It has not been the easiest start to the 2011-12 NBA season for the Golden State Warriors. Three games in four nights, and all of them against teams penciled into the NBA playoffs before the season began.
However, Golden State played tough in a loss against a hyped Los Angeles Clippers team on Christmas night, then dominated both the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks -- two Eastern Conference powerhouses.
So what do we make of this Warriors team led by Mark Jackson, Mike Malone and Monta Ellis so far?
They're not bad, to start.
In fact, we can argue the Warriors are one of the better teams in the NBA by how well they have played through the first three games of the season. Of course, they have not left Oracle Arena yet, so there is still a little left undiscovered.
What we do know is that this team can contend with the best. They are doing that by playing improved defense, the traditional electric offense and, most of all, a bench filled with depth.
The depth on the bench is the reason Golden State is a thrill to watch thus far and the difference in how they play on the court compared to recent seasons.
No more Vladimir Radmanovich, Jeremy Lin or Acie Law. Give me Dominic McGuire, Brandon Rush and Kwame Brown.
In the past, we saw the "filler roles" they put into the hands of Radmanovich or "insert player name here." Joe Lacob, Mark Jackson & Co. are acquiring players with meaning, not just players to fill a few minutes before Ellis and Curry get their breaths back.
McGuire shut down Carmelo Anthony on Wednesday night, Rush put up 19 points against the Knicks in just 26 minutes and Kwame Brown put up respectable rebounding numbers against both Tyson Chandler and Joakim Noah.
Yes.....Brown. For how many people were shouting down that acquisition, he is still 6'11" and 270 pounds. I am pretty sure the Warriors can find a role for him.
And Brown is exactly what this Golden State team is all about so far: Players with a specialty and succeeding in that respective part of the game.
Brown rebounds, McGuire guards the prototypical 6'7"-6'9" small forward, Ish Smith plays for his next contract and Rush can score.
Leave everything else up to the starters, who are fulfilling their roles, as well. But the sole reason the Warriors have been impressive thus far this season is because they can rely on their bench to produce when called upon.
It is a luxury Golden State has not had in awhile, and it is thanks to careful planning and managing from the Warriors' front office that has the team from Oakland looking ahead to bigger and better things in 2012.