Coming off a 5-0 preseason, the Golden State Warriors head into their regular-season opener tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers with high expectations. While Stephen Curry has a nearly identical starting lineup to the end of last season, Golden State’s bench is filled with a bevy of recent acquisitions that have played very well this preseason. So just how will it all come together?
Here are our regular-season predictions for the Warriors:
Marc’s prediction: 52-30, 4th in Western Conference
The Suns, Jazz, and Nuggets are in a tier of their own atop the West right now, but of the remaining teams in the conference, the Warriors are the best remaining challenger. The Lakers might be able to change that if Anthony Davis and LeBron James both play 75+ games, but that’s far from a guarantee. Outside of AD and James, I don’t like how the Lakers filled out the rest of their roster.
As I looked around the Western Conference, flawed and thin rosters left me bullish that Golden State has the deepest rotation outside of Phoenix, Utah, and Denver even without Klay Thompson.
Jordan Poole looks like more than a microwave bench scorer and could be an early favorite for this year’s Most Improved Player Award. Poole’s emergence takes a substantial amount of pressure off Thompson. If Klay is some semblance of his old self, Golden State could break into the top tier in the conference. For now, though, this roster is flush with shooting and offseason acquisitions Nemanja Bjelica and Otto Porter Jr. might be the best bench shooters the Warriors have had during their dynasty. Everything fits in Golden State, something that hasn’t been true for some time. Now with the personnel to maximize Stephen Curry, the stage is set for the best season in Chase Center history.
Brady’s prediction: 48-34, 6th in Western Conference
Full disclosure: for continuity’s sake, I’m sticking with the prediction I made in the SB Nation NBA Season Preview. I put in my answers there before the start of the preseason, and had I seen how well the ball moved during the Dubs’ 5-0 start — and how many threes they hoisted — I probably would have gone for a slightly more optimistic record.
Still, 48 wins feels like a good blend of optimism and realism, and I predict it while expecting the Warriors to be one of the better teams in the West when the postseason rolls around. The ceiling is very high for this team, but Nemanja Bjelica, Otto Porter Jr., and Andre Iguodala have some injury concerns, Draymond Green is good for a few stretches of being banged up, and Jordan Poole, while emerging, is still young enough that he’ll likely have a stinker for every two or three breakout performances. I expect Golden State to be a very good team at season’s end, but there will likely be a few road blocks between here and there.
Ricko’s prediction: 50-32, 4th or 5th in Western Conference
I’m new to Golden State of Mind this year, but for the record, the team has never lost since I started here. Let’s ride this momentum and say the team will go 81-1 with the loss coming from that one random yet inevitable
Andrew Wiggins Kelly Oubre revenge game.
In all seriousness, this is probably the most optimistic I have felt about a Warriors team since Kevin Durant left. Whether it was due to bad injury luck or limited practice time because of COVID guidelines, last year’s team felt unprepared and stale. The coaches put players in roles that didn’t maximize their strengths (possibly out of necessity), and every game had Steph doing his best to win in spite of it. However, this season might be different because the Warriors brought in new assistant coaches like Kenny Atkinson, Jama Mahlalela, and Dejan Milojevic to focus on player development. While the new additions to the roster are great fits too, I think the fresh set of eyes in the coaching staff as well as their ability to identify and integrate what their players do best on the court will be huge towards the team’s success this season. Assuming good injury luck, the Warriors should be a top 4-5 seed in the West with the upside of title contention if everything goes right for them.
Sean’s Prediction: 51-31, 4th in the Western Conference
Yes, I’m going a full 14 games higher than 538’s projected win total. That prediction also said the Warriors only positive-impact players were Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Gary Payton II (!) so let’s take that with a grain of salt. Mainly this is a bet on Steph Curry sustaining his excellence for another season and the team being much, much deeper. The 2021 SF Giants are a great example of the strides a team can make if they simply aren’t using bad players, and the Warriors are going to have to depend on far fewer mediocrities this year. It’s telling that Mychal Mulder was a key part of the seven-man rotation down the stretch last season, and this year he couldn’t make the 15-man roster.
I’m excited about the bombs-away offense and all the outside shooting, though I’m slightly concerned with the team’s lack of a rim threat. Maybe that can be a healthy James Wiseman feasting on a diet of pick-and-rolls, or maybe that’s a player who’s not on the roster yet. The defense should still be strong - losing Kent Bazemore and Kelly Oubre’s perimeter defense is offset by also losing their sky-high foul rates. It’s hard to know what to expect from the young players, but I’m choosing to believe in Moses Moody’s ability to get minutes, Jonathan Kuminga’s floor being a super-charged Eric Paschall, and Wiseman improving greatly with his extra year of seasoning and Draymond yelling at at him where to go on defense roughly a thousand times. We’ll see if they get any offensive rebound all year, but I think this is a top ten offense and defense.
Joe’s Prediction: 50-32, 5th in the Western Conference
I’m inclined to look at this exercise from an analytical lens. Based on what I’ve seen from preseason, there’s a lot to be bullish about. The Warriors made use of their newfound floor-spacing personnel (i.e., Otto Porter Jr. and Nemanja Bjelica) by jacking up a copious amount of threes, to the tune of 53.2 three-point attempts per game and a three-point attempt rate of 55.5% — both of which blew away the rest of the field in the preseason.
The alarm sounding off within your head is probably telling you that the Warriors are eerily approaching D’Antoni-era Houston Rockets volume-shooting territory — we all know how that worked out in the end — but there are noticeable differences. The Warriors are still sticking to their egalitarian motion offense instead of a 5-out/4-out-1-in spread pick-and-roll, with Stephen Curry remaining as the engine and Draymond Green as the conductor.
The difference? Players who fit in better in terms of basketball IQ, playmaking equity, and as aforementioned, shooters who will have the easiest shot attempts of their lives with one of the greatest offensive players in NBA history drawing most of the attention to himself.
Assuming perfect to near-perfect levels of health across the roster, I see this team finishing way higher than 20th in terms of offensive rating. Their ceiling in that category might just be somewhere within the top five. Defensively is where the drop-off might occur; a 5th-ranked defensive rating last season was buoyed by pesky and lengthy wing defense, and the Warriors just lost two of them in Kelly Oubre Jr. and Kent Bazemore.
Still, if the Warriors stay true to team principles and schemes while paying great attention to detail, the drop-off may not be that much — and having an all-time-great defender in Green will be a big part of that defensive identity staying afloat.
Combine that with an offense that just might crack the top five, and I see the Warriors at least winning 50 games, with at least a 5th-place finish in the West that will comfortably keep them away from the torturous experience that is the play-in tournament.