NBA

Golden State Warriors: Dubs must build for one more run with Curry & Co.

By Sports Desk July 29, 2021

The Golden State Warriors' 2020-21 season ended in heartbreaking fashion, but you might not know that reading head coach Steve Kerr's most recent comments.

Golden State rode an MVP calibre season from Stephen Curry to eighth spot in the Western Conference and a place in the play-in tournament.

Yet that was where it all fell apart.

They missed out on the seventh seed as a miracle LeBron James three-pointer helped the Los Angeles Lakers to a dramatic victory, and the Warriors were then outplayed by the Memphis Grizzlies in the final play-in game to ensure they would be watching the postseason from home.

Despite that bitter end, Kerr was left extremely encouraged after seeing his team win 16 of their last 22 regular-season games despite playing a second successive season without Curry's backcourt running mate Klay Thompson, who suffered a torn Achilles before the campaign.

"I'm really excited. I feel like we got our mojo back at the end of the year," Kerr told The Athletic. 

"The offseason has been productive in terms of Klay now breaking through. He's on the court, he's running, he's feeling really good. I talked to him last week. He's just in a completely different mindset. The light's at the end of the tunnel.

"Steph and Draymond [Green] are both in a great place after that close to the season, feeling like they are on top of their games. Andrew [Wiggins] had a really good season for us. Jordan Poole emerged. Juan [Toscano-Anderson] has turned himself into a rotation player, perfect for our style.

"Now we get a training camp with James [Wiseman], a whole season of development, plus [picks] seven and 14 in a deep draft."

However, Kerr's excitement for the new season being vindicated hinges on what they do with those picks and how they stack the roster to help the core of Curry, Thompson and Green contend for at least one more championship.

Use those prime draft selections and continue to develop Wiseman with a view to building sustainable long-term success, or trade the picks and young assets for another star? It's truly a case of evolution or revolution for the Warriors this offseason and, with Kerr in Japan with Team USA, he won't be in the building to influence the final call.

Curry cooks up a storm

Curry's was a season that merited more than the five first-place votes he received in the MVP race.

His points per game average of 32 was the highest of his career, topping the 30.1 ppg he produced in 2015-16 when Curry was named unanimous MVP and the Warriors broke the single-season wins record by going 73-9.

Per 100 possessions, Curry's ppg of 32.1 was second only to Joel Embiid (32.9) as he continued to embellish his resume as the greatest shooter of all time.

Curry's 5.3 three-pointers made per game was a league record, the 2020-21 season his third in which he averaged at least 5.0. He remains the only player to achieve the feat even once.

He had seven games with 40 plus points and at least 10 threes last season. No other player has registered more than three such performances in their career.

Becoming the first player to post three 50-point games in a season aged 32 or older and producing a scoring average that was the highest by a player of that age in league history, Curry is clearly showing no signs of slowing down.

Still, his usage rate of 34.8 per cent is probably not sustainable for the long term, but if the Warriors are to allow Curry more rest in 2021-22, they must solve the problem of what happens when he comes off the floor.

A damaging drop-off

The most dramatic illustration of the Warriors' struggles without Curry came back in April. With Curry and Green each on the sideline, they were thrashed 130-77 by the Toronto Raptors.

The 53-point reverse was the second-largest defeat in franchise history, though it can be argued it was a necessary low point for Golden State. The Warriors subsequently lost to the Atlanta Hawks before embarking on that 16-6 surge.

And the numbers from across the season paint a telling picture of Curry's importance to the Warriors' cause.

With him on the court, the Warriors scored 112.8 points per 100 possessions, compared to 101.9 when he was off the floor, while their effective field goal percentage dropped from 57.1 to 51.6.

The Warriors effectively lost 8.8 points per 100 possessions when Curry was absent. Their point differential was plus-4.3 with him on the court compared to minus-4.5 when he played the role of spectator.

 

Ensuring that disparity is not as severe in 2021-22 will be a key focus of the Warriors' offseason, yet there were still some encouraging performances from those not named Curry to build hope that Golden State can contend to go deep into the postseason again.

Andrew Wiggins set career-highs in field goal percentage (47.7) and three-point shooting (38 per cent) while Jordan Poole established himself as a productive option off the bench, shooting 42.2 per cent over those final 22 games.

