Kevin Pelton released ESPN’s statistical projections for the 2022-23 NBA season earlier this week and sure gave Dubs Nation something to talk about. While the Golden State Warriors are coming off the NBA title, Pelton’s projection has them expected to win just 41.9 games and finish 8th in the Western Conference behind the Suns, Nuggets, Pelicans, Grizzlies, Timberwolves, Clippers, and Mavericks.
It’s worth pointing out that these models often underpredict win totals, projecting the Suns (the best team in the West, per their model) to win just 49 games. With that said, the fact that the Dubs find themselves behind seven teams, three of which they defeated in the postseason earlier this year (Nuggets, Grizzlies, and Mavericks) and one (Clippers) who missed the playoffs altogether seems hard to believe.
Pelton acknowledged that statistical models have often struggled to properly evaluate the Warriors in recent seasons, likely driven by their two lottery seasons prior to last year. Former Warriors players Otto Porter Jr. and Gary Payton II also scored very highly in ESPN’s metrics, making their departures this offseason further knock the Dubs's standing. Still, to Pelton’s credit, he acknowledges “I expect Golden State to outperform this projection and be back near the top of the West.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise from these models is that they seem skeptical of the projectability of the Warriors young players. Jordan Poole, Jonathan Kuminga, and Moses Moody all had promising stretches last season and seem well positioned to improve this season. Furthermore, while James Wiseman remains a huge question mark, he is still a former second overall pick who averaged 25.2 points and 12.7 rebounds per 100 possessions as a rookie.
One would think that statistical models would be more likely to bet on some of Golden State’s young talent taking a step forward. However, given the advanced age of the Warriors core, it seems these models believe they are due for a massive drop off this season.