Nov. 21: The new-look Brooklyn Nets come to town, featuring the star-studded backcourt of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.
Dec. 22: Los Angeles Lakers games are always a big deal at Oracle Arena. But the Lakers' first appearance with center Dwight Howard and point guard Steve Nash figures to be bananas.
Jan. 16: LeBron James. Dwyane Wade. Ray Allen. The defending champion Miami Heat's only trip to Oracle this season.
Feb. 12: Bay Area native Jeremy Lin returns to Oracle, this time as a Houtson Rocket. He has a new backcourt mate in James Harden.
March 9: Beloved former Warriors star Monta Ellis, now with the Milwaukee Bucks, comes back to the arena in which he once thrived.
March 11: New York Knicks bring their star power to Oakland, led by Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. Is it the final Bay Area appearance for local legend Jason Kidd?
Health: With the season set to tip off, the ankles of Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut are still cause for concern. Curry got through just over five preseason games before spraining his again. Bogut has yet to play. The Warriors can't survive prolonged injuries to any of their key players.
Mark Jackson: The second-year coach has proved he can motivate. Now he has
The Road Warriors: Golden State typically is bad on the road, thanks to poor defense and no inside offense. The Warriors are saying they will be better in both areas. Will that help them grind out success on the road? If not, the Warriors probably will get off to a rough start, as 16 of the first 26 games are away from home.
Klay Thompson: The Warriors rave about him. But the second-year shooting guard's rookie success came with no pressure, as the season was all but a wrap and he had no chance of losing his spot. How will Thompson handle being relied on? How does he handle knowing Brandon Rush and guard Jarrett Jack are ready to take his minutes if he doesn't produce?
Go-to Guy: Golden State has prided itself on offense. But with Monta Ellis gone, where will the Warriors go for offense late? Can Curry get to the basket well enough to keep the Warriors from settling on jumpers? Has forward David Lee developed his post game to the point they can go to him down low when they really need a basket? The Warriors don't have a clear candidate, and the by-committee approach just seems sketchy.
The Warriors will make the playoffs if ...
Andrew Bogut is an All-Star: In a division with Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol and DeMarcus Cousins, an All-Star invitation would mean he has had a dominant first half. If the Warriors have a center playing at an elite level, they will be tough to beat.
Stephen Curry has at least a
2.5-to-1 assist-to turnover ratio: With the ball now in Curry's hands, the Warriors offense has a chance to be more efficient and versatile. Everyone knows he can shoot. But the offense is really potent if he is taking care of the ball and exploiting all of the Warriors' weapons. If Curry is averaging along the lines of eight assists and 3.2 turnovers, Golden State's offense will be in good shape.
They finish top 10 in field-goal-percentage defense: The Warriors have proved more than anyone that outscoring your opponent isn't a recipe for success. They have to get better defensively. If they keep the same tempo, teams will get more shots (and score more points). The real barometer is the ease with which opponents score. Last season, Golden State ranked 20th, allowing opponents to shoot 45.3 percent.
They win 30 homes games: Asking the Warriors to split on the road is too much, considering the youth of their squad. The way they can offset some of that is by being dominant at home. If Golden State goes 30-11 at home, that would be about two-thirds of the wins to be in the playoff mix. It should take 45-48 wins to get in.
Harrison Barnes is in the Rookie of the Year race: The Warriors have been praising their depth. If Barnes has a big-time rookie campaign, they might actually have it. Short on star power and players who can take over games, Golden State needs to have as many guys as possible having great years. If Barnes is producing well enough to be in the conversation with New Orleans' Anthony Davis, it probably means the Warriors have a major hole filled in their lineup.
The Warriors' chances of making the playoffs will have a lot to do with the competition. Several teams got better, and the Western Conference is looking to be pretty brutal. Here's one guess as to how it will shake out:
1. Los Angeles Lakers: The starting five is so strong that Metta World Peace is the weak link. Depth still is a major concern, but having four future Hall of Famers in the starting lineup should offset some of that.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: For this year at least, the reigning West champion regressed by losing James Harden and gaining Kevin Martin. If backup point guard Eric Maynor is healthy and back to form, he can bring some of what they lost in Harden.
3. Los Angeles Clippers: They have the best point guard in the league in Chris Paul. Arguably the best power forward in Blake Griffin. And perhaps the best bench: Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill, Eric Bledsoe, Matt Barnes. If these veterans can play together, watch out.
4. San Antonio Spurs: They didn't do much to get better, and their stars are a year older. But somehow, you just know they will be near the top.
5. Denver Nuggets: George Karl has the tools to really work some magic. The Nuggets are deep, athletic, long. They have the potential to be aggressive on defense, which would be problems for the West.
6. Memphis Grizzlies: The loss of O.J. Mayo will hurt. But the Grizzlies' starting five is talented, and they have chemistry and experience together. The bench is desperate for scoring, though.
7. Utah Jazz: Utah's front-line depth is ridiculous: Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams. The question marks are on the perimeter. Does point guard Mo Williams have it in him still to lead a team?
8. Dallas Mavericks: They have a lot of talent, but it's very mishmash. Can Dirk Nowitzki be elite coming off an injury? What do Chris Kaman, Elton Brand and Vince Carter have left? Darren Collison and Rodrigue Beaubois will be a handful, though.
9. Portland Trail Blazers: You know what you're getting from LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and even J.J. Hickson. What will determine whether the Blazers make the top eight is how fast rookie point guard Damian Lillard can become the dominant player many think he will be.
10. Golden State Warriors: Could end up as high as sixth or as low as 12. It depends on health and how fast they jell. If C Andrew Bogut and PG Stephen Curry are healthy, the Warriors will be a force. If not, they will be forced to lean too heavily on the likes of Klay Thompson, rookies Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli. Even if they are healthy, they have to learn how to win.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves: We already know they will be playing from behind, starting the season without Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. The addition of Andrei Kirilenko should help bide some time. Still, they will be relying on Brandon Roy, Derrick Williams and Chase Budinger.
12. Phoenix Suns: Goran Dragic could be a poor man's Steve Nash. But around him is a bunch of past-their-primes (Luis Scola, Jermaine O'Neal), underachievers (Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson) and complementary pieces (Jared Dudley, Shannon Brown, Markieff Morris).
13. Sacramento Kings: It's time for Sacramento to turn the corner. The Kings' young studs, Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins, have the potential. The addition of Aaron Brooks and Thomas Robinson gives them good depth. But can they defend well enough?
14. Houston Rockets: A starting backcourt of Jeremy Lin and James Harden is exciting, but the Rockets don't have much by way of a frontcourt. Well, that's unless you think Omer Asik is the real deal waiting for his opportunity and that the Thunder's depth was holding back big man Cole Aldrich.
15. New Orleans Hornets: Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers and Anthony Davis are good-looking building blocks. But Robin Lopez and Ryan Anderson won't scare anybody. It's going to be a long season for New Orleans.