The NBA season has finally reached the All-Star break, which makes for a great time to check in on some of our preseason predictions. Our own Brady Klopfer was responsible for the Golden State Warriors preseason preview and now more than four months later, I’m taking a look back at how his predictions have faired.
Preseason Best-Case Scenario
The Warriors pick up where they left off last year, with Steph Curry playing at an MVP level and Draymond Green at a DPOY level, with Jordan Poole taking another leap and Andrew Wiggins finding his footing even more. Klay Thompson returns from his Achilles injury as successfully as Kevin Durant and Breanna Stewart did, and the bench pieces stay healthy as Andre Iguodala turns back the clock. They cruise through an injury-riddled West, and play basketball in June for the sixth time in eight years.
It has not really come together in the exact way that Brady described, but Golden State’s 42-17 record at the All-Star break sure feels like a near best-case scenario. Even though Stephen Curry is in the middle of a slightly down (still elite) season, the Warriors got off to an excellent start and are in fantastic position despite their recent struggles.
Just as Brady said, both Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins have taken steps forward this year, with Wiggins earning an All-Star starter nod and several other role players have found sustained success. Two names he did not mention: Gary Payton II and Jonathan Kuminga who have both turned into excellent contributors.
Preseason Worst-Case Scenario
Klay Thompson looks like a shell of himself after two lower-body injuries, and with the team clearly not championship contenders, Draymond Green checks out. Injury-prone role players like Otto Porter Jr., Andre Iguodala, and Kevon Looney get hurt, forcing the Warriors to rely on their young, raw players who struggle mightily. Steph Curry burns out trying to carry the entire team on his back, Andrew Wiggins regresses into his Minnesota habits, and the Warriors find themselves once again fighting just to make the play-in tournament.
This scenario seems fully in the rearview mirror (thankfully). While some of these things could still come true, enough has already gone in the opposite direction. Perhaps the most obvious thing besides the Dubs excellent record is Kuminga, who has emerged as an immediate contributor. Even if Golden State was not back in championship conversations, Kuminga’s performance would still make me hesitant to call this season a worst-case scenario. The fact that they are near the top of the standings while a young player flashes such tantalizing potential makes it feel like the Warriors may be able to have their cake and eat it too.
Preseason Source of Most Excitement
The Splash Brothers. Last season Steph Curry answered every question about if he was still elite, emphatically affirming his place as one of the best players in the NBA. Sometime in December or January the Warriors will welcome back Klay Thompson, who hasn’t played since June, 2019. Since then, Curry, when healthy, has been paired in the backcourt with D’Angelo Russell, Kelly Oubre Jr., and Kent Bazemore; not the most exciting of theater. Seeing two franchise icons, who have formed the best shooting backcourt in NBA history, back on the court together will warm every Warriors fan’s heart.
I mean, how can anyone argue with this? Klay Thompson’s return to an NBA court might be the best story in the league this season. Still, Kuminga’s emergence has become a massive source of excitement for the fanbase as well.
Preseason Most-Likely Scenario
Preseason Prediction: 48-34 (6th seed in Western Conference)
Steph Curry again states his case for MVP, as the offseason additions fit in well, making Golden State look like a much more complete team than they were last season. Klay Thompson is good, but not great in his return, while Andrew Wiggins is solid, but doesn’t take a step forward. The Warriors are a clear playoff team, a healthy step ahead of those fighting for the play-in tournament, but clearly a tier behind the conference’s elite. No one wants to face them in the playoffs, but they don’t fully look like contenders, either.
One thing is clear, the Warriors have clearly outperformed Brady’s cautiously optimistic preseason expectations. The Warriors could go 7-16 after the All-Star break and still finish with a better record than Brady predicted.
Golden State is among the NBA’s elite this season. While Draymond Green’s injury status has led to some recent struggles, and will obviously raise concerns if he’s out during the postseason, Dub Nation should not lose track of this season’s overarching success after a couple disappointing weeks.
Adjusted Prediction: 58-24 (2nd seed in Western Conference)
Overall, I think the Warriors are well positioned to maintain their current regular-season pace after the All-Star break. While Green’s continued absence will likely lead to some struggles, Golden State could become unbeatable when Green returns to a rotation that now has both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, which makes a 16-7 post-All-Star break record a reasonable target.
Sleeper midseason bet: Stephen Curry MVP (+850)
Stephen Curry’s MVP odds have dropped to +850 (fourth in the league) during his unprecedented shooting slump, falling behind Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. However, despite his inconsistencies this season, an implied odds of roughly 10.5% still feels low to me.
After all, if I told you before the season that the Warriors would have one of the best records in the NBA, you would have rightfully guessed that only happened because Curry was once again the league’s consensus MVP. Of course, it has not happened that way. Despite early-season momentum, driven by Golden State’s success, his mid-season slump killed his MVP-buzz, but that energy could be rekindled in a flash.
Over the Warriors final 10 games prior to the All-Star break, Curry averaged 25.9 points, 6.8 assists, and 4.9 rebounds while shoting 58.9% from two, 40.8% from three, and 95.9% from the free-throw line. Maybe 2021-22 will be the first year Curry stays healthy and never goes ballistic for an incredible multiweek hot streak, or maybe it’s right around the corner. With the Warriors already near the top of the standings, a scorching few weeks from Curry could easily catapult him back to the top of this year’s MVP race.