Warriors’ 2020-21 Rewind: A Season of Storylines

There was history made, and there was heartbreak. Some players stepped up with clutch performances, other players went down with injuries. The 2020-21 campaign was one that had the highest of highs and lowest of lows for the team and Dub Nation, but is ultimately one that put the team’s grit and tenacity on full display.

Take a look back at the stories that made this past season a memorable on the court:

Steph Gonna Steph… and Then Some

NBA scoring champion with 32.0 points per game. Warriors franchise leader in scoring and assists. The first player to score 2,000 points in 63 games. The first Dub in team history with back-to-back Western Conference Player of the Month honors. A career-high 62 points scored. 3-Point Contest Champion.

That’s just a selection of Stephen Curry’s accomplishments from the 2020-21 season.

Not to mention he fueled the Warriors’ strong late-season run, scoring at least 30 points in seven of the last eight regular season games, including 40-or-more points three times, the most of any player in May. In the Warriors’ Play-In games, he averaged 38 points with six treys on 50% shooting against the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies.

Curry, already a two-time MVP, was nominated as one of three finalists for the honor this season along with Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid and Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. He was also key to many of the Warriors’ top moments of the season.

The Poole Party Continued

“I didn't know Jordan (Poole) would help us as much as he did this last year,” said Bob Myers in his press conference on May 24. And help he did.

In a nearly identical repeat of what he did last season, sophomore guard Jordan Poole made a splash upon returning from a G League assignment. He played in “the G’s” shortened season in the Orlando bubble during which time he led the Santa Cruz Warriors in scoring. Poole then returned to the NBA to post 19.7 points on 3.0 made from beyond the arc and 2.9 assists per game in 10 games (5 starts) between Mar. 4-26. In that span he was shooting 49.6 percent made on field, 41.1 on 3-pointers and 90.6 on his free throws.

He stepped up late in the season when his number was called again. In the Warriors last nine games, Poole averaged 17.8 points with 2.7 splashes, 2.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The Dubs went 8-1 in that span, and one of those outings included a career-high 38-point game on May 14 against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Poole said after his career night that he has just remained prepared throughout the season: “Just be ready to step up for wherever I’m needed... Whether it’s coming off the bench or whatever the situation is, I'll make sure to be ready.”

From Oakland-Born Fan to Steph’s Teammate to “Important Piece”

Juan Toscano-Anderson’s journey to the NBA has been well-documented, but this season he proved himself to be more than a feel-good story and became a key cog in the Warriors’ rotation.

He appeared in 18 of the Dubs’ last 20 games, filling the stat sheet in 27.7 minutes per game with 7.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks per game. Those two games he missed came after a scary fall in a matchup against the Boston Celtics on Apr. 17: he suffered a laceration on his head and went into the NBA’s Concussion Protocol after diving over the scorer’s table to keep the ball in play.

Toscano-Anderson finished the season shooting 40.2 percent from 3-point distance, a career best across both the NBA (2019-21) and G League (2018-20).

A part of the eight-man rotation Head Coach Steve Kerr utilized to close out the regular season and Play-In Tournament games, Toscano-Anderson left an impression on Kerr. When asked during an end-of-season press conference what he learned during the playoff push, the forward was the first thing that came to the coach’s mind: “Well, we learned that Juan Toscano-Anderson is an important piece of our team, that he can really help us next year.”

Two-Way Wiggs

Dub Nation only got to see Andrew Wiggins in action for 12 games after being acquired via trade last year as the 2019-20 season was brought to a halt due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Though he performed well with the team through the team’s injury-plagued season, 2020-21 was the first full season fans could see him with a closer-to-full Warriors roster.

“There was questions about Andrew and what he would bring this year,” said Bob Myers, “and I thought he comported himself tremendously well and made believers out of some detractors.”

Wiggins not only continued to play at a level demonstrated throughout his career, being a consistent threat to score at 18.6 points per game this season and being an iron man who played in all but one game, but he upped his game in new ways.

Wiggins finished his seventh year in the NBA shooting the 3-ball at a career-high clip of 38 percent with 2.0 treys made per game. He led the team in blocks (70) and tied his career-best rate with 1.0 blocks per game. In his 83 games with the Dubs, the forward has collected 87 rejections.

Wiggins also led the team in total minutes (2,364) and games played (71).

