DimeMag

Golden State Warriors 2021-22 Season Preview: Are They Still Elite?

Last year’s Golden State Warriors were in a holding pattern. With no Klay Thompson and an otherwise lacking roster, the team was stuck waiting for this year. The end result was losing in the play-in tournament to the Lakers and the Grizzlies and going home well before they are accustomed to.

Was it a sign of a new era of Warriors basketball, or a second unlucky year in a row after Curry only played five games in 2019-20? This year is the year that question gets answered.

Roster:

Stephen Curry
Klay Thompson
Draymond Green
Andrew Wiggins
James Wiseman
Otto Porter Jr.
Moses Moody
Jonathan Kuminga
Nemanja Bjelica
Jordan Poole
Kevon Looney
Juan Toscano-Anderson
Gary Payton II
Damion Lee
Mychal Mulder
Chris Chiozza

Projected Vegas Win Total: 48.5

Biggest Additions: Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga

Beyond Klay Thompson, who returns from injury, Golden State added two more young pieces in the draft in Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga. It’s unclear how much either will play, but they give Steve Kerr younger, more athletic options in the rotation if he decides the team needs some juice. The Warriors also brought back Andre Igudoala, who is not what he was a few years ago, but is probably a lock to be in their playoff rotation if healthy.

Biggest Losses: Kent Bazemore, Eric Paschall

These are not major losses — neither would be a lock to be in the rotation where they on the roster this year. But with Bazemore and Paschall gone, it increases the likelihood of Moody and/or Kuminga seeing minutes this year. It’ll be interesting to see how much patience Kerr and the Warriors will have in getting those two (and James Wiseman, for that matter) minutes while trying to win now with Curry, Green, and Thompson.

Biggest Question: What can Klay Thompson offer after two seasons away?

There’s just no way around wondering what Thompson can give the Warriors as he comes back from achilles and ACL injuries. Thompson is 31, so he should still be in his athletic prime even if injuries have taken something away. But he’s coming off of two significant injuries that have kept him off the court for two years. That is going to have some impact on what he is and it’s impossible to know how big that impact will be until he plays games again.

If Thompson can come back and ramp back up the All-Star guy he was pre-injury, that’s the best case scenario. Even if he takes most of the year to get back and looks poised to fully bounce back in 2022-33, that’s an outcome Golden State can live with. But if Thompson has suffered a big slip at all — in terms of his defensive ability, his mobility, his ability to stay healthy — it’s going to limit how good the Warriors can be. He absolutely needs to be peak Thompson if the Warriors are going to make a serious title push.

What Makes This Season A Success: A deep playoff run. There’s no getting around this: It’s a deep playoff run/Finals appearance or bust for the Warriors. The time is now for Curry, Green, and Thompson. They maybe will have another few years left after this, but the entire core is on the wrong side of 30. They have to make a push now or it just might not happen again. If they can’t go far in the playoffs, there’s just nothing else that can make up for it.

What Makes This Season A Failure: An early playoff exit. See above. This year is all about winning in April, May, and June for Golden State. Nothing else really matters. At the same time, it’ll be a problem for the Warriors if their young pieces don’t develop at all this year. Even if Wiseman, Kuminga, and Moody don’t play significant roles this year, it’ll matter for the team’s long-term hopes if these players can take steps forward this year. That’s especially true for Wiseman, whose rookie year was disappointing and hampered by injury.

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