First half summary: Once Klay Thompson was done for the season with Achilles surgery, the Warriors were clearly a middle-of-the-pack team in the Western Conference. And sure enough, they’ve fit that description by failing to show the muscle necessary to be a top-five team, yet also riding the supreme performance of Stephen Curry to avoid a free-fall. Curry has been that good. After missing virtually all last season, he’s challenging for the NBA scoring lead and generating some Kia MVP buzz.
Still, there are sketchy signals elsewhere. Kelly Oubre Jr. plunged into a terrible shooting slump to open 2020-21 and didn’t emerge until after the holidays. Draymond Green is being exposed as a supreme role player now that he’s not surrounded by Hall of Famers who covered for his flaws. And the rest of the rotation is tapped out for the most part in terms of talent.
Biggest question going into the second half: Will rookie center James Wiseman take an upward step in his development … or will that happen next season? The Warriors are certainly pleased with the No. 2 overall pick, who has looked comfortable in decent stretches and brings a defensive touch at the rim. Still, this is by far the longest he’s ever played basketball, and in these situations, players can hit the wall.
Wiseman is needed because the Warriors are thin on the front line, aside from Green and Eric Paschall. Andrew Wiggins has been decent — not great or certainly not anywhere near the uninspired example he set all those seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves. But, this is probably who he is at this point.
Playoffs or lottery?: It’s hard to imagine Curry missing out on the playoffs with the season he’s having. That said, this was always the only question about Curry: Is he good enough to carry a so-so team to the postseason? Russell Westbrook did so in OKC when Kevin Durant bounced. It’s not easy to do, especially in the loaded West.
While the Warriors are a top-five offensive team, Curry will eventually need someone to pick up the scoring slack. Oubre and Wiggins do have the talent for that. Now we’ll see if they have the mentality, especially once the games grow in importance. Missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons would be ego-deflating for this once-mighty franchise as it waits for the return of Thompson.
Should the Warriors make the playoffs, they could be a tough out — mainly because of Curry. He’d be reenergized in that situation, no doubt, and would get a hefty share of the shots, even more than he’s getting now. Here’s a scenario: The Warriors lose in the first round, but Curry averages 40 points.
— Shaun Powell