Draymond Green said of his teammate: “Andrew Wiggins, you know, solidified himself on both sides of the ball. You know, when the game mattered most, he showed up.”

Dray Does Everything

It was not just Stephen Curry who made history through the 2020-21 campaign. Fellow NBA Champion Draymond Green also moved up the Warriors’ all-time list of assists leaders, now taking fourth with 3,413 and passing Hall of Famer Rick Barry (3,247) in the category. Green also finished the season as the first NBA player to have more rebounds (449) and assists (558) than points (444).

Green was consistent through the season, filling the stat sheet with 7.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, 8.9 assists (career-high, fourth in NBA), 1.7 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. He notched six triple-doubles on the year, giving him 30 in his career to become the first Warrior in franchise history to reach the plateau.

But as Dub Nation is aware, his value goes far beyond his stats as the anchor of the Dubs’ defense.

Prior to the Warriors’ Play-In Tournament matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, Kerr made his thoughts on Green’s defense clear: “I think he should be Defensive Player of the Year.” The Dubs’ do-it-all forward is one of three finalists for the award.

“What that means for the young guys is that they're learning from a guy who is one of the very best to ever do it,” continued Kerr as he complimented Green’s leadership in the same breath. “Can't have a better mentor than that.”

Oubre Rode the Wave

After joining the Warriors via a preseason trade, Kelly Oubre Jr. took some time to get acclimated with the Dubs’ system. He started the season averaging 11.5 points on 35.1 percent shooting and 20.2 percent from deep through the team’s first 16 games.

But he turned his season around in a big way.

Through the remainder of the season, Oubre went on to post 17.1 points on 36.3 percent from deep. On top of his scoring, Oubre brought tenacious defense, averaging 6.2 rebounds with 1.0 steals and 0.7 blocks per game.

Oubre also notched a carer-best 40-point game on Feb. 4 against the Dallas Mavericks, as well as a best for points in a quarter with 16 against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Jan. 27.

Besides the statistical proof of his strong play, Dub Nation watched Oubre take on some of the most challenging defensive assignments, from LeBron James to some the fastest guards in the league like De’Aaron Fox. His motor on the glass was also put on full display with his knack for cleaning up offensive boards for his teammates.

Wiseman’s Rookie Season

Drafted with the second overall pick on Nov. 18, James Wiseman joined the Warriors at just 19 years old with three games of NCAA experience under his belt.

And yet the seven-foot center made a clear impression in his first 39 professional games in which he averaged 11.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 0.9 blocks. Wiseman’s first NBA season included three double-doubles, and two games in which he scored 20-or-more points.

While his season came to an abrupt end on Apr. 10 when tearing his meniscus in his right knee following a dunk, Dub Nation got glimpses of just how athletic the young hooper can be with his speed, hops and handles.

While the early numbers and highlight reels look good for the lottery pick, just how does he stack up to similar players as a rookie center with little or no college experience? Take a look at some past well-known centers and their stats from their first year in the league:

James Wiseman

Kevin Garnet

Jermaine O'Neil

Anthony Davis

Chris Bosh

Before NBA

Memphis (3 games)

High school

High school

Kentucky (1 season)

Georgia Tech (1 season)

Games (Starts)

39 (27)

80 (43)

45 (0)

64 (60)

75 (63)

Points

11.5

10.4

4.1

13.5

11.5

Rebounds

5.8

6.3

2.8

8.2

7.4

Assists

0.7

1.8

0.2

1.0

1.0

FG%

51.9%

49.1%

45.1%

51.6%

45.9%

Steals

0.3

1.1

0.0

1.2

0.8

Blocks

0.9

1.6

0.6

1.8

1.4

Hurt by Injuries

It is no secret that the Warriors were hurt early and in a big way: on the same day the of the NBA Draft Klay Thompson went down with a torn Achilles, an injury that kept him out all season. That meant the Dubs were without a five-time All-Star who has averaged over 20 points per game over the last five seasons he has played, for the second straight season.

The team also had another major loss when Oubre suffered a fracture and ligament tear of in his left wrist which forced to sit out the last 10 games of the regular season. Worse yet was the wrist injury prevented the forward from participating in either of the Warriors’ Play-In Tournament games against the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies.

