Three championships in the last seven seasons. Five-straight NBA Finals appearances. The greatest regular season in NBA history. Those are the legacies that come to mind when we envision the Golden State Warriors.
More recently, the Warriors have been a team to miss the playoffs the last two seasons. They went 54-83, only notching more wins in the Western Conference than the Minnesota Timberwolves. They have made three lottery selections, seen 17 players start ten or more games and had dozens come and go on their rosters.
The precipitation of their downfall was pretty clear: a Kevin Durant departure and massive injuries. General Manager Bob Myers worked to milk everything he could out of the Durant decision to leave: signing-and-trading for D'Angelo Russell, then flipping him for Andrew Wiggins and the pick that turned into Jonathan Kuminga. In a vacuum, that's as good of a haul as you ever see from a sign-and-trade.
The injuries have been a major wrench in plans, however. Klay Thompson has torn two ACLs and missed the last two years as a whole: the last game he played was in the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors. Injuries to Steph Curry and Draymond Green bottomed them out a year ago. Those injuries pushed the Warriors down the standings, netted some high draft picks, and lead to James Wiseman and Moses Moody selections.
Now, the Warriors are in a strange spot. They still have the collection of championship-caliber talent atop their roster in Curry, Green, Thompson and to some extent Wiggins, all of whom are in or soon-to-be-leaving their primes. They also have young lottery players in Wiseman, Kuminga and Moody who are on separate timelines, requiring reps to reach their potential but unlikely ready to help a championship group.
What does juggling both agendas mean for this season? Golden State may be the hardest team to peg in terms of projecting their outcome. Can the young guys do enough to keep up with making them a good team? Will Steve Kerr be able to balance their development with a win-now core? How healthy and productive is Klay Thompson? Would the Warriors try to move their young guys in favor of a win-now option mid-season?
Entering this season, the Warriors are going to try to thread needle between their ponies and thoroughbred stallions. Of all the paths to walk, this is the one with the highest risk and, ultimately, the highest reward.
Head Boys Basketball Coach, Boys' Latin School (MD).