1) So are the Warriors looking to make the playoffs this year? Is the tanking tradition dying for them?
Normally, the Warriors don't have to embrace tanking so aggressively - they're just bad - so I wouldn't call it a tradition. But a Warriors fan put it best recently: in my mind, the season just ended when the Warriors traded Ellis for Bogut and it became the offseason; the first rule of tanking is that there was no tanking, or something.
Anyway, playoffs were certainly the attainable goal this season but the biggest question was Bogut's health - when he would return and how many games he would play. Almost everyone assumed Bogut miss at least 20 games one way or another and the more games he played, folks figured, the more likely the Warriors would be to make the playoffs. But I think it's also fair to assume that if you had told Warriors fans that they would lose Bogut and Rush early in the season and still be not only over .500 but looking for their best road trip in four decades (a fourth win on this road trip tonight would insure that) and off to their best start overall in 20 years, they would've laughed at you.
So seeing this team play so well without Bogut has been a pleasant surprise and I think it's hard for even the most pessimistic fan not to consider that the Warriors could end up making the playoffs even if Bogut isn't back until the spring (sadly, this is a possibility).
2) I was pretty high on Harrison Barnes in the draft. How has he been? What does he do well and what does he struggle with?
I was not all that high on Barnes, but I trust that you watched him more at UNC than I did. (Ed. - this may not have been true)
He has exceeded my expectations and I say that even compared to what I saw from him at summer league.
One of the biggest concerns about him coming in was that he was not an efficient shooter at UNC despite having a reputation as a good shooter. Part of the problem was that he took a lot of off-balance shots and struggled to create shots for himself off the dribble. While it was clear in summer league that he could be an effective scorer in the pros when he got his feet set, the dribbling was cause for major concern - you could count on bad things happened when he took more than 2 dribbles in summer league.
What has been most impressive is that he has been both more decisive and more patient thus far in his rookie season, taking what the defense gives him and - more importantly - aggressively taking the ball to the rim to get himself easier shots with his athleticism/length, free throws, or poster opportunities with Nikola Pekovic. More subtly, he has been a solid, though perhaps not great, defender, which is something that the Warriors needed at the three. Overall, I think it's hard not to be happy with the pick, even though there is still some debate as to whether drafting a big - Drummond, Henson - would've been the wiser choice.
3) What has been one of the better surprises about this Warriors squad?
Aside from being over .500 without Bogut and Barnes - which would be the two biggest surprises - I'll add the play of Draymond Green.
I think everyone sort of thought he'd be a good locker room guy and IQ guy to have on the roster but I don't think anyone expected him to come in and be the Warriors' defensive stopper. Just on this road trip, Green was largely responsible for containing Joe Johnson in the second half against Brooklyn. He has been a mainstay at the end of
games/quarters when the Warriors need stops. For someone who fell to the second round because people questioned him as a tweener on draft day, I'd say his emergence as a go-to defensive player has actually been one of the better surprises, if not the most pleasant, in a surprising season.
4) What do the Warriors struggle against as a team?
In a few of their losses - last week's home loss to Orlando, their two losses to Denver, and earlier losses to the Lakers and Grizzlies - the Warriors have just been bullied in the paint; one local beat writer called the loss to the Magic "a soft, soft loss" and there's no other way to describe it. The weird thing about that is that they rebound well overall this season so it's weird to see them go through stretches where they're helpless in the paint.
The common theme is that they like to go with smaller lineups because Festus Ezeli - despite his strong rookie year performance - is foul prone and still not much of a factor offensively. Setting aside statistics, bigger teams have been able to outmuscle a David Lee/Carl Landry frontcourt even though Lee has played better defense this year than he has in the past.
Turnovers are obviously a problem and a feature in some of their losses, but it's hard to shake what happened in that loss to the Magic as a recurrent theme.
Here is their blog, Golden State Of Mind