Warriors As Favorites?

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ESPN’s John “Our Boy”Hollinger made some curious assessments in his Insider column today. The world’s foremost math whiz turned sportswriter (or the other way around, we’re not really sure) re-ranked the eight remaining playoff teams and look who got the number two ranking:

2. Golden State (+7.3) — Just in case I haven’t hammered this point home yet: Golden State with a healthy Baron Davis and a healthy Jason Richardson is a scary, scary team. The Warriors score, they pressure the ball and force turnovers, they can spread the floor with shooters and run you ragged, and (shhhh!) they even have a real center, if they feel like playing one, in the rapidly improving Andris Biedrins.

That said, I would quibble with the Warriors’ outranking the Suns for one reason: It assumes perfect health. In Golden State’s case, this may be a cavalier assumption. Davis has a bad hammy that could limit him in the Utah series, while Matt Barnes also is wounded. And even if Davis can overcome the hamstring problem, there’s no guarantee he won’t hurt something else three days from now.

But fully healthy? I’d take these Warriors over just about anybody. Even without home court they’re a solid favorite against Utah in Round 2, and are good enough that they could knock off Phoenix and shock the world if they got to the conference finals. Well, if they played Phoenix, that is. Which would be the greatest series ever, but probably won’t happen, because there’s one little problem in the way …

So, are the Warriors favorites against the Jazz (who, by the way, placed a distant eighth in Hollinger’s rankings)? As we noted earlier, the Jazz are a rough and tough team. They can pretty much outmuscle the W’s across the board (maybe even at point guard … nah) and the combination of a true point guard (Deron Williams) who has the size to stay with the Bodyguard and a big low-post scorer (Carlos Booooozer) is something the Dubs didn’t see against Dallas.

On the other hand, Williams (one of our favorite players) is young and inexperienced, while Baron has been the best player in the league, non-Duncan division. The Jazz have no shot blockers, despite their size advantage, so when AK-47 and Matt Harpring are on the floor bullying the Warriors’ guards, Jackson and Richardson are going to have to use their speed to get to the hole.

And Monta Ellis is going to have to make a cameo, because he might be the toughest matchup for the Jazz.

More playoff previews:

Round Two Q&A [GSoM]

Monta and Baby Al Ready to ‘Join the Party’ [The Fanhouse]

Warriors vs. Utah in Round 2: It’s the right matchup [Talking Points]

Why The City will beat the Jazz [100% Injury Rate]

Late-season performance review: Reseeding Round 2 [ESPN Insider]

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