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Q+A With GSOM

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We played 20 Questions (divided by 3 and rounded to the nearest whole number) with AtmaBrotherOne of sister site GoldenStateofMind in preparation for the game today.  Here are the questions and responses:

Blazersedge:  The Blazers have a bevy of young hopefuls in Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, and Sergio Rodriguez.  Fans hope one or more of them will turn out to be great.  But the Warriors have two young guys in Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins who are outperforming all three Blazers on that list right now.  How good do you think those two will eventually become?  What's the range between their ceiling and minimum?  Franchise players?  Stars?  Starters?  Role players?

First and foremost both Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins deserve all the credit in the world. There's a reason why Monta Ellis was awarded the NBA's Most Improved Player last season. He's worked very hard on his game and made some gigantic leaps from his rookie season. Last season he made huge strides in finishing layups and dunks (ask Leandro Barbosa) and thus far this season he's really improved his rebounding. Biedrins had a very intriguing rookie season, but followed it up with a disastrous, dismal sophomore campaign where his defense meant putting opponents on the free throw line for freebies. Although he didn't take home the MIP honors last season, Biedrins easily could've won the award last season with his near double-double numbers that arguably came of nowhere. This season he's noticeably improved his ball handling- not to the level where he can take anyone off the dribble, but to where he can grab a defensive board and push it up the court a little. That really helps keep the Warriors tempo in full effect.

Are they two building blocks for a bright future? Definitely. Are they going to be the one of the top 3 players on a championship team? Probably not. Neither player will probably ever make an All-Star appearance, but that doesn't mean they can't be very capable starters or great role players. The key for the Warriors organization long term will be understanding that neither player is worthy of sacrificing a huge chunk of their payroll or expecting them to be franchise players. Surround your franchise players ( e.g. Baron Davis) with guys like Ellis and Biedrins and you're in business, but believing they are franchise players is a mistake.

As far as ceiling both these players can be average (top 15 or so) to very good starters at their position in the league with Biedrins probably cracking the top 10 if the center level in the league doesn't improve. Monta could be like Bobby Jackson in his prime and Biedrins could be a more durable Marcus Camby. Talking about their bottom limits isn't a fun topic, but it's a great, really interesting question. Monta is one major knee injury (he has had some unfortunate knee issues in the past) from being a 10th man on most teams. He relies on his speed and quickness that much. Once it's gone he doesn't much to fall back. He isn't a threat from downtown, isn't a post up force, isn't a top spot up shooter, doesn't have great handles, and isn't a physical defender by any stretch.

Biedrins' bottom limit really isn't that dependent on injuries as he's been an iron man, but more on coaching system and the players around him. It's going to sound odd, but right now he doesn't have a front to the basket or a back to the basket game. He scoring is heavily dependent on Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson getting him the rock at the right time and place. Biedrins of course does an amazing job getting to these spots, but subtract unselfish, high hoops IQ guys like Boom DIzzle and Jack who have uncanny passing ability and Biedrins is probably a 4-6 ppg type of player.

Blazersedge: Stephen Jackson is getting national attention for his improved play.  What caused this transformation?  What exactly does the improvement look like?  Do you still have concerns with his off-court behavior?  Most importantly, how long can you depend on him to keep it up?

Jack's always been a very talented player and a very good defender, but he's honestly in the best place possible right now. With his improved rebounding this year to answer Nellie's challenge, he's the perfect fit for this edition of Nellieball.  (Check this post.)

I have no concerns whatsoever with Jack's off-court behavior. To tell you the truth I think his role in the Palace brawl was overblown and those loser Pistons fans that night didn't get nearly enough censure. Those are the real thugs and they got off easy. His late night out in Indiana looks like another case of him sticking up for his folks and a case of self-defense, but I wasn't there that night so I really have no clue about what actually went down. Based on what I know and understand the only thing I really fault him for is trying to hang out and have a good time in Indiana on a late night. Indiana? Haha what was he thinking?

Aside from the techs in last year's playoffs, he's been a model citizen here. A true leader. A true Warrior.

Blazersedge: The Warriors surprised everybody outside of a few scouts and a few hundred thousand of their fans by toppling Dallas last year and reaching the second round.  How far do you think they can go this year?  Also what do you think their eventual maximum is?  Would this team, as constituted, ever be a serious championship contender?  (You could also throw in what they need to do to get there if you think there's a path.)

Unless they get very, very hot (you never know with this team) or make a trade for a near All-Star caliber forward this team will probably latch onto a 7th or 8th seed in the West. That will probably set them up with a first round date with the San Antonio Spurs of Phoenix Suns. If it's the Spurs it'll be a serious beatdown and the Spurs will break out the brooms for a clean sweep. If it's the Suns, the entire NBA world is in store for an amazing 6-7 game series. The NBA- Where Defense Doesn't Happen! It would be the highlight of the entire 2008 playoffs.

This oddly constructed team as presently constituted isn't a serious championship contender. They made the odd offseason trade of J-Rich for a rookie who Nellie has said is likely 2-3 years away from being an impact player. I hated seeing JR go since he was so vital to this team's success during that 16-5 stretch last season and their upset of the Mavs, but I understand that they probably needed to trade one of their swingmen to improve and he probably had the most value. However I don't understand trading him away for basically nothing (see Brandan Wright's minutes this season) that helps the Warriors THIS season. Baron and Jack are in their primes, Nellie's in the twighlight of his coaching career, and Warriors fans have suffered through 12 years of "rebuilding". It's all about now, not 2009 or 2010 when a team like the Blazers will probably make the West that much tougher.

I hate to say it, but their best chance at reaching the NBA Finals was last season. If the Rockets beat the Jazz in the 1st round like they were supposed to, the Warriors most likely would've advanced to the Western Conference Finals. If the Spurs weren't so dirty and the Suns advanced to the Western Conference Finals there's a good chance the Warriors could've out-runned and out -gunned them. In the 2007 NBA Finals LeBron could've been the 2nd player ever (I believe- check me on this) to win the Finals MVP on the losing team. (Yes, that's a lot of if's and crazy speculation, but it's fun!). I don't see the Warriors having a clearer path than that for the next 2-3 years unless something shockingly wonderful happens to their roster or something shockingly strange happens to the other teams in the West.

To make the next giant step they're going to need to add another All-Star level player to this team, preferably a 4. Until then they're going to be a wildly exciting fringe playoff team that could elevate to a 2nd tier squad in the West at best. The Blazers have a much brighter future than the Warriors. What did you guys want for Greg Oden again? I kid, I kid.

GSOM also grilled us for a while.  That interview is not up at their site yet but I'm sure it will be once they get their lazy butts up in the morning.  You can find it here.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)