Given where they were a few seasons ago as the league’s most recent dynasty team, the fall from grace has been steep yet understandable for the Warriors. In successive years they lost Kevin Durant and then Klay Thompson — twice. And they haven’t been to the playoffs since.
A high payroll limited their flexibility, so Golden State essentially placed itself in a holding pattern while waiting on Thompson to recover from knee and Achilles injuries. It also hoped Stephen Curry stayed healthy as well as productive and entertaining. The good news is Curry has been that and more. Now the Warriors await Thompson’s return and pray for better days.
Golden State had a pair of chances to swap their high Draft picks for more immediate help and resisted twice — two summers ago when they took James Wiseman and then this summer when they drafted Jonathan Kuminga (No. 7 overall) and Moses Moody (No. 14) in the first round. Basically, the Warriors are trying to be a title contender and also prepare for the future, placing one foot in each direction. That’s a strange way of doing business when Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green aren’t getting any younger. We’ll see what it brings.
There isn’t one question facing Thompson, there are a bunch. Namely: When will he return to the lineup? How recovered will he be from two major surgeries? How much will the Warriors limit his playing time and his games? Can he help them return to being an elite team? And will this be the Splash Brothers Part II? Or more like a knock-off of the original? Raise your hand if you know the answers.
The Warriors are ready to reintroduce themselves to the pack of contenders, many of whom seized advantage of Thompson’s injury to take the Warriors’ place in line. Golden State will need to put in the work to regain respect. While Curry lead the league in scoring in 2020-21 (32.0 ppg), it wasn’t enough to lift this team to the playoffs. Even if Thompson returns successfully, at least one of the youngsters must accelerate their development in order for Golden State to play into late May or June. Predicted finish: 47-25.
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
Stephen Curry: A two-time Kia MVP winner is coming off an MVP-finalist season and signed a max contract extension. In short, life is good.
Klay Thompson: His career shooting percentages are 45.9% overall and 41.9% on 3-pointers — just a reminder in case you forgot.
Draymond Green: He’s still a valuable player for this particular team although his dreadful decline as a scorer is problematic.
Andrew Wiggins: A popular punching bag since signing a max deal in Minnesota and never living up to it, Wiggins is actually a decent fit here as a secondary option.
James Wiseman: Outsized expectations were heaped on the big man as a rookie. He should improve with less fuss surrounding him.
Otto Porter Jr.: Hard to believe, but just a few years ago, prior to injuries, Porter was one of the finest deep-shooters in the NBA.
Jonathan Kuminga: He brings needed athleticism to the Warriors and could earn a heaping slice of rotational minutes as a rookie.
Kevon Looney: He has reached his ceiling and settled in as a decent role playing big man.
Jordan Poole: He and Damion Lee seem ready to take another decent step in their development and in the rotation.
LAST 5 SEASONS
How the Warriors have fared stats-wise over the last 5 seasons …
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
STAT TO KNOW
194 — Draymond Green had 194 assists to Stephen Curry last season, 51 more than any other player had to a single teammate. Green himself averaged just 8.1 field goal attempts per 100 touches, fewest among 325 players with at least 1,000 touches. Juan Toscano-Anderson (9.2) and Kevon Looney (10.9) averaged the second and fourth fewest, respectively.
— John Schuhmann
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Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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