Golden State Warriors: Young core is key to extending championship window

Golden State Warriors James Wiseman (Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports)
Golden State Warriors James Wiseman (Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports) /

The future of the Golden State Warriors falls on the shoulders of its young core. 

The Golden State Warriors are attempting to do something no other team in NBA history has ever done successfully: bridge two eras together.

The question is whether or not the Warriors can stay atop the NBA’s elite as their “Big 3” of Steph-Klay-Draymond ages, and if so, how much their young core — Jordan Poole, James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, etc. — can help them.

Despite being tied with the Boston Celtics with the best odds to win the championship heading into the season (+600 via WynnBet), history suggests it will be tough for Golden State to go on another multi-year run of contention so soon after their previous one ended.

The Golden State Warriors’ near-impossible task

Jared Dubin of FiveThirtyEight did a study on if the Warriors can break the rules of title contention and what Dubin found was quite astounding. By examining every open title contending “windows” based on a few qualifying rules since the 1976 ABA-NBA merger, Dubin discovered that the average title “window” remains open for about 2.91 years, and the average team has taken 7.83 seasons to get back into contention after a window closes.

The latter doesn’t include franchises who have yet to reopen their contention window like the Washington Wizards who, based on the metrics laid out by Dubin, haven’t qualified for contending status since 1979 (43 years). If we take those scenarios into account, the average team has taken 8.21 years — and counting — to get back into contention.

In other words, it’s really freaking difficult to keep contending in the NBA, and even more difficult to bridge one long title window to another like the Warriors are trying to do.

On the flip side, no team in NBA history has been set up better to accomplish such a feat than this Warriors team.

Last I checked, Steph Curry is still the best shooter in NBA history. At 34 years old, Curry hasn’t missed a bet to start the season. Through seven games, Curry is averaging 31.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game with close to 50/40/90 shooting splits (47.0/39.5/93.2).

Klay may not be as consistent offensively as he was pre-ACL tear, but he’s still capable of putting up 30 any given night. On the defensive end of the floor, Klay no longer has to take the toughest perimeter assignment as the Warriors now have Andrew Wiggins for that.

Draymond, like Klay, isn’t the offensive threat he was during the Warriors’ first title, but he doesn’t need to be. The biggest thing for Draymond is defense. As long as he continues to be the Warriors’ defensive anchor, Steve Kerr and the coaching staff will be happy. Before his injury a season ago, Draymond was the frontrunner to win the Defensive Player of the Year award.

Steph, Klay, and Draymond are going to do what they have been doing their entire careers. However, the key to the Warriors’ success this season and beyond lies in the hands of their young core.

The impact of Andrew Wiggins on the Golden State Warriors

When thinking of the Warriors’ young core, it’s easy to forget that Andrew Wiggins is just 27 years old. It feels like Wiggins has been in the league forever (8 seasons), but he’s entering the “prime” of his career at the perfect time for this Warriors franchise.

In the 2022 NBA Finals, Wiggins was, without a doubt, the Warriors’ second-best player. He averaged 18.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.7 blocks and 0.7 steals in those six Finals games including two huge performances in the two biggest games of the series: Games 4 and 5. Plus, he played exceptional defense on Jayson Tatum throughout the series, limiting the Celtics superstar to 36.7 field goal percentage.

Wiggins has carried over that strong Finals performance into this season as he is the Warriors’ third-leading scorer at 17.3 points per game and best perimeter defender, leading the team with 1.6 steals per game and 1.0 blocks per game.

More importantly, Wiggins wants to be a Warriors legend as he told Marcus Thompson II of The Atlantic

He expanded on that comment in an interview with Mark Medina of saying:

"“Andre, Draymond, Klay, Steph — those are Warriors legends and Bay legends. Hopefully by the time I’m done, people will look at me like that. I just have to keep putting in the work and accomplish what they have accomplished. That is a lot of motivation. They have accomplished so much while they’ve been here with all of their titles and dominating the league. I’m trying to follow what they did.”"

Jordan Poole’s bright future

The next name that comes to mind when discussing the Warriors’ young core is Jordan Poole.

It may be very early in the season, but it’s evident that Jordan Poole has improved exponentially as a playmaker. He’s second on the team in assists (5.4) behind only Steph Curry (5.6), but Poole is playing 29.1 minutes off the bench as opposed to Curry who averages 34.4 minutes per game.

Poole has gotten better at reading the defense off pick-and-rolls. Previously, when receiving a ball-screen Poole would look to score the majority of the time. Now, it feels as though Poole is looking for the rolling man or an open teammate more often than not.

Wiggins and Poole have proven they are capable of performing at a high level when the lights shine brightest. Where things get interesting is when discussing their three young players they drafted during their two “down” seasons: James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, and Moses Moody.

Those three guys, along with promising rookie Patrick Baldwin Jr, will determine how long the Warriors’ contention window can last.

Out of the three young guys, Wiseman has looked the most impressive. His statistics don’t jump off the page — 8.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 0.4 BPG in 14.6 min — but his incredibly high ceiling is clearly evident when watching the young big man play.

With Wiseman finally back on the court after missing a good chunk of time due to injuries, it can be said that all three — Moody, Kuminga, and Wiseman — have shown flashes of stardom whether it be in the summer league, the preseason, the regular season, or even postseason.

The question then becomes if they can turn those flashes into consistency because consistency is the true determinant of a great player.

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If any of them can achieve that level, let alone all three of them, then this Warriors run of dominance may continue throughout the 2020s.