Perhaps the best find of the season was Bay Area native Juan Toscano-Anderson who, having been signed to a two-way contract in December, saw that converted to a full-time deal in May.

Toscano-Anderson was seventh in effective field goal percentage (66.7) and eighth in true shooting percentage (67.6), deservedly earning a spot in the frontcourt rotation. Yet, for all the positives that emerged as the Warriors got hot late in the campaign, their ability to take a step towards vying for the title may be contingent on what they decide to do with last year's most high-profile addition.

The Wiseman conundrum

The Warriors have the capital to stack the deck in Curry's favour with the addition of either seasoned pros or promising prospects. They were one of the winners of the NBA lottery as the top-three protected pick the Minnesota Timberwolves sent them in the Wiggins-D'Angelo Russell trade became the seventh selection in this year's draft.

That gives them the flexibility to pursue a trade for more experienced help, but whether they go down that avenue depends on what the Warriors elect to do with Wiseman, whom they took second overall in 2020 despite him having only three games of collegiate experience.

And they were not granted a full season's evidence to aid their decision about the 20-year-old center as a meniscus injury brought his rookie campaign to a premature end.

There were signs that Wiseman could blossom into the athletic big man who can make a difference at both ends, with center long since a position of concern for the Warriors even at the height of their dynasty.

He posted double figures in points in 24 of his 39 games but a net rating of minus 10.1 spoke to a player who still needs time to acclimatise to the challenge of playing at the highest level.

That is no surprise given Wiseman's inexperience, and Kerr is hopeful he will make strides with the chance to get a full offseason under his belt, however, with the front office reportedly exploring trade options, will the Warriors have the patience to stick with him with potentially more immediate contributors available?

Golden State would surely have to include Wiseman in any potential blockbuster trade, with the Warriors mentioned as a potential destination for Oakland native Damian Lillard, the increasingly maligned Ben Simmons and Raptors star Pascal Siakam

Bradley Beal, whom Curry beat to the scoring title, is reportedly viewed as the Warriors' top option in a trade, but there have as yet been no signs that any deal is on the horizon.

After another year with no postseason play, Golden State's big three will want the talent around them to improve in a hurry but, if the Warriors do not identify a player whom they deem worthy of a price that includes Wiseman, they may need to be patient in awaiting the dividends a player of his obvious physical gifts can deliver.

Verdict: Evolution

The Warriors are the team to watch in the draft as reports of trade discussions continue to swirl.

Despite being flush with capital, it is appearing more and more likely that if they do send some of their resources to a rival, it will not be as part of a trade that changes the complexion of the league.

Instead, the more feasible outcome is that the Warriors do a deal to supplement the core that initially shook up the NBA in 2015 by jump-shooting their way to the title, rather than reshaping it with the addition of another star.

Myles Turner is said to have been the subject between the talks between the Warriors and the Indiana Pacers, and his arrival would give the Warriors a difference-making big on both ends of the floor.

Turner missed the final 18 games of last season with a sprained toe but still led the NBA with a block percentage of 8.8 and was seventh among centers that played a minimum of 25 games with an average of 1.5 made threes.

In the draft, the reported urging from Curry, Thompson and Green for the organisation to get players who can help them now may force the Warriors to target more experienced rookies having gone young with Wiseman last year.

Oregon guard Chris Duarte is 24 and was named to the Pac-12's All-Defensive Team last season while finishing third in the conference with a field goal percentage of 53.2.

 

Davion Mitchell turns 23 in September and led the Big 12 in three-point shooting, converting on 44.7 per cent of his efforts from beyond the arc, and James Bouknight of UConn is thought to be in the mix as a younger shot-creator who was second in the Big East in 2020-21 with 23.7 points per 40 minutes.

The Warriors' front office is seemingly facing external and internal pressure to utilise their draft capital to land a premier player who can propel them back to the top of the Western Conference and firmly open the window for Curry, Thompson and Green to polish their resumes further.

Yet a team led by a player who has spent his Hall of Fame career redefining limits with his remarkable shooting range may find their trade possibilities restricted, and Curry and Warriors fans alike might have to reconcile themselves with an offseason that only slightly improves Golden State's odds of winning now but sets them up to stay relevant once his days of carrying their hopes are in the past.

