A few years from now, Bay Area basketball fans are going to wake up and realize they never had it so good. The Golden State Warriors—despite a disappointing finish in the second round of last season’s playoffs—have achieved a level of greatness few teams come close to tasting after winning four championships in seven years and making two more NBA Finals appearances.
The only local club that has celebrated as frequently as the Dubs in recent memory is the San Francisco Giants, who won three titles in five years ending in 2014. However, those Giants squads were the definition of being greater than the sum of their parts. Every year, they were pure “torture” to watch up until the final out.
In contrast, the Warriors’ brand of basketball, for the better part of a decade, has been joy personified. Stephen Curry shimmying after raining down shots from deep. Draymond Green barking out orders and pushing the pace. Klay Thompson mugging after doing Klay Thompson things. Even Kevin Durant decided to hang out for a few years to see what winning really felt like. Golden State’s offense at its zenith has flowed like water, with dashes of creativity and exclamation points of unparalleled skill.
But the clock is ticking, and the start of a new season with the Phoenix Suns (and Durant) coming to town on Tuesday may also mark the beginning of the end for a dynastic era. There is no guarantee that all three of the club’s veteran superstars as well as coach Steve Kerr will return next season, so Dubs Nation should enjoy the ride while it lasts. Below is a breakdown of five things that need to bounce right for the Warriors to return to NBA royalty.
It kind of goes without saying, but Curry needs to remain healthy for any of this to work. You don’t just replace the greatest shooter in NBA history and keep it moving. And while the 35-year-old point guard is still at the top of his game, averaging more than 29 points, six rebounds and six assists last season, there are some signs of wear and tear. The star shooter missed an average of 22 games over the last two seasons, and keeping him fresh come playoff time will be of the utmost importance. Thankfully, he hasn’t been as busy this offseason shilling crypto.
With Steph’s health in mind, it’s probably a good thing the Warriors brought in another future Hall of Fame point guard for help. The Dubs snagged longtime adversary Chris Paul in a trade for the talented yet maddeningly erratic swingman Jordan Poole. Paul’s saltiness is one of his superpowers, but the 19-year veteran’s patience could be tested early as Kerr tinkers with lineups. At the very least, the 38-year-old should steady the second unit and make the game easier for the Warriors younger players—especially preseason star Jonathan Kuminga—who have been somewhat slow to develop.
Like Paul, Draymond Green has almost no chill. He is the guy who never leaves the court during pickup games and barks about going to Sizzler until the gym turns out the lights. But that same tenacity—not to mention his stifling defense—makes him a truly dynamic player whose impact on the game can’t really be measured by a nightly triple-single. Getting back soon from an ankle injury will be huge. The one problem with Green has always been his emotions getting the better of him, and that was never more true than last preseason when he slugged Poole in practice. The relationship was irreparably broken, and the team was forced to slog through an awkward season that saw the club go 11-30 on the road. That record is a sign of a team that couldn’t consistently stick together during tough times.
Thompson is beloved by fans in just about every conceivable way, from the bizarre business trip antics in China and his bulldog Rocco to his decision to commute to games by boat. He wants to end his career here, but the team and Thompson haven’t been able to agree to a contract extension. And when you think about it, there are real questions about how much gas is left in the tank beyond this season. Thompson is an incredible competitor, and he has flashes in which you think you see the old Klay prior to the devastating back-to-back injuries that sidelined him for nearly three years. But then there’s also a realization that some of his chippiness is indicative of a player who realizes he just doesn’t quite have that extra burst to compete with some of the game’s up-and-coming players.
Steve Kerr is obviously one of the all-time great coaches, and it’s no wonder considering he won five titles as a player and learned from two of the best, Phil Jackson with the Chicago Bulls and Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs. Last season felt like an aberration after years of seamlessly managing egos and a revolving supporting cast. His ability to keep CP3 and center Kevon Looney happy will be a balancing act, while he’ll also have a challenge to slot Andrew Wiggins into a power forward role while Green gets healthy. Then there’s the end of the bench where he’ll need to keep role players like Gary Payton II, Moses Moody and Kuminga involved and ready to perform when needed.
Josh Koehn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org