It’s been an interesting few years in the Bay Area. After what seemed like one of the most dominant runs in NBA history, the loss of Kevin Durant in 2018 sent shockwaves through the Association. What is left from those shockwaves is a crater in San Francisco that didn’t seem possible to fill. The Warriors made some moves this offseason though, and it is time we ask ourselves the question; are the Golden State Warriors contenders or pretenders?
Warriors Contenders or Pretenders?
My way too early prediction for the Golden State Warriors in 2021 is that they will make the playoffs comfortably, but will ultimately fall short in either the first or second round. The addition of James Wiseman via the draft gives them an extra threat, but there are just too many teams in the West that are too tough and too deep for the youth of the Warriors to contend. Where does that leave the San Francisco team headed in the coming years? Is the future of the Warriors contenders or pretenders?
The Quick Rise of the Warriors Dynasty
It all started in 2014, when the team fired Mark Jackson after leading them to back-to-back playoff appearances. From there, you could see that Stephen Curry was special, but it wasn’t until the hiring of Steve Kerr that they started to look like a powerhouse in the Western Conference.
That team was led by Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, and Draymond Green, but more than that, it was loaded with role players that were both experienced and solid throughout the entire year. Guys like Festus Ezeli, Harrison Barnes, James McAdoo, and Andre Iguodala turned a team of three stars into a contender that year. That team finished 67-15 with an NBA Finals win over Eastern Conference contender LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Most Dominant Team Ever?
The following seasons, the Warriors looked like one of the most dominant teams in NBA history, amassing a collective 198-39 record, with three championships in four years. That included a historic season where the Golden State Warriors finished with a record of 73-9, an NBA record.
That 73-9 team, while dominant in the regular season, found themselves down 3-1 to an Oklahoma City Thunder team that certainly could have beaten them. After a collapse by the Thunder, the Warriors saw a 3-1 lead of their own dissipate at the hands of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The following year, Kevin Durant took his talents to the West Coast, where he joined up with the Splash Brothers, Draymond Green, and Demarcus Cousins.
The Collapse of the Dynasty
After back-to-back championships, a crippling loss to the Kawhi Leonard-led Raptors in the NBA Finals caused core players like Durant and Cousins to leave for greener pastures, and it left the Golden State Warriors in a state of rebuilding. Klay was set to miss the season with an injury, and the Warriors had become so top-heavy that there was no depth to build from. This left the Warriors at the bottom of the Western Conference, a far cry from the contenders they had become accustomed to being. Some might say they had even become pretenders.
Where to go from here
The only good thing about being at the bottom of the NBA is that it gives you a lottery pick. With Thompson coming back, and a top-rated lottery pick incoming, the future looked bright. That is until Thompson suffered another season-ending injury just before the season started.
Still, the Warriors added James Wiseman, a highly sought-after forward/center from Memphis. His ability to stretch the floor and shoot from the perimeter makes him a valuable asset to this Warriors team. Even so, Golden State got off to a poor start this year.
Make no mistake about it: the Warriors are far from where they were just two short seasons ago. That said, they are taking steps to get back to playoff contention.
Hopefully, at some point, Kelly Oubre can turn it on and get out of the shooting slump that he’s found himself in. He could prove to be a real asset, as he is able to get to the rim well, and he typically has a good shot. This season, however, he is off to one of the worst shooting starts in the league.
To put it into context, the Warriors are 19th in the NBA in 3-point percentage. Had Kelly Oubre not taken a single shot this season, they would be 4th in the league. This stat is not good for a team trying to claw their way back to relevance.
A middle of the pack team is always dangerous in the postseason, and they can make a run when the pieces fall right, especially a team as dangerous as the Golden State Warriors. Guys like Steph Curry and Draymond Green are starting to heat up, and that should prove to pay dividends as the season moves along.
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