We’ve entered a new era of Golden State Warriors basketball, sort of. The Curry Dynasty isn’t over yet, as he’s still the star of the team and an MVP-level talent. But the juggernaut we once knew no longer exists in its previous form.
Gone is most of the 73-win squad. Out are Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala, 40% of the Hamptons Five. All the old bench crews have moved on. Klay Thompson remains but he’ll miss the whole season to injury, again. Only four players from the 2019 Finals squad will step on the court in 2021. (Click here to see the Opening Day roster.)
The Warriors are probably still good. They might even still be great! Heck, you can’t say for sure that they won’t rise from the ashes and win another championship, like the phoenix that Suns fans ironically never get to watch.
But before we get our hopes up, there are questions to answer first.
Can Curry still be an MVP?
We already know what Steph Curry can do. At his peak he put up the best offensive season the league has ever seen or will probably ever see, winning the only unanimous MVP ever, with a combination of extreme volume, impossible efficiency, and video-game range.
But now Curry is 32, and he’s played exactly five NBA games since June 2019. None of that means he’s cooked, but none of it helps either.
He’s also never been more alone on the court. We know he can win an MVP without Kevin Durant on his team, but we’ve never seen him play without Klay Thompson, who is out for the year. We almost got a sneak peek of a fully unleashed Steph last season, but then he got hurt right away.
Can Curry step back up, stay healthy, contend for an MVP, and lead the Dubs to another ring? Of course he can. Will he? Only time will tell.
Is there enough deep shooting?
Steph is the best shooter in the history of the sport, and also in the present-day league. That’s a good start. What else we got?
Without Klay, we can’t just assume that three-point shooting is a strength in Golden State. Kelly Oubre takes his place, but his 35.2% deep clip from last season was by far a career-high. Andrew Wiggins has his favorable spots beyond the arc but overall is a career 33% on threes, with a high of 35.6% four years ago. Draymond Green’s success in this department is measured in how few attempts he is forced to make, not the rate at which he sinks them.
There isn’t zero shooting in the starting lineup, but there is not any kind of second Splash Brother joining Steph.
Ah, but there might be hope on the bench. Kent Bazemore is 35% for his career and nearly topped 40% a couple years ago, and second-year youngster Jordan Poole flashed his potential at times last season despite ugly overall numbers. Damion Lee is at 36.5% with decent volume in a season’s worth of games for his Dubs career, and Brad Wanamaker doesn’t hoist often but hits a lot when he does try (37.6% career on 1 shot per game). And who knows if this is the year that Kevon Looney finally starts showing off his long-rumored deep stroke.
It’s not for sure that the Warriors will have enough shooting, but it’s absolutely possible and there are several different paths they could take to get there. Maybe one of the starting wings breaks out in a change of scenery with extra space created by Curry’s gravity. Maybe one of the bench guards locks in as the next dangerous sharpshooter. Maybe Looney goes nuts. Maybe everyone is just pretty good across the board, and collectively they more than beat last year’s 35.8% NBA average.
What will they get from rookie Wiseman?
The Warriors drew the No. 2 overall draft pick this summer, which was a throwback feeling for Dubs fans after nearly a decade of nonstop playoff contention. It’s also a rare opportunity for a premium top-of-the-draft talent to join a team that already has multiple All-Stars, since the Warriors’ poor 2020 was based on short-term injuries and not long-term lack of ability.
But what will the Dubs actually get from their new rookie, center James Wiseman? Will he succeed right away and earn his place in the starting lineup? Take a while to develop but eventually become a productive rotation player? Flame out entirely like many prospects do every year?
Golden State has other options at center, so Wiseman doesn’t have to become a star immediately. But it sure would help if he could at least chip in this season.
Which role players will pan out?
Wiseman isn’t the only unproven player in the bunch, though, nor are the aforementioned bench shooters Lee and Poole.
How about big man Marquese Chriss? He looked promising last season, but it was a small sample and basically every minute the Warriors played all year was technically garbage time. Is he going to make good on his original lottery draft stock, or fade away like he did with his previous three teams?
How about forward Eric Paschall? He had a nice rookie year on a terrible team, but how will he perform in more limited opportunities on a quality club?
With the starting lineup weakened, the bench will have to contribute at least something this season. Even a Prime Curry won’t be able to do it alone. It would go a long way if a couple of these names (Lee, Poole, Paschall, Chriss, Wiseman) could take the leap from potential to proven.
And even the starters have a similar question. Who is Andrew Wiggins, exactly? Perhaps this whole section should really have been about him, given his relatively loftier star potential and equally unpredictable future. If the 25-year-old, former No. 1 overall pick, off-the-charts athlete finally hits his long-awaited stride in coach Steve Kerr’s system, with improved wing defense and more efficient scoring than he showed in his first six NBA seasons, then he could have a bigger impact than anyone else mentioned in that previous paragraph.
Can they stay healthy?
Every team in every sport must face this question. But it’s not always as dire of an issue as it is here.
One future Hall of Famer is already out of action. Another, the team’s MVP, was limited to just five games last year, by a completely different body part (hand) than the one that perpetually makes us nervous (ankle). The third superstar is already missing the season opener to a nagging foot injury, which isn’t serious yet but also isn’t a promising start to a campaign. (And then there’s Looney, who is always one headline away from mysteriously disappearing forever, given his issues with nerve damage.)
Every team can get hurt. But not every team has specific, significant, imminent worries like these for all three of their biggest stars, with one member of the trio already completely ruled out.
Yes, I know I didn’t ask about Draymond returning to form. That’s because I’m not the least bit worried about him, other than health. Did I miss any other key questions? Ask away in the comments!