Stephen Curry is back. Draymond Green is back. Are we about to see the Warriors pull away from the pack in the crowded Western Conference?
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Steve Aschburner: Not only that, but DeMarcus Cousins is on his way back too. I do think Golden State has both the ability and the motivation now to put some distance between itself and the challengers of the West. Old nemesis Houston isn’t pushing hard from behind, but OKC and Denver are hungry, high-quality teams that the Warriors dare not take lightly. Plus coach Steve Kerr always is looking for a new edge with which to play the regular season. And there’s this: Golden State should want to leave the fans who have made Oracle Arena such a fantastic home court with something special. Playoff schedules are unpredictable, but the Warriors know what home games they have remaining in the regular season and ought to show off their best selves the rest of the way.
Shaun Powell: Yes, yes, yes. Not just because the Warriors are stocked better than anyone else, but there isn’t a strong No. 2 in the West, not like last season. My hunch is the Christmas Day game with the Los Angeles Lakers will determine first place in the West, and that’s the springboard the Warriors will use to leap beyond everyone else. That overblown KD-Draymond dustup (happens on plenty of teams) is history. Draymond’s back, Steph’s back and DeMarcus Cousins is coming.
John Schuhmann: All the ingredients are there. Denver is banged up, with Gary Harris and Paul Millsap both out for a few weeks. The next few weeks of Oklahoma City’s schedule are tougher than the last few weeks were, and the LA Clippers have been showing signs of slippage. When the Warriors are healthy, they can be the league’s best team on both ends of the floor and put together a lot of wins. But the champs are about to begin a tough stretch of the schedule themselves. Eight of their next nine games are against teams with winning records, and the only exception is a game in Utah (where the Warriors lost two games by a total of 70 points last season). They can obviously beat any team in the league, six of those other eight games are at home, and they just finished a five-game trip with an impressive win in Milwaukee. But these next 18 days will tell us a lot about where they’re at in regard to their focus on both ends of the floor. For the sake of assistant coach Ron Adams’ sanity, it would be nice to see them climb from 17th to the top 10 in defensive efficiency by the end of the month.
Sekou Smith: We are absolutely going to see the Warriors stretch out in the coming weeks. They’ve been waiting all season to get healthy enough to play to their true form. Add in the fact DeMarcus Cousins is clearly ramping up for his debut and the rest of the West should brace themselves for the flurry. They’ll use all of these early-season hiccups as reminders of how quickly things can go awry when they’re not on their grind. It might be the one thing they really needed to focus themselves prior to the start of the postseason. Talent-wise we know they don’t have a peer in the Western Conference or the league. As long as they don’t get in their own way, it’s their world until someone stops them.