The Golden State Warriors 2021 Season Preview

C: James Wiseman - Kevon Looney

PF: Draymond Green - Eric Paschall

SF: Kelly Oubre Jr. - Kent Bazemore

SG: Andrew Wiggins - Damion Lee PG: Steph Curry - Brad Wanamaker After a year of tanking with a lot of injuries, the Golden State Warriors are re-tooled and ready for another shot at a championship, but unfortunately more injuries have set them back once again before the season even started. With a torn achilles suffered just a month before the start of the regular season, Klay Thompson will most likely miss his second consecutive season for the Warriors. But how important is Klay Thompson? Is he replaceable? I've always been a doubter of Klay Thompson, perhaps fueled by my ardent support of Draymond Green and how he is actually the second best player of the original Warriors' trio, and always has been. The thing that really blows my mind is how Thompson's perceived as a lock-down defender. Looking at lineup data with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson off the court from 2014-2019, the Warriors defensive rating been 107.93. Put Klay on the court and the defence actually gets worse to 108.08. It's a pretty marginal difference but when you consider Draymond on without Klay goes to a 102.41, it's clear to see one is an impactful defender, and the other is Klay Thompson. His only real strength on defence is staying in front of people until they change direction and he gets shook by several feet because of how he runs laterally. In the playoffs, the Warriors stay a consistent 107.47 with Draymond and Klay off, but put Klay in and keep Draymond off, and that number skyrockets 115.71. Dray on and Klay off is an elite 101.88. Klay is still an important offensive player, but the extent of his offensive importance isn't so drastic that the Warriors are forsaken without him. While the Warriors and Draymond weren't good last year, Draymond still provided a +3.08 impact defensively in his year a lot of people are discarding as him not really caring. I still believe he can bring it defensively. I think people look at Wiggins as a negative defender because he isn't as good as he could be, but he still has a lot of tools and was almost exactly even (-0.07) with Minnesota the last 3 years defensively. Draymond Green is a fantastic floor general, so with the guidance of someone that isn't Karl-Anthony Towns behind him, I think Wiggins can excel. Oubre overall, I don't think is fantastic on either side of the ball, but he isn't a liability either. He cuts off-ball a lot which should be a very valuable skill when paired with Curry, and then I think they'll start the rookie James Wiseman at C. I don't love Wiseman like a lot of people, I personally don't even consider him a top ten prospect in this draft which might sound radical, but I do realise he has a ton of potential. I could be completely wrong, who knows what man comes out when the ball tips off tonight. But the first thing I see is how he is so brutal laterally, like, going back to Karl-Anthony Towns, he moves just like him when backpedaling. No balance, reaches, over-aggressive shot blocking that leads to a lot of fouls or guys getting past him with a pump fake, and so on. He also has a bad shot selection and misses a lot of passes. He'll throw up a difficult 15-foot jumper early in the shot clock instead of working for something better, or trying to give it to someone else. He doesn't have a strong base and can get bullied out of position. There's a lot to be critical of. But the man has a massive standing reach and can jump out of the building. He should be able to gobble up rebounds and still does have the intimidating rim protection even if he is too prone to fouling. He can shoot a bit from the outside, but he just takes bad shots. I doubt he'll ever be an average passer, though. If he accepts his role and plays like a DeAndre Jordan, I think he can be valuable, but him becoming better than that ever in his career seems unlikely to me. Someone like David Robinson who he gets compared to sometimes is just too fluid and too intelligent for Wiseman to ever become. It might sound crazy, but, like, consider someone like JaVale McGee, and what does Wiseman have that he doesn't? Not really a lot. A better shooter, who negates a lot of that by throwing up bad shots, and slightly quicker in the open floor. I don't think it's unrealistic for him to pan out the same way as a worst-case scenario for Wiseman. That said, JaVale McGee was very successful in Golden State and I do think Wiseman will probably be a better than him, but just giving some haunting comparisons to help actualize his bust-potential to people. His ability to grab boards is very valuable, though, it just gives more opportunities for Steph to carry this team, and once again I must credit Draymond for being able to sop up a lot of Wiseman's weaknesses, especially on in open space. Anyways, I've spent long enough talking about the Warriors without getting to what really matters to the Warriors' success, Mr. Stephen Curry. Five years removed from being the only unanimous MVP in league history, I think Kevin Durant has made people forget how good Curry was, and nothing about his skillset has really changed. He sat out a lot with injury last year, but if you consider the minor nature of the injury, and the fact that he willingly yielded a lot of his production to make way for Kevin Durant to shine the years before that, there's a lot to muddle how good Curry really is. Using on/off*minutes played in a regular season, Curry has three seasons in the top 15 in the last 20 years; only Kevin Garnett (twice) and LeBron James (three times) have more than one season in the top 15. Using the same thing I did with the Draymond/Klay comparison defensively, from 2014-2019, the Warriors were 107.12 defensively with Klay and Steph off. 106.84 with Klay on and Steph off, and 103.92 with Steph on and Klay off. I think part of it is how good Curry is offensively lets everyone rest and put more in to defending, much like how the Rockets were much better with Harden on the court last year in Houston defensively. Either way, Curry isn't hurting his team defensively, even if he isn't the guy doing the point-of-attack defending, which he never would because of his offensive load anyways, and he is the best offensive player in the last 20 years. He stretches the floor like no-other ever has in the NBA, can split and penetrate over-aggressive screens with a great handle, has seen every defensive scheme imaginable, and can handle double-teams as well as anyone with pretty solid playmaking. I think their bench is fairly solid, no one spectacular but they have depth at all positions with guys who shouldn't hurt them when their starters are resting. It's a very tricky team to predict; I still think Curry is easily a top 5 player, maybe top 3, maybe even the best for all I know, but it's been two years since he played a full season, and five years since he's been the main guy. I don't think he's lost any of it, but I could easily be wrong. He will be forced off the ball a lot, so it's all a matter of how good Wiggins can be in 4 vs. 3 situations. I believe, like all Canadians, in that god-damned Andrew Wiggins finally breaking through, and if he can make it work, I could see the Warriors as title contenders. Curry could also be a lot less valuable than I think he is, and Wiggins can't take advantage of the Curry double teams, and they aren't super impressive, but I think they are a bottom-end playoff team at worst, finishing with the advantage in the play-in games. I can't see them much worse than that I think, but they're also so variable I could see them still landing with homecourt and like a #3 seed in the West if all goes well.

My Atlanta Hawks 2021 projection My Boston Celtics 2021 projection My Utah Jazz 2021 projection All my data was sourced from either basketball-reference.com and pbpstats.com, written by W. Smith.

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