Nobody would ever say this, especially after five-straight Finals runs but: the poor Golden State Warriors.
After falling in the NBA Finals to Kawhi Leonard’s Toronto Raptors, losing Kevin Durant in free agency and with Klay Thompson not returning until after Christmas from a torn ACL, the rest of the league has an unfamiliar road title and is looking to strike while they can.
The Warriors have become an afterthought.
A team that boasts a two-time MVP in his prime, former Defensive Player of the Year and Coach of the Year has become an afterthought.
Adding to the pressure, they’re entering their new San Francisco stadium and will have expectations to be somewhat competitive, even with the departure of KD and Klay missing most of the season.
But what can we expect from the Warriors in this upcoming season?
The major moves they made this off-season were re-signing Klay to his max, singing-and-trading for D’Angelo Russell and bringing Kevon Looney back for three more seasons. They also saw the departure of championship staples Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.
After hitting the hard cap, the Dubs were left to fill out their roster with players around the minimum and the recent draftees in the 2019 NBA Draft. And they could do worse.
The attraction of an elite organisation, playing with Steph Curry (and eventually Klay Thompson) and in Steve Kerr’s ‘kumbaya’ system nabbed them Willie Cauuley-Stein, Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks. All players who hadn’t performed up to expectations in at least their last season and with something to prove.
They’ll likely start Curry, Russell, Alfonso McKinnie, Draymond and Looney on opening night with quite a bit of depth in the big positions and not much proven talent backing up the guards.
Russell proved in Brooklyn last season he can be a primary ball-handler and orchestrate the offence and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to show that again. Since there’s not much guard depth, Steph and D’Angelo’s minutes should be staggered so that at least one of them remains on the court at any one time.
But at the start and end of games they’ll be paired together and have to split the ball-handling duties.
Curry has the freedom to play off the ball next to another natural point guard. He excelled off the ball last season shooting just under 35 percent of his three point attempts off catch-and-shoots and around 40 percent under two seconds of catching the ball and made a whopping 45 percent of those takes per NBA.com/stats.
On offence, the two can make Steve Kerr weak in the knees. As Steph is running around drawing attention, Russell, who can score in his own right, will have a choice of big-men to play with in Draymond Green, or a rim-runner in Cauley-Stein or Looney.
However, on the other end of the court they’ll look a bit like the Dragic-Bledsoe backcourt pairing in Phoenix if it was just Dragic-Dragic: two offensive halves with not a chance in hell at stopping anybody.
When playing a Houston or Denver, who defends the other teams best guard? Jamal Murray and James Harden can steal their lunch money.
My friend offered me a 49.5 win line for next season and I thought it was an easy decision to go under.
In my opinion, there just isn’t enough depth to sustain an injury. If Curry goes down for any significant time, Russell will likely slide up to the lead guard, but who is behind him now? If Alfonzo McKinnie goes down, Robinson III will slide into his position, but who’s behind them now?
If there is an injury in the backcourt they’ll be forced to depend on Jordan ‘Swaggy’ Poole, Jacob Evans or Damion Lee.
Draymond is a former DPOY, but he and the big-men will have a huge workload to make up for the shortcomings of their wing rotation. Until Klay returns they won’t have a go-to defender for the LeBron’s and Kawhi’s of the world.
Now that was the pessimist in me talking.
If I watch Game 3 of these last Finals series on repeat for a few days and squint really hard maybe I could see a pathway to a 50-plus win season.
In Game 3, Steph scored 47 with absolutely no help, reaching into his bag of tricks trying and pull off some kind of miracle and keep his team in the series.
Sadly it didn’t work. But that was against one of the best teams in the league, what does it look like against Memphis on a random Tuesday in December? Can he pull off some incredible wins against stronger teams.
He also won’t be alone, Russell is there and Klay will come back around the All-Star break which, if they’re in the playoff hunt, will definitely boost their chances.
Also, there’s the possibility that the Warriors trade D’Angelo Russell mid-season as a pure asset play.
Side note: fantasy basketball players, if you’re looking for some quick value early in the season, add a scoring guard for one game who will be going up against this Warriors team, they’re going to have all they can eat out on the perimeter. Back to the article.
Can they flip Russell to a team in need of scoring for some much needed depth? Russell will be getting paid just under $30 for the first year of the contract and they aren’t too worried about money as long as it matches.
If Bob Myers can flip one Russell for three or so role players just before they add in a healthy Klay I think he does that every day of the week. Possible trade candidates and potential returns is a whole other story but the Dubs likely won’t feel any pressure to trade him right away. Your guess is as good as mine if he finishes the season on this roster.
If the Dubs stay in perfect health and Russell can play alongside Steph, this team can hopefully coast until Klay returns and maybe they can win a playoff series.
If anybody gets injured for any amount of time before Klay’s return, if Klay doesn’t come back 100 percent or if Russell gets traded for spare parts that don’t work out they will be gunning for the eighth seed or even on the outside looking in.
The poor Golden State Warriors. They drop out of title contention and about eight teams take their place in one of the most stacked leagues we’ve seen in a while. Maybe they can’t hang with the new superteams popping up around the league or maybe their veteran group just knows how to win and can get as high as a top-four seed.
I’d bet against that; they’ll be chasing the lower seeds of the playoffs come April and cross their fingers that they stay healthy. But I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m wrong in a few months time.
“Really proud of the way that we fought until the end and this five-year run’s been awesome, but definitely don’t think it’s over,” said Steph at the end of Game 6.