The NBA season has been suspended for roughly three weeks (has it really only been that long?) and there’s no end in sight. The coronavirus has dramatically altered the course of the NBA year, to the point where many believe we won’t get a conclusion to the 2019-20 season.
Even if we do, it’s likely that things skip straight to the playoffs, meaning the Golden State Warriors season is probably done, regardless of what happens to the league.
Now, let’s make one thing abundantly clear before we move on: This is all obviously quite bad. Bad for the Warriors, bad for the NBA, bad for the world.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t benefits that need to be addressed and analyzed. And the reality is that, no matter how much of a bummer this is for Golden State, a canceled season is less of a blow to the organization than to perhaps any other team in the league.
Not only do the Warriors not have anything at stake (other than, you know, money) with a lost season - they’ve already been eliminated from the playoffs - but they also have some things to gain by taking a break from basketball until the 2020-21 season (assuming we get that one at some point).
Here’s some potential benefits of a lost season, from a Warriors standpoint.
In case you forgot, the Warriors made the NBA Finals in 2015. And again in 2016. And 2017. And 2018. And 2019.
For five straight years, Golden State has played in the final game of the season.
That takes a monstrous toll on you. The NBA regular season ends around April 15, and the Finals run until the middle of June. That means it’s an extra two months of wear and tear that the Warriors have been subject to, and two fewer months of recuperation during the offseason, before training camp starts up again.
In essence, the Warriors have been at a four-month disadvantage to the 14 teams that miss the playoffs, and a slightly smaller disadvantage to the other 15 teams. And that adds up, as long year stacks on top of long year stacks on top of short offseason stacks on top of short offseason.
Consider: Over the last five years, the Warriors have played their final game of the season on June 16, June 19, June 12, June 8, and June 13. The Milwaukee Bucks - the prohibitive favorites in the East whenever we next have basketball - have played their final game of the last five years on April 30, April 13, April 27, April 28, and May 25.
During that time, Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo has played 34 postseason games. By contrast, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have played 104, and Steph Curry 93.
The Warriors trio has played the equivalent of an extra season - and then some - over the last five years, all while most players are resting and rehabbing.
A season without playoffs was bound to help Golden State, even before the coronavirus hit. Now the Warriors are getting an extra month of recuperation. None of them want it, but it benefits them more than any other team.
The Warriors haven’t exactly been a healthy team over the last year. Part of this is bad luck, and part of it is due to . . . umm . . . /gestures wildly at the previous section of this article.
Green has been dealing with lingering issues all season long, and Curry had only played one game since returning from a 58-game absence when the season got shut down.
He won’t get a chance to re-injure the hand, as many feared. Green won’t get the chance to keep playing through minor ailments that linger and nag. Kevon Looney can rest up with no attempts to rush back onto the court.
Take your time, fellas. You need it, and you deserve it, and now you get it, whether you want it or not.
Draft pick value
The Warriors had the misfortune - though they won’t be earning the sympathy of any other teams - of having their first lottery pick in ages land in one of the worst draft years in recent memory.
Still, the altered and potentially canceled season makes the pick a little more valuable. For starters, the Warriors enter the season suspension with the worst record in the league, so they’re essentially a lock to be one of the three teams with the best lottery odds (14% chance of earning the top pick).
Furthermore, this season impacts the financials of the leagues, and all 30 teams. Other organizations will be looking for ways to save as much money as possible next season, and one of the best ways to do that is through the draft, where you get talent on rookie scale contracts.
In other words, other teams will be a little more interested in trading for the Dubs’ draft pick, because of the (lack of) cost the player will be owed.
Finally, the Warriors are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves 2021 pick, though it’s top-three protected. A shortened season means Minny’s building blocks - Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell - will enter next year without having had much of an opportunity to play together and gain chemistry. That increases the odds of the Warriors getting a good pick from the Wolves.
Again: None of this is actually good news. But just because we’re mired in bad news, doesn’t mean we should avoid the ways it could positively impact the Warriors down the road.