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6 reasons the Warriors will be better next year, even if they just run it back

Your daily dose of optimism.

Klay Thompson and Jordan poole getting ready to high-five Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors roster won’t look the same next year. There will be changes. Donte DiVincenzo will almost surely opt out of his contract and sign a larger deal elsewhere. Draymond Green could potentially do the same. Jordan Poole could be traded to save money. And they may (or may not) welcome another first-round pick into the fold.

But it will probably look similar. And if it looks similar — or even if it looked identical — that would be a good thing. Remember, the Warriors are less than a year removed from winning a championship. And even though this season was largely a frustrating disappointment, don’t forget that the Warriors did start to figure things out. In the second half of the season, Golden State had the fifth-best net rating in the NBA, per Cleaning The Glass ... and the best net rating in the Western Conference. And that was with Andrew Wiggins only playing in 13 of those 41 games.

They ran out of gas down the stretch and never fully clicked. But make no mistake: this is still a championship-level team.

If they were to run it back next year — which, again, they won’t, but it will likely look very similar — I’d feel highly confident that they’d be a significantly improved team, with a much better record and a much stronger chance of returning to the highest stage in the NBA.

Here are six reasons why.

1. More rest

People underestimate how exhausting it is to win a championship. Don’t forget that Michael Jordan, perhaps the most relentlessly competitive player in NBA history, retired at age 30 in large part due to exhaustion. A very different situation? Sure. But you get the point.

The Warriors drowned in confetti last year on June 16. They were eliminated this year on May 12. They had to play nine additional games last year, which for the stars means around 330-350 additional minutes. They had 124 days off between ending one season and starting the next, and that number shrinks considerably when you start at training camp or offseason programs instead of opening night.

This year, if their seasons again starts on October 18, they’ll have 159 days off.

That might not seem like a big difference, but it absolutely is. The strain and stress of a professional athlete — flying across the country every few days, sleeping out of hotels, then doing insane workouts, and having cameras and microphones shoved into your face until the late hours — is immense. Having to do that less — and then having significantly more time to recover before having to do it again — can’t be understated.

I say this with zero hyperbole: when last season started, I was still exhausted from the season before. And I just write about the team. From my couch.

2. Gary Payton II

Payton was one of the keys to the Warriors success during their title run in 2022. He was only eighth on the team in total minutes played, but the advanced metrics painted him as one of the team — and league’s — most impactful players. His unique defensive abilities proved extra important in the playoffs, when the Warriors could throw different looks and coverages at players to disrupt them. Payton defended Ja Morant, Luka Dončić, Jayson Tatum, and Nikola Jokić in the postseason.

Golden State, of course, let Payton walk in the offseason, then traded for him at the deadline. An injury limited him to just seven regular season games before the playoffs, and while he was good, it was also clear that he wasn’t at full strength.

Knock on wood, but the Warriors should have a healthy GPII next year ... and for 75 more games than they had him this year.

3. Improved chemistry

Before the dust had even settled on the Warriors season, Steve Kerr and Draymond Green were talking openly and honestly about how Green’s preseason punch of Jordan Poole had disrupted the team all season long.

By the end of the season, a lot of recovery had been done. Poole was more willing to talk about the subject, rather than being reclusive or cryptic about it. Poole and Green appeared to have a healthier and more comfortable relationship than they had back in October. Green had started to resume his vocal leadership role, with reports even revealing that he had called out a few teammates, including Poole, in February ... and that Poole had openly taken the criticism.

An offseason away from the spotlight will help. They (meaning the duo and the team) will unquestionably begin the 2023-24 season in a much healthier and happier place than they started the 2022-23 season in. And for a team reliant on chemistry, trust, and, yes, joy, that can make all the difference.

Speaking of which...

4. A Poole bounce back

No one knows why Poole took a step backwards in his fourth NBA season. Perhaps the punch had rattled him. Perhaps landing his first large NBA contract had made him complacent. Perhaps he got a little too confident in his skills. Or perhaps he simply had a down year. It happens.

Everyone’s development is different, but most NBA players don’t peak when they’re 22 (and if they do it’s usually because it’s their last year in the league). History tells us that Poole will likely be better next year than he was last year ... and maybe even better than he was the year before.

5. Increased youth contributions

Moses Moody appeared to turn a corner at the end of the season. Kerr trusted him in the playoffs, and was quick to note that Moody had, in a very short span, put everything together in practice.

That suggests that he’ll start next year firmly in the rotation. And it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Jonathan Kuminga next to him.

Kuminga showed why the Warriors — and the league — are so high on him during the absences of Wiggins and Payton. He has all the tools to be a plus-plus defender with a multi-faceted, dynamic offensive game.

There are things he has to do better to get consistent playing time, mainly rebounding and making better decisions on offense. Those are the types of things that you can feel optimistic a player will start to do in their third season.

I wouldn’t use a pen when putting Moody and Kuminga playing 40-50 minutes a night of quality basketball in my 2023-24 Warriors crossword puzzle ... but I will write it in pencil and assume it’s the right answer.

6. A full offseason for Klay

Klay Thompson had an odd offseason. He didn’t play over the summer, which is virtually unheard of in the NBA. Thompson, who tore his Achilles while playing summer pickup in 2020, explained the decision as being for his mental health given his fears of a repeat event.

He had the Warriors blessing, but there was no denying that it hurt his game, as did the fact that he showed up to camp not quite in shape.

I believe it was the right move — it doesn’t matter what physical tools you have if your mental game isn’t strong — but it came with a cost. That cost will likely be gone this offseason. Thompson looks ready for a normal summer, and Kerr has already talked openly about how he’ll work with his five-time All-Star to help him find new ways to add to his game.

Klay didn’t have a bad season. He shot 41.2% on threes, led the NBA in threes made, and finished 75th in the league (and third on the Warriors) in EPM.

But a better offseason likely leads to a better season, and a better Klay season likely leads to a better Warriors season.

Don’t write your dynasty obituaries just yet.

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