The Dubs lost Thompson – victim of a torn Achilles tendon – before hostilities broke out. A terrible blow for the back All-Star, who was already returning from a rupture of the cruciate ligaments of the knee. What to break the ambitions found of the organization. But even without him, Steve Kerr’s men had a priori enough talent available to hang in the top 8 in the West. “I expected us to be in the top four of our Conference“, admitted Kent Bazemore after the rousing 77-130 against the Raptors last week. Except at 21 games to go to the end of the season, they are finally only tenths (therefore qualified for the play-in if the counters are stopped now) with a negative record of 24 wins and 27 losses. They have won only 5 of their last 17 games. And the overall impression is really mixed, if not worse.
Golden State, a team that disappoints and foils
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But where are the Warriors going? They had made a promise to remain competitive while developing young players to ensure their future. In the end, neither of them succeeds. The ambient frustration grows to the point of being more and more palpable with many small internal dysfunctions. The evolution, or rather the lack of evolution, of James Wiseman is the subject that comes up the most frequently in San Francisco. The second pick in the draft is still very young – it just turned 20 – but it shows very little sign of progress. Worse still, he seems even more lost on the pitch than in January… Unable to keep pace, unable to acclimate to the offensive and defensive patterns of his coach. A raw talent, certainly, but ultimately far from helping Curry and others to reach a milestone.
Stephen Curry during Atlanta – Golden State in the NBA on April 4, 2021
Credit: Getty Images
After all, it was predictable. Wiseman hardly ever played in college and he hasn’t mastered the fundamentals at all. The interior might become a big player one day. But the Warriors can’t wait. This is precisely becoming a source of tension within management: some executives (probably owner Joe Lacob) would advocate more playing time for the prospect while others (probably coach Steve Kerr) want to maximize the chances of playoffs to give Curry the last part of his career he deserves. So far, neither side is satisfied: Wiseman is running out of minutes and Golden State is lacking in wins.
Beyond that, Andrew Wiggins is still and always irregular (it becomes a pleonasm), Kelly Oubre already makes it known that he does not want to come off the bench even after Thompson’s return next year – which has earned him a serious blow of pressure on the part of a teammate remained anonymous – and above all, above all, above all … even Stephen Curry, usually calm and positive, is starting to get fed up. “We have to play better than that. We have to develop a winning attitude night after night. And, honestly, you have to be tired of getting run over because it’s embarrassing. It takes a little pride! We can lose matches, but not like this“, he declared already in March. Then two weeks later:”It sucks right now. Losing sucks. It is a terrible feeling. It’s hard. To be frank, we all had higher expectations about what we were supposed to do this season. (…) I hope it stings. Hope it’s uncomfortable. I hope that motivates us to keep fighting. I hope no one is happy to be in this intermediate situation.“
Klay Thompson won’t be the expected savior
It did not take more for the media to recall that the double-MVP refused to sign a contract extension last summer. It did not take more than the rumors of a supposed association with LeBron James – however highly unlikely – to surface. Never mind that the speculations are bogus. They are there and they create a distraction around the franchise. Especially that Lacob, the owner, adds a layer by reminding that “even the greatest players age and eventually decline.“A very awkward comment as a new round of negotiations with the superstar approaches in August. But barring a disaster other than the Covid-19, Curry is expected to sign a massive extension in 2021. Or when his lease expires in 2022.
But that won’t answer all the questions. Let’s be realistic. Even with a Klay Thompson in great shape, the Warriors probably wouldn’t be able to make it to the end. Stronger, undeniably, and most definitely dangerous. But not at the level of the Lakers, Clippers, Nets or Bucks. Not quite in the same category. Not with this supporting cast around. Besides, Thompson will come back, but in what condition after two clean seasons? He may eventually find an excellent level of play, especially since he relies mainly on his shooting and defense, but not as of next year. It will take time. He recognizes it himself.
Credit: Getty Images
So it becomes very difficult to imagine the Warriors becoming… the Warriors again. Become a dynasty again or at least a very serious title contender every season. Steph is not LeBron. Already no one wins alone. But it is clear that he needs the perfect supports to really lead a group to the top. Wiggins, Oubre, Wiseman and others are not in this line for the moment. But the leader’s extraordinary performance this season still leaves room for some hope. With 30 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 48% on shots and 40% on three-pointers, Curry is approaching the statistics of his 2016 season, when he was the first player in history to win the MVP trophy in unanimity. Except that it ensures an incredible volume while being much less well surrounded. What makes some analysts say that it has never been so strong.
A chance to play the title in … four years?
Suddenly, even if the chances of coronation are reduced, the firing window is paradoxically perhaps a little longer than initially planned. Curry can shine for another four, five, or even six years. With his shooting, speed, agility and the increasingly modern evolution of the game that should continue to favor him. We therefore need a more efficient cast around. But with Wiseman and the draft pick of the Timberwolves (top 3 protected in 2021 then unprotected in 2022), the Warriors have assets to win the auction if a superstar were to show their desire elsewhere. And in the NBA, things go very quickly. It only takes a few disappointments for a major player to decide to pack his bags. Whether it’s a Karl-Anthony Towns, a Bradley Beal, a Malcolm Brogdon, a Domantas Sabonis, etc. There are potentially players to go looking for.
The Warriors may never return the Warriors, even bringing in a player of this caliber. Ideally, they would need Giannis Antetokounmpo, their dream target. But be careful not to bury them too early. The mistake has already been made with Spurs of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, often seen as too old or too out of breath. Finally, they had won a new ring in 2014, seven years after their last trophy! Who knows, maybe Stephen Curry and his comrades will be able to afford a last heroic standstill in 2024 …
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