Hot Take Marathon: The Golden State Warriors Will Finish With a Top 3 Seed
Scott Strazzante / The Chronicle
A year ago, writing that headline about the Golden State Warriors would be the definition of a ‘Cold Take.’ But looking at the current NBA landscape, especially in a Western Conference that has only gotten more loaded, there are those who wonder if the wounded Warriors will even make the playoffs.
Ignore them. Despite an apparent new era, the Golden State Warriors will finish with a top-three seed in the Western Conference.
With new dynamic duos joining up in both Los Angeles franchises and Houston, Utah going for the jugular with their off-season moves, and young squads like Denver only set to improve, the Warriors are going under the radar in comparison. Even leading to the aforementioned talk of Golden State missing the playoffs entirely, talk that had Draymond Green quite shocked in an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols.
“To say the dynasty is over I think is a little ignorant because I'm going to come back better and even more athletic. It would not be smart to count the Dubs out. That's all I tell people,” Green said.
Green and his Warrior teammates are now embracing a tagline that hasn’t suited the franchise since 2014: underdogs.
“It's been a while since we been the underdog. But it brings that underdog chip back, and I miss that chip. I'm pretty sure Steph [Curry] missed that chip, and some of the stuff Klay been texting me this summer, I'm positive he misses the chip ... So to the oddsmakers, thanks. You got me where I am today. I look forward to where they take me again,” Green said.
Not only has this chip come back to Golden State’s Big Three, it’s coming to a team that now looks entirely different from previous seasons. Kevin Durant is in Brooklyn, Andrew Iguodala wears a Memphis jersey (for now), Quinn Cook and DeMarcus Cousins are in Lakers purple-and-gold, Shaun Livingston is no longer a Warrior, Jordan Bell is a Timberwolf and Jonas Jerebko is in Europe.
Not to mention Steph Curry’s backcourt partner Klay Thompson is out with a torn ACL until at least the All-Star break.
To replace them, Golden State have added an intriguing collection of talent, and a large influx of youth:
Omari Spellman - 22 years old
D’Angelo Russell - 23 years old
Glenn Robinson - 25 years old
Alec Burks - 28 years old
Alen Smailagic - 19 years old
Jordan Poole - 21 years old
Eric Paschall - 21 years old
Ky Bowman (Two-Way) - 21 years old
Moreover, being able to bring 23-year old key reserve Kevon Looney (on an obscenely cheap three year/$15m deal), having sophomore Jacob Evans settle into a back-up point-guard role, and getting Damion Lee and Alfonzo McKinnie to play more minutes have these Warriors look a lot more youthful.
Curry, at 31 years old, is now the clear elder statesmen of the team, and still looks primed to have an MVP-caliber season. With more scoring responsibility with Durant gone, and Thompson out for most of the season, the stage is set for Curry to add a third MVP trophy, with Vegas having his odds as fourth best for MVP.
Perhaps the biggest reason why Golden State can still be a force is that they aren’t considered by many to be one going into this season. Curry, Green and a returning Thompson will relish being counted out and proving doubters wrong.
If one kryptonite faced the Warriors juggernaut over their run, particularly this past season, it was their ability to beat themselves. The collection of on-court talent was never in question, but lackadaisical defence and a sometimes-missing killer instinct plagued Golden State at times.
These new additions to the Warriors roster are not only the breath of fresh air needed, but players who are hungry for playoff and NBA championship success. Every team needs those new players who have yet to experience the highest success, and all of the new Warriors are in that situation.
Golden State’s mettle will be tested, especially while Thompson rehabs his ACL, but when he is back, it may be part of a new looking starting five. Russell continues to have his name circulated in trade rumours before even playing a minute in San Francisco, namely to Minnesota where he was likely to sign as a free agent.
If Golden State does decide to move on from the Russell experiment, they could acquire Robert Covington in a trade from Minnesota: someone who would slot seamlessly into the small forward position to provide elite shooting (almost 38 percent from three-point range last season) and the strong wing defense the Warriors currently lack.
If they stick with Russell and find that a starting five of Curry, Russell, Thompson, Green and Looney gets them to another postseason run, their new additions give Golden State an intriguing bench group.
Burks gives the Warriors their best bench scorer in recent memory, as he comes off a tumultuous season which saw him spend time in Utah, Cleveland and Sacramento. Despite the upheaval, Burks did show signs of his scoring prowess. In 34 games for the Cavaliers, he averaged 37.8 percent from three-point range, and 46.2 percent on corner threes.
With Burks on board, the Warriors possess a clear sixth-man: one that won’t replace what Iguodala brought from the bench, but will contribute in a different way. Adding a stretch big in Spellman (34.4 percent from long-range) will also help boost the second unit, alongside 2017 NBA Slam Dunk Contest Champion Glenn Robinson III and 2019 first-round pick Poole.
Robinson III is looking to rebound from a poor stint in Detroit (4.2 points in 13 minutes, 29 percent shooting from distance), and will be eager to challenge McKinnie for the starting small forward spot on opening night.
Spellman himself has a point to prove, battling conditioning issues and hip and ankle injuries which kept him to 47 games in his rookie season. Having multiple players with chips on their shoulders provides some of the fire that had been missing from the back end of the Warriors dynasty.
With a new-look roster, newfound scoring punch from their bench, and an unlocked Curry, these Warriors are not ready to be counted out just yet. The new Chase Center will see some playoff action in its first year, when Golden State hosts the first round of the Western Playoffs.
All statistics provided by Basketball Reference.