In the week since Klay Thompson’s end-of-season injury, the Warriors have positioned themselves at least a chance to compete for home-court advantage in the playoffs this season.
It’s a far cry from a legitimate title fight, but perhaps a best-case scenario given that Thompson was staring at a nine to 12-month recovery after undergoing surgery Wednesday on his torn right Achilles tendon.
General manager Bob Myers has worked countless hours to capitalize on the team’s assets, drafting James Wiseman at No. 2, trading for Kelly Oubre Jr., and signing free agents Brad Wanamaker and Kent Bazemore. With one or two additions still to be expected, the Warriors are set to get the highest payroll in NBA history at more than $ 300 million including the luxury tax bill.
This might seem unreasonable to a team that, at best, figures to challenge the No. 4 seed in a loaded Western Conference. The coronavirus pandemic has forced franchisees throughout the league to look closely at their finances, and the Warriors are no exception.
But even with fans who weren’t expected at Chase Center to at least start the season, Golden State acknowledged that after injuries derailed last season and left him with a 15-50 worst record by the NBA, there was no has the luxury of another year. on player development. The strongest of team cultures couldn’t resist such a loss.
By using their $ 17.2 million trade exemption to absorb Oubre’s $ 14.4 million salary for 2020-21 and to replace Thompson – albeit imperfectly – for Thompson, the Warriors ensured they will give something worth watching to his fans this season. Here are Golden State’s five most pressing questions after a chaotic week of roster building:
What is the Warriors 2020-21 style of play?
To get the most out of this team, head coach Steve Kerr must play to the strengths of his personnel. That means that whenever Golden State finishes off a defensive rebound this season, it should try to regain its tempo and feast on transition.
During their three years with Kevin Durant (2016-19), the Warriors eventually got the ban – a 6-foot-10 maestro who could shatter one-on-one defenders and drill faded jumpers whenever the crime hits snag. Last season, with Durant in Brooklyn and Thompson and Stephen Curry injured, Golden State struggled to adjust and had a hard time channeling its signature speed.
Those lottery-bound Warriors finished eighth to last in the NBA at top speed. But with Oubre, Wiseman, Wanamaker, Bazemore and Andrew Wiggins in the fold, Golden State now boasts all the make-up of an elite transition team.
Oubre, who came 15th in the league last season with 282 transition points, excels at going out on quick breaks and throwing dunks worthy of highlights. Wanamaker and Bazemore were also brought in, at least in part, because they could speed up the offense and find drive lanes.
Wiseman figures to slip into a direct role as a rim runner, and Wiggins is like Oubre – a versatile winger who at best uses his athleticism in transition. With Curry and Draymond Green starting the offense, the Warriors may want to go faster than they did even before Durant arrives, seizing any quick break opportunity.
The Raptors led the NBA last season by being a transfer on 21.6% of their possessions. To become a bona fide threat in the West, the Warriors would probably need to eclipse that number. There is simply nothing else in which this iteration of Golden State has a distinct advantage over the competition.
Will the defense be good enough?
History suggests that in order to get a dark horse shot even in contention, a team must have a defensive score that is in the top half of the league. After finishing fifth-worst in the NBA last season in that category, the Warriors have plenty of work ahead of them.
Oubre, Bazemore and Wanamaker have enough length and lateral speed to guard multiple positions, but none are going to intimidate their opponents top scorers. That leaves Green as the only proven high-level defender of the Warriors, which, given that prime franchise options tend to be wings these days, is not necessarily ideal.
While Green and Wiseman are well suited to anchor the interior, Golden State needs someone to help replace the defensive void along the perimeter left by Thompson and Andre Iguodala. Wiggins, who was once introduced by FiveThirtyEight.com as the “NBA’s Smallest Defensive Player” might actually be the Warriors’ best option against high-volume scorers like James Harden and Devin Booker.
In 12 games with Golden State last season, Wiggins showed a willingness to make life difficult on All-Star-caliber wings. The question now is whether he can be a consistent stopper. With the exception of another defensive addition to the Warriors roster, Wiggins may have little choice.
Will the Warriors still thrive from 3-point range?
Part of what makes Thompson so effective is that he doesn’t see an open drive lane and automatically attacks the rim. Arguably the second-best shooter in NBA history behind Curry, he hit a 51-yard 3-pointer in his last active season. Surrendering those kinds of points takes an emotional toll on any defense.
Thompson’s main replacements, Oubre and Wiggins, are just adequate shooters for their position. While Oubre was right on the league average with a career-best 3-point percentage of 35.2 last season, Wiggins shot an astounding 33.2% from beyond the arc.
To get home court advantage in the playoffs, the Warriors will probably need Oubre and Wiggins to shoot closer to 36% of the 3-point range. Golden State’s only player to shoot better than the league average from depth last season was Damion Lee, who shot 35.6%, on 4.9 3-point attempts per game.
The additions of Wanamaker (36.3% on 3-pointers last season) and Bazemore (38.4% on 3-pointers in 25 games with the Kings last season), as well as the return of a healthy Curry, should only help the Warriors from the beyond the arc. But this is a team that views 3-point shooting as a key part of its identity, and is not trying to change that with Thompson out yet.
Who will start, and who will close games?
The Warriors’ “death lineup” of Curry, Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Durant and Draymond Green was a driving force behind their latest championship teams. When a tall game was on the line, Kerr could deliver perhaps the most scary five-man unit in NBA history.
But with Thompson on the other side and Durant and Iguodala gone, Kerr may have to get more creative this season. Odds are that Curry, Oubre, Wiggins and Green will start and close games. But that fifth position is up for grabs, with Kerr possibly changing it from night to night based on matchups.
The job at the starting center is likely to be between Wiseman and Marquese Chriss, with Wiseman going to training camp with a slight edge. But in crunch time, Kerr could go with Eric Paschall at power forward and Green in the middle in a ballpark line. It is also possible that if Kerr needs to stop, he will plug Kevon Looney down the stretch.
The Warriors have 14 players in line to make the 15-man roster, with rookie second-round pick Nico Mannion expected to take one of the team’s two two-way contracts. Mychal Mulder and Juan Toscano-Anderson, both of whom showed potential with Golden State towards the end of last season, might also deserve a shot at a guaranteed deal for 2020-21.
But should the Warriors decide to use their last 15-man-roster spot on someone else, they have $ 3.5 million left on the middle-level exemption and the $ 9.3 million disabled player exemption to bring in another player . The problem is that no one left in free agency makes obvious sense.
The Warriors could use another perimeter defender or a big man with space between them, but their best option to get one could be at the buy-out market or at the trade deadline. Odds is that Golden State will wait until the middle of the season to use its DPE, which doesn’t expire until April 19.