With a solid veteran core and emerging youngsters, Golden State is positioned well to defend its title.
The Warriors last season stamped themselves as the league’s premier franchise of the last 10 years, as if there was any doubt, by winning a fourth title in the Steph Curry era. And even better, the Warriors not only return with their crucial players intact but are prepared to give some youngsters a chance to carve a role in the rotation and therefore bring a different element.
Curry had a decorated 2021-22 with the all-time 3-point record and Finals MVP and shows few signs of slippage, although to be fair, his accuracy did dip during the last regular season. Still, he was dominant in the postseason and that’s all that matters. Klay Thompson made a solid, though not tremendous, return from two major surgeries and Draymond Green once again was a factor defensively.
What makes the Warriors especially dangerous this season is their “next” generation: Jordan Poole, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody and James Wiseman all bring youth and upside and should provide a balanced mix next to the vets. Basically, the Warriors are once again built to contend, and in a twist, seem built to last as well.
How good is Wiseman? The Warriors still don’t have a clue about their 21-year-old big man, held to only 39 career games because of injury. Keep in mind the Warriors selected him over LaMelo Ball in the 2020 Draft; while Wiseman couldn’t stay on the floor, Ball was Kia Rookie of the Year in 2021. Wiseman has potential, but that word is always tricky, and the Warriors aren’t in a position to let him learn on the job and make mistakes — they’re built to win big now, not later.
With a batch of young players who are restless and anxious to play, the Warriors are the rare NBA champion that returns with upside. Make no mistake, they’ll need star-level performances from Curry, Green, Thompson and Wiggins to position themselves near or at the top in what will be a competitive conference. But the youngsters, if they prosper much like Poole, could be the difference-maker in the defense of the championship. Projection: Playoffs.
1 KEY STAT TO KNOW
3rd, 2nd — The Warriors were the only team that ranked in the top three in both effective field goal percentage (55.2%, third) and opponent effective field goal percentage (50.9%, second). It was fifth time in the last eight years that they’ve ranked in the top three in both, with all other franchises (Milwaukee twice, San Antonio once) doing it just three times over that stretch.
— John Schuhmann
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
Stephen Curry: Already a legend and an all-time great, Curry is building a case for being a top-10 player in league history because his skills, especially from deep, remain deadly at age 34.
Klay Thompson: He spent his comeback season dealing with inconsistency, yet averaged 20 points and kept defenses on alert.
Andrew Wiggins: The secondary hero of the championship run, Wiggins polished his reputation and upgraded his status in the league with solid play at both ends.
Draymond Green: He was lost a few years ago without Curry and Thompson, then re-established himself as a valuable glue guy and piece of the puzzle when they returned last season.
Kevon Looney: Unassuming big man had a string of crucial games in the postseason and as a result, scored in the offseason with a contract extension.
Jordan Poole: One of the league’s major revelations made himself into a major component for the Warriors by scoring big and taking winning shots while Thompson was out, then adjusted off the bench once Thompson returned.
Jonathan Kuminga: Easily the most athletic player on the roster brings plenty of bounce and energy to the floor; now needs to improve his skill-set to stay on it.
Moses Moody: A very fluid guard can assume bigger minutes and a role, now that Gary Payton II fled to Portland through free agency; can he bring it on defense?
James Wiseman: A mystery and a riddle rolled into one, Wiseman can make the Warriors exhale if he stays healthy and makes a strong push to start at center.
LAST 5 SEASONS
How the Warriors have fared stats-wise over the last 5 seasons …
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions