Gary Payton picks Golden State to win Western Conference

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Golden State is going to be a trendy pick for some this season.

They have the shooting in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, they have added Andre Iguodala to help them in transition and with perimeter defense, they have a double-double machine in David Lee coming back, they bring Harrison Barnes off the bench. Optimism runs high in the Bay Area.

Particularly in Oakland — where Hall of Famer (as of this weekend) Gary Payton is from and where the Warriors still play. (And will for a few years at least, getting a new stadium built on the water in San Francisco is a Herculean task the owners undertook.)

Payton told Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com he is on the Warriors bandwagon.

“I think they’re going to be there,” Payton said. “I think they have a good chance of going. Picking up Andre (Igoudala), that was a good pickup for them. I think if (Andrew) Bogut plays well, they’re going to have a great chance. I just really do believe that. And I think Mark Jackson’s doing a great job down there. I’m really proud of my city. That’s why I mention it. People always think about our city as being the crime city. But they don’t understand. We’ve got a lot of good people coming out of there doing great things in athletics and doing a lot of things that’s positive. We want these kids to understand that they can do the same thing and come out and just keep our generation going that’s coming out of that area.”

That is some Oakland pride. And as somebody who was there a couple weeks ago visiting friends, there are certainly a lot of things to be proud of in that city.

As for the Warriors as contenders….

First off, we have made it, Payton has made it, and pretty much everyone will make it — the Andrew Bogut caveat. For Golden State to be a serious threat in the West they need his defensive presence healthy in the paint. They would be good without him, but not a contender. His passing skills work great with Curry and Thompson, but more importantly he is a quality backstop on defense, which they need as the aforementioned shooters are not great defenders.

But there are other questions about Golden State. To me, I think they miss the veteran presence of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry off the bench. I think there will need to be some melding of Iggy with Curry. There is some work to do.

Which is to say, the Warriors can be contenders if things go their way, but there are still a lot of “ifs.” But there are ifs for every contender in the West, it’s a matter of who best answers their questions.