Basketball

Are the Warriors Still Contenders?

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After roughly a two-month absence, Draymond Green returned to action about a week ago, on March 14. In typical Draymond Green fashion, he couldn’t just return to the court and let the Warriors play do the talking – he had to talk a little trash too.

“Obviously the 2-seed would be great, but we’re not chasing it. We’re gonna make sure we do everything we can to stay healthy coming down the stretch. Not gonna make any bone-head decisions trying to chase the 2-seed. Whether we’re the 2-seed or the 3-seed, we’re gonna win a championship. So it don’t really matter”, said Draymond Green, who’s long been the heart and soul of the Bay Area faithful.

It’s a bold statement by Green but it’s not exactly a secret that the Warriors’ goal is to win a championship this season.

It was early in the season when the Warriors started to be looked at as one of the league’s legitimate contenders, but it always came with a caveat: Golden State has to be healthy.

The Injury Bug Lingers

James Wiseman was set to return to Golden State’s lineup as he recently played in three games for the Santa Cruz Warriors. In his three-game stint with Santa Cruz, he averaged 17.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 1.67 blocks in 20.7 minutes per game. However, a recent report from the Warriors announced that Wiseman has had a setback in his return due to swelling in the knee. No timetable has been announced but it’s starting to seem unlikely that the big man will see the floor this season.

Dating back to his 2019-20 season at the University of Memphis, he’s played just 42 games in the last three seasons.

Wiseman would’ve provided some much-needed size and depth at the center position for Golden State heading into the playoffs where they’ll likely have to face at least two of the following to come out of the Western Conference: Nikola Jokic, Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert, and DeAndre Ayton.

Another piece to the puzzle, veteran forward Andre Iguodala, hasn’t played consecutive games since mid-January and although his numbers don’t pop out, his defense, passing, and experience could certainly help them in the playoffs. It’s not the end of the world if he can’t get healthy but he’s a piece you’d like to have available.

Stephen Curry recently went down with a foot injury and is now reportedly likely out for the remainder of the regular season, but is expected to be ready for the start of the playoffs.

Health is Crucial

Golden State’s margin for error seems to get smaller by the day. Before the all-star break, I’d have put Stephen Curry and company right up there with Phoenix and Milwaukee as favorites to bring home the Larry O’Brien.

But, the Warriors are 6-8 since the all-star break and 10-12 dating back to the beginning of February. This group hasn’t truly been healthy all season, and we’ve seen extremely little of Curry, Thompson, and Green together.

It almost feels like a championship just isn’t in the cards for Golden State this season. Right when it started to look like they were getting healthy, Curry goes down with a foot injury and Wiseman goes back to the sidelines. While many of their rotation players have played together for years, the amount of injuries they’ve had this season creates a lack of continuity among them heading into the playoffs and that shouldn’t be overlooked.

It’s been said all season that if this group is healthy in the playoffs they’ll have a shot at beating anyone. But can they get rid of the injury bug? And if they do, will they be able to get on track in time for a playoff run?

If Curry can get healthy in time for the playoffs and Green can stay on the court, Golden State will have a shot to fulfill their goal of winning an NBA title this season. In the 36 games in which both Curry and Green have played this season, the Warriors are 29-7. Obviously, you want to have all your pieces healthy but that just doesn’t look like a realistic possibility for Golden State anymore with Wiseman’s recent setback.

Golden State is going to be undersized heading into the playoffs but that 29-7 record speaks for itself – if Curry and Green are both on the floor Golden State has a chance. That statement is most certainly frustrating for the Warriors faithful to still be hearing this late in the season but that’s just Golden State’s reality.

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