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Pop Quiz: Can the Warriors change their defensive stripes?

By Matt Moore | NBA writer
Mark Jackson will have big defensive demands on the Warriors this season. (Getty Images)

Here's the weird thing about the Warriors. They could go out and do what they've done for the past seven years and finish about where they have the past seven years. They have scorers. Stephen Curry, if healthy (get used to that phrase, we're going to be using it a lot), can distribute and shoot the lights out. He's got great decision making on the fly in transition. And he can pull up off the dribble and burn the lights out. Klay Thompson is a crack shooter with great athleticism. David Lee can get up and down the floor.

Harrison Barnes, Brandon Rush, Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry, the list goes on for guys who could run the same system they have. They could finish with 35 to 40 wins max, miss the playoffs, be exciting.

But that's not the plan.

The plan is to slow it down, grind it out, and play defense. This team is the emergence of what the Warriors hope is a new era. Brooklyn is unveiling a marketing scheme, the Warriors are trying to unveil a new culture. And they've been at it for a while.

I happened to be at the Finals when Mark Jackson was announced as Warriors coach while he was working. And the first thing he started talking about in that vocal pattern you know so well is that the Warriors must be a defensive team. Jackson believes in that idea whole-heartedly and it shows with this team and its approach.

Adding Andrew Bogut was the biggest part of that, but the Warriors have also gone to more veteran players to increase experience and knowledge on the defensive end. Those same players that can get up the floor can also toughen up and play a team close, if they can get the right system in place.

And that's where the big question comes in. Can Mark Jackson put together a system and coach these players to be good enough defensively? Can this team get away from its tendencies to play fast?

That's the challenge.

It's not just the personnel-related issues, though. There are inherent issues with bringing in this many new players who haven't played together, inherent struggles with implementing a new system, and inherent problems in converting from a fast-paced team to a slower-paced team.

The answer likely lies somewhere in the middle. The Warriors will likely move up in the defensive ranks, but probably won't run into the elite category. They'll be a slower team, but not slow. And as a result, they'll be a better team, but not a top team. Whether they can get above the threshold on these narrow gaps will determine if they make the playoffs.

 
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