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Is Stephen Curry the Warriors best path to improvement?

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This season the Golden State Warriors were better than the year before.

They have won 35 games this season, it was 26 last season. Their offensive production remained identical — 108.1 points per 100 possessions both seasons — but their defense got a little better (110.7 points per 100 possessions this season compared to 111.7 last season). They also stopped playing at a reckless pace.

In looking at what the Warriors need to do take the next step — from this season’s finish to playoff contention, CSN Bay Area’s Matt Steinmetz says the responsibility falls to Stephen Curry to lead them there.

More important from a basketball standpoint, though, is Curry is the least finished product on the Warriors right now. That’s what I’m getting at. If the Warriors are going to take their next jump — from mid-30s to mid-40s in victories, Curry most likely is going to have the most to do with it.

The bottom line is he has the ability to do more improving than any other player on the roster, and it just so happens he plays a position where personal improvement dovetails perfectly with team improvement.

But in order for Curry to impact the team in the biggest possible way, he’s going to have to do two things: First, he’s got to get stronger and improve as much as he possible can; and, second, he’s got to become the leader of the team.

This season, it was Monta Ellis’ team. Ellis is one of the most dynamic and entertaining scorers in the league (24.3 PPG, eighth best in the NBA). The question is, can Ellis play with a stronger willed Curry who takes a more active leadership role?

You get the feeling that in a couple of years either Ellis or Curry will be playing somewhere else. Can Ellis and Curry be solid enough defensively as a backcourt to lead the Warriors to the postseason? But if they figure it out, that could be one dynamic combination.

Khris Middleton dunks, Jimmy Butler can’t stop him (VIDEO)

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Khris Middleton has more expectations and more pressure on him after a breakout season in Milwaukee, followed by him getting him PAID this summer.

Well, he looked pretty good on this play against the Bulls, making the steal then throwing down despite Jimmy Butler‘s efforts to stop him.

Middleton finished with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting for the Bucks. However, Butler had the last laugh as he went off for 23 points on 12 shots and led the Bulls to the (meaningless) preseason win.

Somebody looks comfortable: Paul George drops 20 in first quarter

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Paul George‘s first experience starting as a power forward was going up against Anthony Davis — not just one of the best power forwards in the game, one of the handful of best players in the game period. That didn’t go well for George, and he wasn’t happy about it.

His second experience was in another preseason game Tuesday, going up against the Pistons and their four, Ersan İlyasova. He’s not quite as intimidating.

George scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, 4-of-5 on threes — and that was just the first quarter (you can see it all in the video above).

As we have said before, George at the four is not a bad call by the Pacers, but some of that depends on the matchup. On the nights the Pacers face Davis or Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge or Zach Randolph (or a handful of others) the Pacers’ coaching staff is going to have to adjust. But there are a lot of nights where George at the four is going to force the other team to adjust, and that will play into the Pacers’ hands.