We’re only a couple of years removed from the Warriors’ last NBA Finals appearance, yet it almost seems like an eternity ago. The Warriors were running on fumes when they were knocked off their thrown in the 2019 NBA Finals and haven’t quite fully recovered since.
Now, they did finish 8th in the Western Conference last season (before getting knocked out in the play-in game) but the Warriors and their fans have much higher hopes than that for the foreseeable future.
Is The Warriors Roster Complete?
The short answer to this question is, no, but where exactly Bob Meyers and company look to fill out the last guaranteed roster spot is where the bigger question lies. Meyers has said the Warriors may not fill out the last roster spot going into the season but they’ve been linked to a few players out on the market.
Collison intrigues me but I’d also consider him a bit of a slight risk considering he last played in 2019. The Warriors, however, are in need of another ball-handler and shot creator, which is where the intrigue comes in; In his last season with the Pacers, Collison averaged 11.2 points, 6.0 assists, and just 1.6 turnovers per game on shooting splits of 46/40/83. If Collison is anything close to what he was in 2019 he’d be a really good addition to the Warriors roster if they go that route.
Ben Simmons is a totally different situation as he’s made the all-star team in three consecutive seasons but the 76ers asking price for him doesn’t exactly match up with what the rest of the league currently thinks of him. I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not I like his hypothetical fit with the Warriors; typically I’m of the thought that you acquire a high-end talent like Ben Simmons and worry about the fit later, but when you pair him with Draymond Green you’ve got two guys who aren’t really interested in shooting the ball much. Which is a problem. But with the pace and the free-flowing offense the Warriors run, I do think they’d make it work.
It’s a move that the Warriors front office should definitely take a hard look at and one I’d probably pull the trigger on. It would hurt to give up on a couple of the young guys the Warriors have drafted over the last couple of years but if you’re serious about winning a title, then you’ve just got to bite the bullet.
How Do The Warriors Stack Up With The Rest Of The West?
Looking at the rest of the Western Conference, one thing that sticks out is that the Warriors are not alone in having one of their premier players starting the season on the sidelines. Clippers star Kawhi Leonard is out indefinitely following surgery on his partially torn ACL, and Nuggets’ Jamal Murray is also out with an ACL injury. The Lakers are the clear favorite out West, but even they aren’t absent of question marks, but I think for the most part the Western Conference is fairly wide open. So, let’s sort out the Western Conference by putting them in “tiers”.
Tier 1, The Elite: Jazz, Lakers, Suns
Barring a major injury happening in the next month or so, each of these 3 teams will be starting out the season healthy and they all have legitimate championship aspirations.
The Lakers retooled after getting bounced in the first round. The Jazz quietly added quality complementary pieces in Eric Paschall and Rudy Gay to their roster that won 52 games last season. And the Suns are led by Chris Paul and a trio of young players in Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton, and Mikal Bridges that’s gotten better every year.
Tier 2, The Really Good: Clippers, Nuggets, Warriors
This group of teams is accomplished, has veterans with title hopes, and are all starting out the season with a marquee player injured. Health is the main question mark for all three of these teams and their seasons mostly depend on how their stars recover. Grouping the Warriors here feels like a bit of a reach as both of the other teams had home-court advantage in the playoffs last season but if healthy (which is a big “if”), all three of these teams would warrant “Tier 1” consideration.
Tier 3, Good But Not Great: Blazers, Mavericks
I see both these teams as likely playoff teams as I do think the Blazers got marginally better over the off-season and the Mavericks retained Tim Hardaway Jr and made a couple of nice under-the-radar moves in acquiring Reggie Bullock, Moses Brown, and Sterling Brown.
But I don’t think either of these teams moved the needle significantly over the last few months. Both squads rely heavily on their star players and should pick up right where they left off last season. Unless of course, Damian Lillard decides to request a trade, then that drastically changes the outlook for the Blazers.
Tier 4, The Unpredictable: Grizzlies, Kings, Pelicans, Timberwolves, Spurs
Each of these five teams is hoping to make a run into the playoffs and is all led by young by stars. Any one of these teams could surprise people around the league but there’s only room for so many at the table and some of these teams will be left out when it’s all said and done. The one team that may not really belong in this group is the Spurs but with their track record it’s tough to count them out and I think they’re a notch above the remaining two teams.
I wouldn’t be shocked to see any of these teams in the postseason nor would I be shocked to see any of them picking relatively high in the lottery.
Tier 5, Focused On The Future: Rockets, Thunder
Both of these teams are rebuilding and likely won’t be competing for much other than ping pong balls. No shade to either team as both are filled with loads of young talent, I’m just being realistic.
The Warriors Success Lies In The Hands Of The Unknown
Klay Thompson is the big X-Factor for how the Warriors season will go; if Klay can come back and have similar production to when he last stepped on an NBA court then the Warriors have a shot at making some legitimate noise in the postseason regardless of where they end up in the regular-season standings. But that’s a big “if” for a guy coming off major knee and Achilles injuries in consecutive seasons.
It’s not fair to Thompson to expect him to produce at such a level but we saw Kevin Durant play at an extremely high level following his Achilles injury and while he’s an anomaly, I wouldn’t rule out Thompson returning at a high level.
Another question is how many minutes is Steve Kerr willing to play Stephen Curry? Curry averaged 34.2 minutes per game last season which was the highest it’s been since 2015 but I’d argue he should’ve been playing even more minutes. The number of times the Warriors blew leads when Curry came out of the game… well… there’s just too many to count. The Warriors were 10.2 points better with Stephen Curry on the court vs off, according to NBA.com and I’m actually surprised that number isn’t higher.
I’d like to see Curry at the top of the league in minutes but at 33-years-old I’m not sure that’s in the cards.
The overall health of the Warriors is my biggest question mark for them heading into the season. Not only do they need Thompson to get back on the court but can they get another healthy season from Stephen Curry? Can Otto Porter Jr., who’s only played 42 games the last two seasons, stay on the court? Can Jordan Poole take another step forward? These are all questions we won’t know the answer to until the season begins to unfold but if things break their way I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that we could be talking about the Warriors come late May and early June.
With Stephen Curry running the show you’ve always got a fighting chance, and if they find a way to add Ben Simmons or another disgruntled star? Lookout.
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