams. One thing that could give Murphy some added value is if he qualifies at center at any point in the season. Nelson’s talking about using a small lineup in which Murphy will play in middle, and while his FG% and lack of blocks will be a liability there as well, the center position is thin enough to make him a very good option there. Murphy saw a huge jump in his 3s taken and made in 04-05, but he simply held steady at those numbers last year. Another big jump would have given him some serious extra value. As it is, it looks like what we see is what we get, and that makes for a pretty unexciting mid-round pick.

The Sleeper: Ike Diogu, FC
Here are a pair of p40 lines from last season:

Player A: 16.4/11.8/1.6, 0.7 steals, 0.4 blocks, 0.9 3s, 43/79
Player B: 18.8/8.9/1.1, 0.6 steals, 1.2 blocks, 52/81

Player A was Murphy, Player B was Diogu. Judging by the numbers the two are basically equal – Diogu’s a better shooter with more blocks, Murphy gets more boards and 3s – although Diogu drew fouls at a higher rate than just about everyone in the league last year. Diogu was a somewhat trendy deep sleeper as a rookie last season, but it was clear he wouldn’t really get the PT to have some serious value. He did sneak into the starting lineup at a few points but was still not able to consistently play 30 minutes. Diogu’s talent was on view during the season’s last seven games, though. He started just two and averaged just 26.1 mpg, but still averaged a very nice 16 and 7.6 on 57% shooting. If Nelson is true to his word, Diogu and Murphy could be out on the floor together a lot, manning the 4 and 5. Diogu already qualifies at center, which gives his sleeper value a bit of a boost.

The Slacker: Mike Dunleavy, SF
Who else could it be? Chris Mullin’s handed out plenty of awful contracts, and Dunleavy’s is probably the worst. Four seasons is a pretty decent sample size and Dunleavy just hasn’t shown any hints of being an especially productive NBA player. If you’re Chris Mullun, that’ll make you want to hand out $44 million, but if you’re a fantasy owner it’ll get you possible late-round flyer status. Dunleavy took a real step backwards last year, as his scoring, shooting and rebounding numbers all tumbled. He doesn’t have a real weakness, but he doesn’t have a real strength either. Every year people talk about the kind of role Dunleavy will play and how he’ll be utilized to accentuate his strengths. But that’s tough to do when there aren’t any strengths to speak of.

Double Dribbles: Prep to pro Monta Ellis ended last season on a tear, Baron Davis is injury prone and Derek Fisher is in Utah. Not a bad combo, but I have a feeling that solid play in ultimately meaningless games at the end of last season might have people just a bit too excited about Ellis’s prospects this year. He’s more of a scorer than a PG and reminds me a bit of Leandro Barbosa. Looks to be a good find for the Warriors, but probably at least another season from true fantasy relevance … Mickael Pietrus had his chances and hasn’t yet come through, putting him in a similar situation to Dunleavy. If anything he went backwards last year. He found himself in the starting lineup for 18 games but managed only 11.6/3.9/1.2 with unspectacular extras and terrible percentages. He simply needs to show more … We’ve always had a little thing for Andris Biedrins, a young foreign big man who likes to play down low and cleans up on the glass and blocks his share of shots. His 64% from the field was incredible, even if it was on 2.7 shots per game. His 31% from the line was just as incredible. Interesting stat lines, not much else … Every year someone desperate for blocks and a center takes Adonal Foyle in one of the last rounds of your draft. And a couple weeks later he’s out on the waiver wire, until someone desperate for blocks picks him up. And the cycle repeats. And nobody ever enjoys it.

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