Any other year I would dread having to put the Warriors in one of these polls because I knew everyone would vote for them and because they were a fake 2K team playing on rookie mode, everyone knew they were going to make the Finals and most likely win it unless something crazy happened like their two best players had season ending injuries. To be honest they were sort of boring to preview because we all knew what would happen. Well that could not be more different as we enter this upcoming season. There are some out there that are calling this dynasty dead given the fact that KD left and Klay Thompson may not be back until March/April from his torn ACL. I’m not willing to go that far, mostly because this team is still loaded with a shit ton of really good talent, has a good coach, and a front office that you know is up to something at all times. We can all do our best and pretend like the Pre-Durant Warriors didn’t exist, but the facts are this is still going to be a team that is very much a problem. Before we can get to why, we first must relive what was their 5th consecutive season with over 56 wins
2018-19 Season Highlights
Let’s call a spade a spade, since the 2014 season, hell you could even include the previous two years if you want, there has not been a more dominant franchise than the Golden State Warriors. They went from this lovable scrappy team that played super late at night that did nothing but bomb it from deep and play elite level defense to ultimately the biggest villain in the league because nobody could really beat them. Sure LeBron/Kyrie got it done in 2016, and they lost last year without half their team, but for the most part they’ve spent the better part of 5 years running through this entire league. We hated them because our favorite teams could never beat them and mostly we were jealous because their dominance was mostly due to homegrown talent and then with the opportunity to add perhaps the league’s best player, it felt like the rich were getting richer. But for the first time in half a decade, the West is wide open. There are like 8 teams that feel like they have a legit shot at a championship. No longer can you just write the Warriors into the Finals and say “wake me up in June”. There are actual legit questions about this team that haven’t really been asked in forever. Let’s start with the roster
It’s a little different of a story when you’re going from Steph/Klay/Draymond/Durant to Steph/DLo/Draymond. Anyone with a brain can see that, but there are also other interesting pieces to this puzzle. For example, bringing back Kevon Looney was huge for the Warriors, while he may not be some big name star player, he’s really good and fits that system perfectly. Bringing in WCS brings them a different dynamic than what Jordan Bell gave them, and honestly this is the best team he’s ever been on so who knows how he’ll look. But at his price, that’s good value. Now because of their three max players, the Warriors salary total of $142,825,525 is the second most expensive in the entire league and this doesn’t even factor in Draymond’s 4/99M extension yet. With the departure of Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and Quin Cook you could argue that for the first time in a while there are real questions when it comes to the Warriors depth. There is going to be so much usage from Curry/DLo/Draymond you have to worry about load management and how this roster is going to stack up against a deep as fuck conference. The Warriors are NOT used to relying on their second unit, they were 29th in scoring last season and 23rd in minutes, but with less bodies available this is now suddenly a legit concern.
But here’s what I think we can all bank on. We’re going to get an extremely motivated Steph Curry, and when that happens he tends to do some ridiculous shit. In his second MVP season we saw him have a career high 32% usage rate, and since then has lived in the 30% range. My guess is we’re going to get a new career high usage rate now that his top two running mates are gone which means we’re probably going to get something close to this
That alone makes this team worth watching. There is nothing more terrifying than when Steph goes into Fuck You mode and starts doing ridiculous shit and the next thing you know he’s shimmying all over you. In the P&R, coming off screens, spot up shooting, it doesn’t matter, Steph is going to have a breakout year which seems crazy because how much better could he honestly get? We’re about to find out.
At the same time, you can’t ignore the glaring issue that could very well be this team’s defense. One of the reasons why the Warriors have been so dominant for so long is because their defense is incredible. More often than not they are a Top 10/Top 5 caliber defense, and the only times they looked relatively human is when they had issues on that end. Last year is a prime example. Their defense stunk for long stretches of the year and that’s why people thought maybe they could be had. But guess who had the #1 defense in the playoffs which ultimately led them to the Finals? The Warriors. So you look at this year’s group and you see a ton of their elite defenders now gone, it’s OK to question how that might impact things. Guys like Durant/Iggy/Livingston/Klay are all gone, and their replacements aren’t exactly known as lockdown defenders. Think of the talent this team is going to be going up against on a nightly basis, who is D’Angelo Russell stopping? They may not miss Klay Thompson from an offensive standpoint, but a backcourt of Curry/DLo is going to get exposed defensively. This is a guy who has never had a Drtg under 110 in his career, and he’s mostly considered an offensive player. Draymond is still an extremely elite defender
but he’s now surrounded by guys who he’s going to have to spend more time covering for which could hurt.
Then there’s the question of what the Warriors do with Russell come like February. If Klay is recovering well, do they flip that piece for a nice return for the stretch run? Part of me thinks that’s the plan rather than having some redundancies come the postseason when defense becomes so important but it’s not exactly easy to move someone making $27M a year. Maybe Iggy gets bought out and comes back on a vet minimum deal? That’s probably unlikely but it would make a world of difference. It’ll be interesting to see how GS incorporates Russell, a guy who is coming from a team that loved to run P&R is now playing on a team where that’s not really a part of their offense. Same thing with isolation. Russell thrived in that role in BKN, but GS barely runs isolation. They’d rather run you off screens and they have to replace Klay, someone who did this 34% of his possessions with someone who ranked in the 25th percentile coming off screens in Russell. He shot just 35% in those situations which is why he almost never did it as a Net. It’ll be interesting to see how their offense adjusts to this new roster while still staying true to who they are, which is a team that plays fast, moves the ball, and kills you with shooting and defense.
It’s tricky to predict where GS factors into the top 8 seeds, because we could have an 8 seed win nearly 50 games so it’s not like you stink if you are a lower seed. That’s life in the West. I’m thinking this team stays afloat while Klay is out, he comes back 100% healthy by the playoffs and the Warriors may be like a 6 or 7 seed and then absolutely murder people come the playoffs. Remember, the pre-Durant Warriors behind Steph/Klay/Draymond were very much a problem. If I was a top 3 seed I would NOT want to face GS in an early series.
So no, the dynasty definitely isn’t dead. But it is different, and for the first time in a long time the Warriors are going to have to actually try which will be fun to see.
Official Greenie Prediction: 48 wins