The rejuvenation of the Warriors dynasty isn’t something anyone was predicting – Warriors supporters were hopeful for it but things were looking relatively bleak after the last few seasons.
The downfall of the Warriors appeared to be approaching inescapable territory. Stephen Curry was coming off the best season of his career yet Golden State fell short of the playoffs. Draymond Green was coming off arguably the worst season of his career, Klay Thompson began the season with his status relatively uncertain, and the Warriors selected two young players in the lottery. It seemed like Golden State’s front office was trying to walk the tight rope of simultaneously contending and building for the future at the same time, which typically hasn’t been a successful blueprint.
We all knew Golden State was going to compete; the aforementioned players above weren’t going to wave their white flags that easily. But at the beginning of the season if you told Warriors fans they’d be sitting at 43-17 with the second best record in the league at the all-star break, they most certainly would have asked if a time machine had taken you back four or five years.
Early Season Recap
Curry and company couldn’t have gotten off to a better start to the season. They were 18-2 in their first 20 games, Curry was putting on another MVP-caliber season, and Green’s resurgence had him playing some of the best ball of his career. Thompson was absent on the court but it almost did feel like Golden State was put into a time machine.
The Warriors were dominating again but NBA analysts raised questions about the legitimacy of their scorching hot start. As November came to a close, Golden State had back-to-back matchups with the reigning Western Conference champions, the Phoenix Suns. The Dubs dropped the first meeting but responded with a convincing 22-point win in the following game and although the Suns were without Booker for the majority of both games, it became clear that the Warriors weren’t a fluke.
Golden State had put the league on notice but no matter how much success they were experiencing, adversity was inevitable.
Injuries were a big part of the Warriors collapse as a dynasty. Obviously, Kevin Durant leaving for Brooklyn played a role but Golden State’s reign began without him and the more this season plays out the more it becomes clear that the lack of health has been the biggest thing holding them back over the last couple of seasons. Which is a common theme for Dub Nation again this season.
Going into the New Year, Golden State was sitting at 27-7 in a tight race with Phoenix for best record in the NBA. But the season couldn’t be all sunshine and rainbows. Draymond Green’s calf tightness quickly became a lot more serious than initially thought as the team would announce his calf tightness is a cause of, “the involvement of a disc in his lower back”. We’re nearing two months since the injury initially occurred and Green still has yet to return to action.
While Green hit the sidelines, Klay Thompson returned to action. Thompson struggled a little bit early on – it took him 5 games to surpass the 40% mark from the field, but he’s now played in 17 games and is starting to look a lot like he did before injuries stole two seasons of his career.
Over Thompson’s last seven games he’s averaging 19.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.7 assists while shooting 43.6% from the floor and 44% from distance with a total of 26 3PM. It’ll be difficult to keep up this pace for the rest of the season, but as long as Thompson is able to stay on the court he’s going to re-solidify himself as one of the best players in the league.
Golden State is 14-3 in games that Thompson has played in and with Chris Paul out for the next 6-8 weeks with a hand injury, the Warriors could make a late-season push and reclaim the one seed out west. It’s a tall task as they sit 6.5 games behind Phoenix as things currently stand and the Warriors have the fifth toughest remaining strength of schedule and Phoenix has the eleventh easiest, according to Tankathon.
They’ve been a great story thus far but the Warriors have championship aspirations and titles aren’t won in November, December or January.
The Dubs have 22 games and 50 days left to get healthy and allow their entire core group some run together before the playoffs hit.
On the bright side, Golden State’s core is mostly made up of veterans and most of them have years of experience together. But it’s been nearly three full years since Curry, Green, and Thompson all shared minutes together – will the trios’ impeccable chemistry pick up right where it left off in… *2019*?
Time will tell, but I do think Green’s transition back onto the court will be relatively seamless. While there is still a slight uncertainty about what this Warriors group looks like at full strength, they’re 43-17 without playing a single game at full strength; it’d be legitimately shocking if they don’t continue to dominate when Green, and eventually James Wiseman return to the floor.
We’ve seen Curry play like an MVP, we’ve seen Green be legitimate two-way force again, and we’ve seen Klay Thompson look like Klay Thompson again. But we haven’t seen all three of those things at the same time, which is both a positive and negative.
On the good side of things, Golden State has the second best record in the league in spite of their three best players not having logged a single minute in unison. On the bad side, a team plagued by injuries the last couple seasons is having another injury-riddled season – will injuries once again tear down the dreams of the Warriors faithful?
We’ll find that answer in the coming months but I wouldn’t bet against this squad. With Curry, Green, and Thompson all nearing their mid 30s, it’s anybody’s guess how much longer this group will stay so highly effective, and they know they have a chance to pounce on their 4th title in eight years.
All in all, how ever this season ends for the Warriors, it’s been a success. The expectations has a lot to do with that but what this group has done this season is nothing short of remarkable. The Splash Brothers are back, Green has his swagger back and they’ve got the Bay Area in the heat of an NBA title race. Not to mention, their two most recent lottery picks are looking promising. Somehow, some way they are walking that tight rope – competing for a championship while also preparing for the next era of the franchise.
If that’s not successful, I don’t know what is.
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