The Golden State Warriors’ poor start may be just what the team needs to remain a winning franchise for years to come
The Golden State Warriors hardly look like a team that has played in five-straight NBA Finals. They are off to a 1-4 start, losing the first three games at the brand new Chase Center in San Francisco.
The rocky start was expected with the departure of Kevin Durant and the absence of Klay Thompson due to a torn ACL. Just when things couldn’t get any worse, Stephen Curry suffered a broken hand in the third quarter against the Phoenix Suns.
The Warriors have not released a timetable for Curry’s return, but it’s assumed that it won’t be anytime soon. Suddenly, Draymond Green is the only starter on the floor for the Warriors from last year’s NBA Finals. With just one play, Golden State went from potential championship contenders to a team that will struggle to make the playoffs in the Western Conference.
Without Steph Curry for a significant amount of time, there simply isn’t enough firepower for the Warriors to win consistently. D’Angelo Russell has yet to find his rhythm with the team. He’s averaging just 16.3 points per game while shooting a dismal 39 percent from the field.
It’s understandable why Kerr would be less than optimistic about his team this year. In addition to the absence of All-Stars, the team’s role players are much different. Veterans like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston are gone. Those minutes are going to players like Damion Lee and rookie Jordan Poole. According to Real GM, the Warriors are the fourth-youngest team in the league. Looking at the improved rosters of the Lakers and Clippers, it’s tough to see how the Warriors can continue to compete at a high level.
I’m sure this isn’t the type of season that the franchise had in mind when it opened the doors to the $1.4 billion Chase Center this season. But in the long term, the anticipated struggles this year could put the Warriors in a position to win for years to come.
D’Angelo Russell doesn’t appear to be a part of the Warriors’ long term plans. He’s an attractive offensive option in the absence of Klay Thompson, but the All-Star is much more valuable as trade bait. The Warriors could secure solid roster pieces and draft picks for the 23-year-old guard that doesn’t become an unrestricted free agent until 2023.
If the Warriors miss the playoffs this year, they will secure a lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. With Steph Curry missing any significant amount of time, you can expect the Warriors to continue to struggle. Next season, this squad could potentially add a top 10 draft pick to a lineup that already includes three All-Stars.
The idea of the Warriors turning Curry’s injury into a defining moment for the franchise isn’t far-fetched. The San Antonio Spurs did the same thing when David Robinson played just six games in the 1996-97 season. The Spurs finished the season 20-62 without The Admiral and landed the No. 1 pick in the 1997 NBA Draft. That coveted draft pick ended up being Tim Duncan, and the rest is history.
The Warriors are best served not making the playoffs, but this year isn’t a complete wash for the players competing on the floor. Guys who would have had a limited role on a contending team will have an opportunity to play significant minutes. Coach Kerr will be able to see what newly acquired players like Glenn Robinson III and Willie-Caulie Stein bring to the table.
There are a lot of moving pieces necessary for a Warriors dynasty part two to play out. If any organization is capable of pulling it off, it’s Golden State. This is the same franchise that signed Kevin Durant in free agency, won two championships with the MVP and traded him before he left on his own. The Warriors have the core players and front office personnel to make complicated roster moves look effortless.
For the first time in five years, the path to an NBA championship won’t be running through the Warriors. The rest of the league can breathe a sigh of relief, but not for long. This franchise is in a position to make sure of it.