The injury bug was not limited key veterans either as some of the Warriors’ young players went down for extended time as well.

As noted above, Wiseman missed the last 19 games of the regular season. While that alone is quite some time to miss, he also was absent from 11 games through February with a sprained left wrist. Without Wiseman, the Warriors were forced to go small through the remainder of their 2020-21 campaign.

And then there was a hip flexor strain that limited Eric Paschall to just one game out of the Warriors’ last 23 games. He was coming off his All-Rookie 2019-20 season, but the injury prevented him from being with team’s core for more than a handful of games.

Playing time means NBA experience, something the young Dubs need for their development. Unfortunately the injuries hurt their chance at getting minutes on the court, while also limiting the team’s options in the rotation down the stretch.

Looney’s Quiet Production

With the injuries to the Dubs’ front court, the Warriors had to lean on one of their veterans to shoulder the load of minutes: Kevon Looney.

The center averaged a career-high 19 minutes per game coming off of his own injury-riddled 2019-20 season. But Looney was especially durable through the end of the season as he logged over 26 minutes per contest through the Warriors’ last 19 regular season games.

“Loon really helped us win games this year,” Kerr said in his end-of-season press conference. It was true too, as the Dubs went 14-5 in Looney’s extended play.

His rebounding was on another level in the Warriors’ fight for Play-In Tournament positioning as he scratched 10.2 rebounds through the final six games of the regular season.

Looney did not just work the boards though as his defense can be used on smaller, faster players too. Myers acknowledged the value of that ability, saying “every team wants guys that can defend multiple positions… I think Looney is a great defender.”

Consistent Inconsistencies

To say “the Warriors never lost more than two games in a row through the first two months of the season” would normally be a good thing, but the reality was that the squad also never put together more than two consecutive wins through the same span, too. And when they claimed their first three straight victories Feb. 23-26, the Dubs followed that by dropping four games straight.

The Warriors hovered at and around .500 for months. One could argue the continual string of injuries did not help, but such is life in the NBA.

Kerr had been saying for much of the season that the team would eventually go on a hot streak, but easier said than done. “It seemed like we would be right there and take a step or two back,” he said following the Warriors win over the Phoenix Suns on May 11.

When it mattered most, the Warriors pulled it together at the end of the season, finishing with a 15-5 run over their last 20 gams including winning their final six straight. In that span the Dubs defeated top playoff contenders in the Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, and back-to-back wins over the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns.

Toscano-Anderson said of the feat following their win over the Memphis Grizzlies on May 16: “What better time than the end of the season going into the playoffs to start to build momentum, cohesiveness, our chemistry is great right now.”

But the Warriors lost both of their Play-In Tournament games to eliminate them from playoff contention. After a dominant showing in the first half of their contest against the Los Angeles Lakers, turnovers plagued the squad and forced them into a loss to their Southern California rival. Then the team lost to the same Grizzlies squad at Chase Center that they had defeated earlier that week on the same court.

Dubs on Defense

Despite how the season ended, the Warriors and Dub Nation can take a pride in the defensive effort the team put on display all season. Not only was it good, it was among the best in the NBA.

The Warriors finished with the fifth best defensive rating in the league. Within that they had the third lowest opponent’s field goal percentage (45.2 percent) and the sixth most steals (587).

Leading the charge on defense was one of three contenders for the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award in Green. But as mentioned above, Wiggins and Oubre were solid contributors in their own right as well. All may have put themselves into the discussions for All-Defensive team honors.

The combined effort of the team led the Warriors to finish the season 19-3 when out-rebounding their opponent and a 10-0 record on the season when holding its opponent to under 100 points.

Despite the strong showing, there is room for improvement. As the above stats show, the Warriors were out-rebounded by their opponents in 50 of the 72 games and allowed them to score over 123 points in 15 games, with the Dubs going 1-14 in those games. The team finished 22nd in the league in total rebounds (3,098) and allowed the eighth highest opponent’s 3-point percentage (35.9 percent).

So while the defensive efforts led to success, sustaining that excellence on defense proved to be a challenge.

Like a roller coaster ride, there were many peaks and valleys to the Warriors’ 2020-21 campaign. History was made, development was seen, but eventually the season ended in heartbreak. Despite the final result, the Warriors have a foundation to which they can build upon heading into the 2021-22 season.

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