Golden State of Mind

The Golden State Warriors may be ready to return to championship contention this season after a tumultuous couple of years following the defeat at the hands of the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 NBA Finals and not making the playoffs since then. With the return of All Star guard and one half of the Splash Brothers, Klay Thompson, the Golden State Warriors may be ready to return to their status as a bonafide championship contender this season. Thompson has not seen the floor for over two years now owing to an ACL tear during the 2019 NBA Finals, which saw the Raptors lift their first-ever NBA title after defeating the Warriors in six games. After getting ready to return last season, Klay suffered yet another setback, this time in the form of an Achilles tendon injury which he sustained during a pick-up game in Los Angeles, effectively ending his season before it even began. Now, the Warriors have reason to be optimistic once again with Thompson’s return on the horizon and the brilliance of a seemingly ageless Stephen Curry after he secured his second scoring title last season after averaging 32 points per game. Indeed, this year is shaping up to be quite the ride for Golden State and the man at the helm, Steve Kerr, is up for the job. Entering his eighth season as head coach, with three NBA championships and five straight Finals appearances to show for it, Kerr is ready to have the band back together again. 

Photo by Keith Allison, distributed under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license

Many have the Los Angeles Lakers coming out of the West this year given the number of reinforcements they brought in over the offseason headlined by All-Star guard Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo and DeAndre Jordan among others, but if healthy, the Warriors may be able to overcome them to return to the Finals this year. The LeBron James and Anthony Davis-led Lakers are understandable favourites this season but their age and lack of spacing may prevent them from reaching their goal of a second championship in three years. The Warriors, meanwhile, have no such concerns in addition to possessing a championship formula that carried them to five straight NBA Finals since 2015. A part of that formula, former NBA Finals MVP Andre Igoudala has also returned to the Dubs this season joining mainstays Andrew Wiggins, James Wiseman, veteran sharpshooter Nemanja Bjelica, Jordan Poole, Otto Porter Jr. in addition to rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, giving Golden State a very capable rotation going into the upcoming season. Wiggins played well last season, finally displaying a defensive intensity and awareness after five seasons in the league, surprising many last season. Wiggins’ offensive abilities are well-known but the former first overall pick may have finally put his physical gifts to use on the defensive end to potentially become the perfect third option for the Warriors. 

The Cavalry is Here

In addition to the Warriors’ vaunted backcourt, the resurgence of Draymond Green cannot be overlooked after a forgettable 2019-20 season where he went from being one of the most irreplaceable players on an NBA team to a genuine afterthought. Green not only found his groove by averaging a career-high 8.9 assists a game but was also named a finalist for the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award signaling a return to form at the perfect time. With a fairly easy schedule early on with plenty of time at home, Golden State should not have too much trouble staying in the playoff picture until late December when Thompson is expected to make his return, according to multiple reports. “It doesn’t work without Klay,” Curry said in an interview recently. “So there’s definitely anticipation. And we feel like we’ll have three seasons in one this year: this first chapter until he gets back, reintegrating him into the fold, and then the playoff chase down the stretch,” the Golden State superstar added. After going 5-0 in the preseason, the Warriors may be ready to get back to championship form sooner than later. Third-year guard Jordan Poole has been the star of the show throughout the exhibition contests, averaging nearly 22 points per game on 51% shooting, quickly putting to rest any debate of who will start in the backcourt alongside Curry until Thompson returns. Fans hope Poole will continue his strong play into the season and help fill the void left by Thompson along with the other guards on the roster.

“And we feel like we’ll have three seasons in one this year: this first chapter until he gets back, reintegrating him into the fold, and then the playoff chase down the stretch.”

Golden State superstar Stephen Curry on the upcoming season

The return of James Wiseman is also on the horizon as the talented big man is set to take the court around the same time as Thompson, possibly earlier, according to multiple reports. A near-perfect fit in the Warriors’ starting five, provided he can stay healthy, Wiseman complements the Splash Brothers with his inside game and ability to play above the rim. The second overall pick last season, Wiseman’s rookie year was cut short with a meniscus tear that ultimately required surgery and sidelined him for the rest of the season, costing him valuable time on the floor. As the future of Golden State basketball, Wiseman’s development is crucial to the team and their championship hopes as it currently stands. The 20 year-old centre has the rare opportunity to be a top pick on a championship-caliber team that will allow him to not only learn from some of the best players in the game today but also be brought along slowly. Most top picks have the weight of the entire franchise on their shoulders from the start of their NBA journey, causing some of them to fold under the pressure and fail to realize their potential. Fans will be eager to see how he fits in with a full-strength Golden State lineup and the young big man could hold the key to their title hopes.

A late-season surge that saw them go 15-5 last year to reach the play-in tournament was aided in no small part by a return to the familiar offense predicated on ball movement, player movement and a steady diet of long-range shooting. Fans expect more of the same this season, especially given the reinforcements brought in during the offseason which should help the Dubs return to form in style. The fact is no team wants to see a Golden State squad that has Curry, Thompson and Green playing together for the first time since 2019 with an intelligent, versatile supporting cast that complements their core during the postseason. Given their championship pedigree and battle-tested players, it may not be so far-fetched to consider the possibility of Golden State back on top of the food chain this season. 

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