Bounce Back Season For Golden State?

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Image Via Wiki Commons

By Sean Overton, Sports Writer

 

The 2015-2019 Golden State Warriors were perhaps the best dynasty in the modern-day NBA. The team took home 2 Larry O’Brien Trophies with four straight trips to the finals. In 2016, they went 73-9 in the regular season but lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers — led by Lebron James. They had a record 322 wins in a five-year span starting in the 2014-2015 season. They finished in the top-three in net rating and offensive rating in all five years. There is no denying that Stephen Curry and the gang were the best team in the NBA during that span, and perhaps the best for years to come.

But this dynasty unraveled as quickly as it began. Curry began dealing with ankle injuries during the 2017-2018 season and played just 51 games. The next year, in the 2018-19 season, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant got in an altercation that started to split the team apart. Green claimed that the Warriors did not need Durant and pointed out that they won without him. Golden State sided with Durant and suspended Green for “conduct detrimental to the team.”

When the playoffs came around in 2019, the Warriors defeated the Clippers in the first round and advanced to play Houston. Durant went down with an injury in Game 5 and would not return to the court until Game 5 of the finals. Durant ended up tearing his Achilles in the first half and ended up missing the entire next NBA season. While Golden State did make the NBA finals, they ultimately lost the series 4-2 to the Toronto Raptors.

But the finals loss was just the tip of the iceberg. Kevin Durant quickly made up his mind soon after the injury as he signed with the Brooklyn Nets. Klay Thompson also tore his ACL in Game 6 of the same series and missed out on the next season. Hopes were high for his return this season, but Thompson tore his Achilles tendon during a workout and underwent surgery not long after. Thompson has been ruled out for the entire 2020-2021 NBA season.

Curry suffered a broken hand on Oct. 30, 2019, and the Warriors’ season fell apart. The previously star-studded team fell to a record of 15-50, the worst in the league. The downfall of the Golden State Warriors was as sudden and tragic as it could get, but this season they look to redeem themselves as a playoff team and potential contender for the finals.

Because of their poor record, the Warriors received the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft which they used to select James Wiseman, the 7-foot-1 center out of the University of Memphis. Wiseman is a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year and has lots of potential. Wiseman left Memphis after an NCAA violation, only playing in three games during his time there. Despite the short stint, he averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3 blocks in those three contests. While these stats are strong, the fact that he only played in three games is enough to make any NBA team hesitant to draft him. The Warriors must have seen something in Wiseman that was enough for them to take him with the No. 2 overall pick.

This campaign looks to be a bounce-back year for the Warriors with Curry recovered from the injury and surgery. The Warriors also traded with the Suns to acquire Kelly Oubre Jr. to fill in for Klay Thompson. The starting lineup will likely be Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre Jr. and James Wiseman.

While this team is not of the same caliber as the championship Warriors before it, there are some striking similarities. First off, Curry and Green remain on the roster and are still All-Star caliber players. Second, Kelly Oubre Jr. has a very similar style of play to Andre Iguodala and will be a nice fill in at the wing. Third, Andrew Wiggins is the former 2014 No. 1 overall draft pick. He has always been a solid player, but the Warriors are looking for him to make the leap this year as he fills in at wing for Klay Thompson. Fourth, the Warriors went through many centers between 2014 and 2019, and they have three good options this year. The starting spot will be contested between James Wiseman, Marquese Chriss and Kevon Looney. All three are great options, and Wiseman will still develop into the spot, even if he doesn’t get the starting position right away.

Back to the question, can the Warriors be a playoff team? I’d emphatically say yes, at the bare minimum. Even if Stephen Curry doesn’t play like his former MVP self, and neither Wiggins nor Oubre make a leap to the next level, I’d say this team has enough striking similarities to the former dynasty team that it would be impossible to rule them out of the playoffs.

 

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@SeanOverton3