Related items

  • Chiellini bemoans impatience amid Juve's slow start to Serie A season Chiellini bemoans impatience amid Juve's slow start to Serie A season

    Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini scoffed at the lack of patience afforded to the Bianconeri following their slow start to the Serie A season under new head coach Massimiliano Allegri.

    After opening their 2021-22 Serie A campaign without a win in four matches, Juve finally opened their account by edging Spezia 3-2 midweek, moving the Italian giants out of the relegation zone.

    Juve have just five points from five games to start the season under Allegri, who returned to Turin to replace Andrea Pirlo after being dethroned by rivals Inter last term.

    In a period of change following Cristiano Ronaldo's exit, veteran Juve defender Chiellini bemoaned the impatience.

    "We must be able to keep the ship steady in a stormy sea," Italy international Chiellini told Sky Sport Italia ahead of Sunday's match against Sampdoria.

    "We'll see if we'll come out of it a little dented or with full sails, but we will arrive at the port.

    "As with everything, it takes time to find a balance. When there are big shocks, environmental like an earthquake or not, it takes a little time to settle and to restart.

    "Unfortunately, in the world of today, there's no patience."

    Juve have gained a point from their two home games this term and last went three home fixtures without a victory at the start of the 2015-16 season, also under Allegri.

    Chiellini and Juventus, who have allowed eight goals in five league games this campaign, have conceded a goal in each of their last 19 Serie A contests. Only in 1955 have they had a longer run without a clean sheet in the league (21).

    The visit of Sampdoria will be Allegri's 400th game in charge in Serie A – the Juve boss has claimed 243 wins in the competition, at least 59 more than any other coach since his debut in Italy's top flight in 2008-09.

  • NBA denies Warriors star Wiggins' request for vaccination exemption NBA denies Warriors star Wiggins' request for vaccination exemption

    Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins will be unable to play home games until he meets San Francisco's vaccination requirement after the NBA denied his request for an exemption.

    The NBA put out a statement on Friday confirming its decision after Wiggins had sought an exemption for religious reasons to play at the Warriors' Chase Center.

    Under local COVID-19 regulations in San Francisco, Warriors players are required to be vaccinated to play in their home arena, unless an exemption is granted for medical or religious reasons.

    "The NBA has reviewed and denied Andrew Wiggins' request for religious exemption from the San Francisco Department of Public Health's order requiring COVID-19 vaccination for all participants age 12 and older at large indoor events," the league statement said.

    "Wiggins will not be able to play in Warriors' home games until he fulfils the city's vaccination requirements."

    Unvaccinated players are permitted to play in the NBA this season with regular testing but there are stricter rules for teams based in San Francisco along with New York.

    The announcement comes shortly after the New York Knicks announced all of their roster are vaccinated. The rules also apply to the star-studded Brooklyn Nets.

    The San Francisco Department of Public Health's decree may have overridden any NBA exemption granted to Wiggins.

    "At large and mega indoor events, all patrons 12 and older must be vaccinated at this time," the San Francisco Department of Public Health statement said.

    "Under the current order, if unvaccinated, they cannot enter indoor areas regardless of the reason they are unvaccinated and cannot test out of this requirement even if they have a medical or religious exemption.

    "This same rule applies to performers and players employed by the host at large and mega indoor events who are covered by the vaccination requirements of the Health Order."

    The Warriors are due to commence their 2021-22 NBA season against the Los Angeles Lakers on October 19. The San Francisco mandate does not take effect until October 13.

    Wiggins played 71 games last NBA season, averaging 18.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.

  • San Antonio Spurs announce Ginobili return in front office role San Antonio Spurs announce Ginobili return in front office role

    Four-time NBA champion Manu Ginobili is returning to the San Antonio Spurs in a front office role.

    On Friday, the Spurs announced Ginobili has been named Special Advisor to Basketball Operations, working in player development.

    Ginobili spent 16 years playing with San Antonio, winning four NBA titles in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014 under current head coach Gregg Popovich.

    San Antonio have courted two-time NBA All-Star and 2004 Olympic gold medallist Ginobili since he retired as a player in 2018.

    Ginobili is the Spurs' all-time in three-pointers made (1,495) and steals (1,392), while his career winning percentage of .721 is the best in NBA history with a minimum of 1,000 games.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.