Expert predictions for where Warriors will finish in West

Steph shooting

After missing the NBA playoffs each of the last two seasons, the Warriors have renewed optimism in 2021-22.

Team president Bob Myers and the rest of the front office revamped the bench, brought back Andre Iguodala and added two NBA draft lottery picks to the roster. Plus, Klay Thompson is expected to return by the end of the calendar year.

Steph Curry led the NBA in scoring last season and is primed for another monster season. Can he carry the Warriors back into contention in the West while competing for his third NBA MVP Award?

NBC Sports Bay Area's Warriors Insider Monte Poole, Warriors reporter Kendra Andrews and Dubs Talk Live host Grant Liffmann provide their expert predictions on where Golden State will finish during the upcoming season, which begins Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Monte Poole

Western Conference Top 10 (standings)

  1. Phoenix Suns
  2. Utah Jazz
  3. Golden State Warriors
  4. Los Angeles Lakers
  5. Denver Nuggets
  6. Dallas Mavericks
  7. Portland Trail Blazers
  8. Los Angeles Clippers
  9. Memphis Grizzlies
  10. New Orleans Pelicans

Warriors record -- 54-28: Even without Klay Thompson and James Wiseman, they should benefit from having 16 of their first 25 games at home. That should be enough to stay comfortably above .500. Once reinforcements arrive, there should be a slow takeoff, peaking after the All-Star break, when they project to be as good or better than any team in the league.   2021-22 NBA MVP race

  1. Stephen Curry
  2. Giannis Antetokounmpo
  3. Joel Embiid
  4. Luka Dončić
  5. LeBron James

Expect a tight race, with 10 or so players worthy of mention. But Golden State’s improved floor spacing will help Curry, who will be greater later because no two backcourt teammates are a better fit than he and Thompson. Expect Curry to be in the MVP race early, moving into the lead over the final six weeks.


Warriors' X-factor: Otto Porter Jr.

He’s a career 40 percent shooter from deep, with two seasons above 43 percent. The difference between Porter coming off the bench shooting 37 percent or 43 percent from distance can be enough to flip several games and maybe a place or two in the standings. All of it, however, hinges on his health.

Warriors season projection

Beat the Mavericks in five in the first round, beat the Jazz in six in the second round, lose to Lakers in seven in Conference Finals.

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Dallas still is too soft on defense to be a legitimate contender. The Warriors will find a way to neutralize Utah big man Rudy Gobert and win a tough series. LA, with all of its fossils, is built for the postseason, where LeBron will be a factor but Anthony Davis will be the difference.

Kendra Andrews

Western Conference Top 10 (standings)

  1. Utah Jazz
  2. Los Angeles Lakers
  3. Phoenix Suns
  4. Denver Nuggets
  5. Golden State Warriors
  6. Dallas Mavericks
  7. Los Angeles Clippers
  8. Portland Trail Blazers
  9. Memphis Grizzlies
  10. San Antonio Spurs

The Lakers went full rebuild mode this summer, but all of the moves they made are better-geared for the playoffs -- when the game slows down -- then the regular season. The Jazz have the opposite situation, where they have one of the best regular-season rosters, but fall off during the playoffs. The middle of the West could go a number of different ways, and with injuries affecting nearly every one of these teams, that will have a large impact on how they finish the regular season.

Warriors record -- 50-32: Golden State finished just above .500 last season, and while I think the Warriors will be much improved, I think they will just hit the 50-win mark. Other teams in the West have proven to be incredibly strong regular-season teams, and they will keep them from eclipsing that benchmark.

2021-22 NBA MVP race

  1. Kevin Durant
  2. Giannis Antetokounmpo
  3. Joel Embiid
  4. Stephen Curry
  5. Nikola Jokic

Curry put together what was arguably the best season of his career last year, and will be looking to follow it up again this season. But with a deeper bench, and the overall unlikeliness that he is as dominant as he was a year ago means that other stars will keep him from his third MVP.

Durant was already tremendous last season. And with Kyrie Irving's uncertain status in Brooklyn, Durant will have to be the one to lead the Nets back to the Eastern Conference finals and beyond. And the most important part: He can 100 percent do it.

Warriors' X-factor: Health

It's been easy to fall in love with what Otto Porter Jr. can do for the Warriors. He's a big body who can also shoot the ball and spread the floor and provide another boost off the bench -- just what the Warriors needed. But, Porter's health has been an issue for him the last few years.

If we're being honest, health, in general, will be the Warriors' biggest X-factor. If Porter is able to keep his body intact he could be a game-changer, but if he misses a lot of time, the Warriors will feel his absence.


Warriors season projection

The most important thing for the Warriors to do this season is to make the playoffs, not automatically become a title contender again. They'll make the postseason, but I believe they'll be eliminated in the Conference Finals.

RELATED: 2021-22 NBA Power Rankings: Where Warriors, Kings sit entering season

Of course, it partly depends on who they face but let's run with this scenario: If the Warriors finish fifth in the West, they will face the Nuggets in the first round and most likely Jazz in the second. Both of those teams have historically been strong regular-season teams, but have floundered in the playoffs. In the third round, they'd presumably face the Lakers. As I said before, the Lakers roster was built for the playoffs, and in a best-of-seven series, Los Angeles will take the cake.

Grant Liffmann

Western Conference Top 10 (standings)

  1. Utah Jazz
  2. Phoenix Suns
  3. Los Angeles Lakers
  4. Golden State Warriors
  5. Denver Nuggets
  6. Dallas Mavericks
  7. Memphis Grizzlies
  8. Portland Trail Blazers
  9. Los Angeles Clippers
  10. Sacramento Kings

Warriors record -- 52-30: The Warriors have more experience and overall cohesiveness to start this season than at any point last season. This should help them overcome the absence of Klay Thompson for the first couple of months.

Injuries are inevitable, as we have seen over the last couple years, so there might be a few periods of struggle throughout the season. But if they can avoid the major debilitating health issues, they should put together a great regular season.   2021-22 NBA MVP race

  1. Kevin Durant
  2. Luka Doncic
  3. Steph Curry
  4. Giannis Antetokounmpo
  5. Devin Booker

If Durant can stay healthy for a majority of the season, he should be the favorite to win the MVP award as the Nets should dominate the Eastern Conference with or without Kyrie Irving. Luka Doncic always is on the cusp of winning the award, and he will just miss out again.

I think Curry will put up one of the most efficient seasons of his career but his scoring average will dip below 30 points per game again, and the national allure for Durant and Doncic will overcome Curry's brilliance.

Warriors’ X-factor: Nemanja Bjelica 

Otto Porter Jr. will be a tremendous addition to space the floor if he can stay healthy, and Jordan Poole looks like he is on the verge of breaking out this season. But a true X-factor to me is someone that many overlook, and that is Bjelica.

Not only is he a stretch big that can shoot from deep, but Bjelica is a highly underrated passer and high IQ player that can surely help the Warriors' offense in many ways.

Warriors season projection

So much of the Warriors' season will depend on the health of their stars. If they are fully healthy when the playoffs come, I'd say they can contend against any team in the Western Conference. If they are banged up at all, it could definitely be the deciding factor for the playoffs ending early.

But for the sake of this exercise, I will just assume full health. And if that is the case, I will say the Warriors reach the NBA Finals but fall to the Brooklyn Nets.


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