The Golden State Warriors are playing some of their basketball of the season as they head towards next week’s NBA Play-In Tournament. The Dubs have won their last four and six of their last seven going into the final two games of the regular season.
With their recent streak, the Warriors clinched a spot in the tournament, but it remains to be seen where they will finish in the Western Conference standings. Golden State is hanging on to a half-game lead over the Memphis Grizzlies for eighth but could fall to the ninth if it loses the season-finale against the Grizz.
Although the NBA’s leading scorer, Stephen Curry, has been magical, this season wasn’t supposed to go this way. When news broke that Klay Thompson suffered an Achilles injury just before the 2020 NBA Draft, it torpedoed any chance of challenging for an NBA championship.
The hope is that Thompson will be fully healthy and return for the beginning of the 2021-22 season. If he is able to suit up, he will re-join Curry and Draymond Green as the nucleus that helped the Dubs win three championships in five seasons between 2015 and 2020.
All three will be on the wrong side of 30 next season, but the Warriors have never lost a playoff series when Curry, Thompson and Green start every game in a playoff series. Still, general manager Bob Myers has some work to do if he wants to help the franchise get back to the top of the NBA mountain.
Golden State added a young piece in center James Wiseman with the No. 2 overall pick last year and holds the Minnesota Timberwolves’ top-three-protected 2021 first-round selection. The Timberwolves have played much better in recent and climbed up the standings. It looks like Minnesota will have the sixth-best odds to win the 2021 NBA Draft Lottery. If the pick lands fourth or lower, then it will be sent to the Dubs.
The Warriors are in a tight bind financially. If Curry, Thompson, Green and Andrew Wiggins are all on the roster next season, Golden State will owe the four players roughly $130 million in combined salary. That limits the team’s opportunities to fine-tune the roster and add some depth to the bench.
Kevin Pelton and Bobby Marks of ESPN released their NBA future power rankings where they project how each NBA franchise will do over the next three seasons. They put the Dubs 15th on their list.
This feels too low for the Warriors, whose ability to straddle winning now and building for the future seems to have eluded the FPR formula. As long as Stephen Curry is healthy — no guarantee, as we saw in 2019-20 — this should be a floor for Golden State in the standings, particularly with Klay Thompson due back next season after two campaigns lost to injury. How high the Warriors can climb depends on the development of 2020 No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman and the pick they get from the Minnesota Timberwolves to complete the Andrew Wiggins trade. That pick, top-three protected this year, could deliver Golden State one of this year’s top prospects. Alternatively, if Minnesota retains the pick, the Warriors could be looking at a much lower pick in 2022, given the improvement the Timberwolves have shown in the second half of this season. — Pelton
As Pelton mentions, if Steph is healthy, the Warriors are a threat to win on any given night. But for Golden State to climb back into the upper-echelon of the league, Myers needs to address the bench.
The Dubs haven’t fared too well when Curry is resting during games. At the beginning of the season, the team lacked another playmaker on the second unit who could help create when Steph was on the bench.
That changed with the emergence of Jordan Poole. The 21-year-old is averaging 13.9 points since being recalled from the G League in March and has helped stabilize the second unit. Poole gives the Warriors a young, cost-controlled player who should lockdown a reserve role for next season and beyond.
It will be interesting to see how Wiseman develops going into Year 2. The big man struggled with consistency and injuries during his shortened rookie campaign that ended with a torn meniscus.
Wiseman averaged 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in 21.4 minutes per game. The 20-year-old’s per 36 minutes stats are at 19.3 points and 9.7 rebounds.
But the underlying numbers aren’t kind to Wiseman. Golden State’s net rating is 11.4 points better per 100 possessions with Wiseman on the bench. His 110.6 defensive rating is fourth-worst out of any Warrior who has played meaningful minutes, per NBA.com.
Wiseman lacks experience. He only played in three college games with Memphis and will benefit from a full offseason with the team that hopefully won’t be hampered by the pandemic.
This offseason will be another interesting one for the Dubs. We will have to wait and see where the Timberwolves’ pick lands, but Myers will have some assets at his disposal to help improve the team.
Do you agree with where Marks and Pelton have Golden State in their future rankings? Where do you think the Dubs will be three seasons from now?