Predicted finish: 7th in the West (3rd in the Pacific, 12 in the power rankings)
Last seasons conference finish: 15th
Once again without Klay Thompson due to tragic season ending injury circumstances, previewing the 2021 Warriors feels eerily similar to what we saw last season. So the question is, why do I have a team who in very similar circumstances was the worst in basketball, a playoff team in the Western conference. My answer to that is for starters, I’m assuming Steph Curry finds a way to stay on the court this season because without him, none of the other stuff really matters. Also, I think Curry back reinvigorates an at times lost Draymond Green last season. I doubt we get 2016 Green but even 80% of that guy to go with Steph makes this team a virtual playoff lock. I also think Andrew Wiggins is in a spot in a system that should have him primed for a career year. Frankly, if he can’t fill the Harrison Barnes role from previous Warriors teams, all hope for him being a positive NBA player may be lost. Similarly, Kelly Oubre Jr is going to have a ton of chance to create with this team so bereft of ball handling after Curry so I expect him to pop in Golden State. Lastly, Eric Paschall and Marquese Chriss quietly showed a ton of potential to help fill some bench depth and you’d have to expect some type of impact from the number two overall pick, James Wiseman. I’m not saying this is the 2017 Warriors but this team assuming health should be a playoff team, especially if they make a depth move or two throughout the season.
The big question for the franchise: Can Draymond and Steph stay healthy?
Let’s all be honest for a second here, this team’s entire prospects this season rely on Curry and Green’s health. Their depth behind them is poor and even if it was good, the entire Golden State system that should help players like Wiggins and Oubre thrive relies on Curry and Green being on the floor. This feels like a big year for them in the sense that if they can’t stay healthy once again, it’ll be hard to take them seriously next year even with Klay back. At some point stars age and lose the ability to stay healthy and it feels like this is the make or break year for Curry and Green on if that’s where we’ll be at with them when the season comes to a close.
One move I want to see them make: Add a guard who can shoot and run team when Steph is off the floor
Really ever since Leandro Barbosa left, this team has had horrendous backup point guard play (which is a huge reason the Warriors were worse with Curry off the floor than Durant but that’s not important right now). Brad Wanamaker is fine but it feels like we saw his ceiling in Boston last year and that was not as someone you want handling the ball at any moment of significance. The only other real option is second round pick Nico Mannion and I’m not huge on relying on a rookie one and done second rounder soooooo in a move to also help Steph stay healthy (to reduce his workload), this feels like a must for this team. I get some people want to see them add some wing shooting however, just being able to not completely capsize when Steph is off the floor and also in lessening his injury risk from wear and tear as well seems to me like the obvious area they need to improve.
Offseason Grade: C
I don’t particularly love anything this team did in the offseason. Oubre feels like a stop gap solution to the Klay disaster, Wiseman isn’t the guy I would’ve risked that pick on and Wannamaker is very meh to me. The only move I liked a lot was stealing Kent Bazemore for cheap but let’s be honest, if your best move is a minimum Kent Bazemore I’m not sure how good of a grade I can give you.
Young player I’m excited for: James Wiseman
Wiseman hasn’t played meaningful basketball in literally over a year due to the NCAA debacle and him giving up on the season. To say I have any expectations for him feels grossly unfair which is why I’d expect him to come off the bench early just to acclimate to playing real basketball again. I’m not a huge Wiseman guy and will never be accused of being one however that’s not from a lack of talent. For me my worry is his love for the game, I just never really saw a motor that screamed to me as a guy who would work to become an NBA All-Star. Maybe having an infrastructure of guys like Green and Curry will lead to me being wrong as if anyone could get it out of him it’s them. Regardless, I’m fascinated to see how this plays out. He has endless talent and potential at both ends yet hasn’t played truly meaningful basketball since really high school if you think about it. This is such a bizarre situation and one that has to be a must watch for all.
As I said to open, this feels like a deja vu of just a year ago when it went oh so very bad. I just feel for whatever reason this team has a better infrastructure around it to sustain a Klay injury than last year’s. As an example, Wiggins just feels like a more natural fit next to Curry and Green and Oubre is a big upgrade over Glenn Robinson and the guys they started last year. The reality is, it isn’t about Wiggins, Oubre, Wiseman or whoever else is on this roster though. It really just comes down to if Steph and Draymond can stay healthy. Frankly, it sucks to put so much pressure onto one uncontrollable thing but that’s the reality of where this franchise is. Will history repeat itself or will Curry and Green return to the players we knew what feels like forever ago, only time will tell.