After dispatching the Dallas Mavericks in five games of the Western Conference finals, the Golden State Warriors have secured their sixth NBA Finals appearance in eight years. And even though it’s been just two seasons between Finals appearances, for the Warriors, it’s felt much longer.
It’s easy to see why. Consider what has happened to the team since its last Finals appearance in 2019.
The Warriors lost a key free agent (Kevin Durant). They absorbed overlapping injuries to their three remaining stars (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green). And they experienced mixed progress with their young players. Those factors all contributed to seasons ending in the NBA Draft lottery (2019-20) and the Play-In Tournament (2020-21).
The Warriors have since returned to a more familiar setting. They can thank Curry, Thompson and Green for sure, but they can also be pleased with how they handled key moments following that 2019 Finals loss to the Toronto Raptors.
Below is a timeline that explains the Warriors’ fall and subsequent rise:
June 10, 2019: Kevin Durant suffers season-ending injury
After missing the previous nine games with a strained right calf, Durant returned for a pivotal Game 5 against Toronto in the 2019 NBA Finals. But after logging 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting in just 12 minutes, Durant ruptured his Achilles with 9:50 left in the second quarter. The Warriors still took Game 5 to close the series deficit to 3-2, but without the two-time Finals MVP, Golden State would fall short in Game 6, giving the Raptors their first NBA championship.
June 13, 2019: Klay Thompson suffers season-ending injury
In that same Game 6 vs. Toronto — the final NBA game at Oracle Arena – Klay Thompson tore his left ACL after landing awkwardly following a fast break. Though he stayed on the floor to make two free throws to give the Warriors a five-point lead, Thompson left with 2:22 left in the third quarter. In what would become a prelude for the next 2 1/2 seasons, the Warriors could not win the game without him.
June 20, 2019: Warriors draft Jordan Poole
The Warriors used the No. 28 pick in that summer’s Draft on Jordan Poole, a combo guard from the University of Michigan. While leaning on his confidence and aggressiveness to become a dependable scorer, Poole embraced the Warriors’ tough-love approach so he could improve his playmaking and defense. Poole also accepted an NBA G League assignment in 2021 to get more time on the court. Since then, Poole has become a key part of the Warriors’ rotation in the regular season and playoffs.
July 7, 2019: Kevin Durant bolts for Brooklyn
Despite the lure of more money and potentially more championship hardware, Kevin Durant left Golden State for the Brooklyn Nets. But the Warriors were able to get Durant to agree to a sign-and-trade, which brought them D’Angelo Russell, the potential fill-in for the injured Thompson.
But the sign-and-trade deal signaled the end for Andre Iguodala. Because of salary-cap rules involving tax-paying teams that conduct a sign-and-trade, the Warriors were forced to deal Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies in a salary dump.
July 10 & 11, 2019: Warriors lose and keep key players
The Warriors waived key role player Shaun Livingston, who retired soon afterward. And despite Thompson’s season-ending injury, the Warriors fulfilled their promise to re-sign him, giving him a max deal worth $190 million over five seasons. The following day, the Warriors also retained center Kevon Looney on a three-year, $15 million deal.
Aug. 3, 2019: Draymond Green receives an extension
The Warriors showed more loyalty to their All-Stars by inking Draymond Green to a four-year, $100 million max extension, a deal that keeps him under contract through the 2023-24 season. The Warriors and Green both could have waited until he became a free agent in the 2020 offseason, but both parties valued the long-term security.
Oct. 30, 2019: Stephen Curry suffers significant injury
In only the fourth game of the regular season, Curry broke his left hand after Suns center Aron Baynes landed on Curry’s arm. The injury not only doomed the Warriors’ playoff hopes, it also brought an immediate shift to the team’s goals for that season. For the rest of the 2019-20 campaign, the Warriors would prioritize player development over wins. Curry returned for one game in early March, just before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the remainder of the season.
Feb. 6, 2020: Warriors trade for Andrew Wiggins
Seven months after landing Russell in the Durant deal, the Warriors flipped that acquisition into a bigger asset. Before the NBA trade deadline, the Warriors dealt Russell along with Jacob Evans and Omari Spellman to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Andrew Wiggins and two 2021 draft picks.
Since moving to Golden State, Wiggins has blossomed into an All-Star and has given the Warriors a much-needed offensive and defensive presence on the wing.
The cherry on top for the Warriors was the No. 7 pick in the 2021 Draft, which was used to take forward Jonathan Kuminga.
Nov. 18, 2020: Klay Thompson suffers another injury
On the day of the 2020 NBA Draft, Klay Thompson ruptured his right Achilles tendon while playing pick-up basketball. That development ensured Thompson would miss the entire 2020-21 season in what would mark his second consecutive season-ending injury. Later in the day, the Warriors drafted center James Wiseman at No. 2.
May 21, 2021: Warriors eliminated from Play-In Tournament
Though they ended the 2020-21 season with two losses in the NBA’s Play-In Tournament, the Warriors believed there were better days ahead. Why? Curry and Green had become mostly healthy again and the team had developed a solid supporting cast.
Aug. 6. 2021: Warriors extend Steph Curry’s future
Stephen Curry agreed to a four-year, $215.4 million extension that will keep him under contract through the 2025-26 season. The move was also a vote of confidence from Curry, showing his trust in the team’s long-term direction.
Iguodala also agreed to return to the Warriors on a veteran’s minimum deal. Although injuries have limited his on-court impact this season, Iguodala has helped the team with behind-the-scenes guidance.
Jan. 9, 2022: Klay Thompson returns to the court
After being sidelined for 941 consecutive days, Klay Thompson returned for the first time since his back-to-back injuries. Since then, the Warriors have become encouraged by Thompson’s steady progress and believe he will return to full form next season.
May 26, 2022: Warriors back in NBA Finals
Golden State dispatched the Denver Nuggets in five games, the Memphis Grizzlies in six and the Dallas Mavericks in five to advance to The Finals for the first time since 2019. The team has leaned on its championship-tested players (Curry, Thompson, Green, Looney), as well as newcomers Wiggins and Poole. Now, the Warriors have a chance to become the third team to win at least four NBA titles since 2000, joining the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs.
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