Golden State Warriors: Are the Dubs being slept on as contenders?

NBA Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry Draymond Green (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
NBA Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry Draymond Green (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) /

The Golden State Warriors have been a pillar of excellence over the last five years but going into this season the aura of the Dubs is not what it use to be; are they considered underdogs now?

It seems as if everyone has made up their minds about who the top teams in the Western Conference will be this season.

The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers will be top threats with arguably the top two duos in the league featuring Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the Clippers and LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the Lakers.

The Houston Rockets made a blockbuster move this offseason adding Russell Westbrook. The Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets have earned everyone’s respect after last season and the moves to add Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic to Utah have had people buzzing about what the Jazz can be.

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But for whatever strange reason, people have the nerve leave out the Western Conference Champion Golden State Warriors and that’s a mistake.

Plenty of things will need to go right for the Warriors if they want to win another championship; however, the Warriors have all the makeup and championship DNA to make a deep playoff run this season if things go right.

Golden State will never be as good again as they were the past three years with Kevin Durant. He created an imbalance in the league that we may have never seen before and may never see again (fingers crossed). The Warriors were used to being the prohibitive favorite each of the last three years and now find themselves in new territory in an underdog role. That could be scary for a Western Conference that thinks they still won’t have to contend with the Warriors.

It’s not hard to forget just the season before the arrival of Durant that Stephen Curry was capping off one of the greatest offensive statistical seasons we have seen in any era of basketball. Beyond the points per game (30.1) to really understand Curry’s impact on the 2015-16 season you have to look deeper into his numbers.

Curry posted a player efficiency rating of 31.5, the only player to post a rating of at least 31.5 or higher in the last 30 years is LeBron James. Steph also made 402 3-pointers that season which to date stands as the most in a single season in NBA history. He shot the lights out with a true shooting percentage of 66.9 and lead the league in plus/mins at 12.5.

On the flip side, for more than half the season, presumably, Curry will be without his splash brother Klay Thompson who will be recovering from a torn ACL that he suffered in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. The Warriors surely won’t be able to play down to competition or play from behind and still, expect to win as they had a tendency to do in the past. That could be a challenge for Curry and Draymond Green throughout the season but luckily they have help.

The addition of D’Angelo Russell and how quickly he meshes with the team will be key in how the season goes. Russell is coming off his first all-star season with the Brooklyn Nets last year, leading the team to the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 season. He posted career highs across the board in points (21.1), assists (7.0) and 3-point percentage (36.9). He is just 23 years old and has plenty of room left to grow as a player.

Some people question the fit of Russell with Golden State but Steve Kerr has built a system and culture in place that almost everyone who has played under him has bought into. Russell needs to be a more willing defender which Kerr will demand from day one and learn how to play off the ball more, 71 percent of the shots he made last season were unassisted on.

On the other hand, there will be more than enough room for him to operate with the ball in his hands without the services of Thompson for most of the year and with KD departing. The Warriors will need his shot-creating and playmaking.

When it comes to competition in the West, outside of the two powerhouses in LA are we really going to trust teams like the Blazers, who got swept in the Conference Finals by the Warriors without the services of KD? Should we trust the Nuggets and Jazz are ready to take another step? Will James Harden and Russell Westbrook exonerate themselves from past playoff hiccups? Especially if Klay Thompson comes back fully healthy by the postseason, Golden State will not be a team you want to play with their Championship pedigree.

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The Warriors lost one of the best players on the planet but were still able to add another all-star in the process. I wouldn’t underestimate the hearts of champions just yet.