Are The Warriors Actually Title Contenders?
The last time we saw Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson on a basketball court together was June 13, 2019 during game six of the NBA Finals. For reasons we are all far too aware of, trying to think back to summer of 2019 feels like a lifetime ago. Since that date Golden State’s big three has been put through the ringer. Steph Curry missed most of the 2019-20 season with a wrist injury and Klay Thompson missed the entirety of 2019-20 with a torn ACL then missed the entire 2020-21 season with a torn achilles.
During that span of time the Warriors made a multitude of win now and long term moves that has left the organization in a state of limbo. They have a big three on the roster that has a rare combination of chemistry, winning pedigree, and top end talent that can and has won championships. While also having a handful of young developing players who aren’t close to contributing to a championship contending team.
The front office of Golden State has expressed a focus on developing their young players while competing for a title. This is part of their plan to become a “Spurs like organization”.
Though before the draft there were multiple reports of the Warriors shopping James Wiseman and the number seven and fourteen picks in exchange for a player like Bradley Beal. The big three of Golden State made it clear what they believed to be the right move. The Athletic reported that Steph, Klay, and Dray all went to the Warriors front office and expressed their interest in playing with Beal.
The Warriors front office is leaning towards a moderate team building approach balancing the future and the present. While the Warriors big three is all in on this season and wants the team to make a big win now move. The two sides seem naturally at odds with each other but both sides have a common interest, the success of the Golden State Warriors. So which option should the Warriors choose? Let’s look at the roster and come to a conclusion on what would be the best course of action for the Golden State Warriors.
During the period of time that has seen the big three (mostly Klay) in and out of the line up the Golden State Warriors have not been a good basketball team.
In the 2019-20 season the Warriors went 15-50 which was good for the worst record in the NBA netting them the second overall pick which they used to select James Wiseman. Wiseman is a very fluid athlete at 7’0” and has shown some guard skills with his shooting and ball handling. Though after only three games in college and a very limited rookie season Wiseman is still an incredibly raw prospect. From what we saw from him on the court he’s not yet ready for the fast pace and physical play of the NBA.
In the 2020-21 season after a shaky start the Warriors and Curry got rolling and finished the year 39-33 good for the eight seed in the West. Unfortunately for the Warriors this was the first year of the play-in tournament. They ended up falling victim to the Memphis Grizzlies in a single elimination game and missed out on the playoffs. Missing the playoffs and trading DiAngelo Russell to the Timberwolves gave the Warriors the seventh and fourteenth picks in this year's draft. With those picks they selected Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.
Kuminga played for the NBA’s G-League Team Ignite alongside number two pick Jalen Green. Unlike Green, Kuminga struggled in his lone G-League season. He struggled to score efficiently all over the court, had many head scratching possessions and turnovers, and seemed to lose interest on the defensive end at times. Kuminga was originally looked at as a top four pick but fell to the Warriors at seven. We haven’t seen Kuminga play yet but a lot like Wiseman he projects to be more of a long term project. At 6’8” 210lbs and an explosive athlete the potential is there for Kuminga to be a special player.
Moses Moody has more of a chance to contribute right away for the Warriors. He is only nineteen and played one college season at Arkansas University. Moody is a 6’6” shooting guard or forward with a 7’1” wingspan. Moody can play day one on the defensive end, he has good instincts, the length to affect shots, and while not an explosive athlete moves well enough. The offensive part of his game is what needs to develop as he was an up and down shooter throughout college. Moody could develop into a good three and D player but without a great off the dribble game he doesn’t project to be more than just a good role player.
During this offseason the Warriors stayed pretty moderate, only bringing in three players so far. Firstly they brought back veteran forward Andre Iguodala on a one year two million dollar deal. Iguodala brings more championship experience to the Warriors and has great chemistry with the Warriors big three already. This isn’t too big of a move though, Iguodala’s at a different stage of his career now at 37 years old and can no longer be the guy you can ask to shadow Lebron for forty-eight minutes. At this point he’s a great leader and locker room presence who can give you twenty to twenty-five good rotation minutes.
The Warriors also brought in big man Nemanja Bjelica on a one year two million dollar deal. I am pretty bullish on this signing for the Warriors as I think Bjelica brings a lot of skill at the big man position that they’ve lacked in the past. Bjelica can spot up from three, take slower bigs off the dribble, and has shown to be a smart passer. Bjelica adds a pick and pop element when he’s on the court and that’s something the Warriors have never gotten from their centers. Defensively Bjelica isn’t terrible either, he’s tough, gives good effort, and moves his feet well enough to be part of a good defensive scheme. I don’t think Bjelica will light the world on fire with the Warriors, but he fills a role that has been unoccupied until now.
Finally the Warriors also added veteran swingman Otto Porter Jr. on a one year two million dollar deal. Porter is a perfect example of how a contract can ruin the perception of a player across the league. Last year we were all shocked when Nicolas Batum became a real part of the Clippers rotation. I think Porter can have a similar impact after being on contract that far outweighed his value over the past couple of seasons. At only two million per year though Porter’s off ball scoring, shooting, and good defensive play look far more attractive. I have little doubt that Porter will have a positive impact on the Warriors rotation next season.
So are the Warriors contenders with the roster they have now? Personally I don’t think so. With no major additions to play next to Steph, Klay, and Dray those three are going to have to play at a level similar to when they won seventy-two games. I think Steph could return to that level of play but the other two members concern me.
Draymond has never been a scoring player, but he’s gotten to the point where he’s not a threat to score at all. This season defenses would often leave Green completely unguarded. I still love Green’s style of play - the offense he can create for shooters like Steph and Klay and his defensive versatility are vital to the Warriors. Though over the last few playoffs we’ve seen how big of a hindrance it is to play with a complete zero offensively, aka Ben Simmons.
For Klay Thompson the concern isn’t his level of play. Klay is easily good enough to be the second best player on a championship team, he has been before. I just don’t think it’s fair to assume he will instantly be that caliber of player after missing two full seasons and suffering two major injuries. If he proves me wrong and is the same splash brother as before, great I am rooting for that to happen. I just can’t imagine we don’t see some rust for Klay coming out of the gate, and after two serious lower body injuries are we sure he’s going to be the same all-nba caliber defender. I am not so sure.
So personally I would’ve made some moves. The Warriors have three stars over the age of thirty, their window for contention is getting smaller in every passing year. While I think the young guys they drafted have potential I look at it this way. If you do not think that the peak of Wiseman, Kuminga, and Moody core is a championship then you go all in on the core of Steph, Klay, and Dray because they are a championship level core. The Warriors might have to sacrifice some future success for the short term, but given how much Steph, Klay, and Drey have done for the franchise I would be all in on getting one more with them.