2021 NBA Finals: Six reasons why Warriors will play for title
They have been the defining characters of the dynasty thus far, and if it's going to be extended, they surely will play a central role. It's hard to believe, but Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have been playing together for eight seasons now. Next year would be the ninth, and there simply aren't many core groups that can compare to their collection of talent, success and experience.
In the last five years, the only times that trio has been defeated in a playoff series have come when one or more of them was seriously injured or controversially suspended. Since Steve Kerr took over as head coach, they have never been defeated in a series when at full strength. There's no guarantee the Warriors will be at full strength next season, but given the terrible luck they endured this past year, they're due for some better fortunes.
When you've been as successful as the Warriors have been, you end up playing a ton of games.
Eighty-two games per regular season. A minimum of four games per playoff series. The maximum possible 20 playoff series in a five-season span. Oh, and let's not forget international participation. Essentially, over the time most teams played five years worth of basketball, Curry, Thompson and Green -- as well as other Warriors -- played six.
That's bound to catch up to them, and it did. Thompson tore his ACL in the final game of the 2019 Finals, Curry appeared in only five of 65 games due to injury and Green was noticeably worn down. The end result was a team without its core that predictably suffered as a result. However, the cause of that suffering could be the source of rediscovered success.
Thompson has had all season to continue his rehab. The pause -- and inevitable extension -- of the season calendar will only give him additional time to complete it. If the next season starts say, in December, that will have given him a full year and a half to get back to full strength.
Curry and Green are enjoying the same benefit. They didn't waste a year of wear and tear on a season that was going nowhere, and next season, they should be fully refreshed and ready to go.
The Warriors got a glimpse of what Andrew Wiggins could do for them over the final 13 games before the season was paused. He appeared in 12 of them, and apparently, Golden State assistant coach Ron Adams liked what he saw.
"I was elated to get him into our program,” Adams told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on "The TK Show" podcast. “I think he’s a star player. I think he’s gonna flourish with more shooting on the floor. But I was personally really happy with the all-around nature of his game and what he showed in that regard more so that his scoring, even."
Next season will be Wiggins' seventh in the NBA, and yet, he just turned 25 years old. He has never been surrounded by the kind of talent he will be upon taking the court with Curry, Green and Thompson, and as Adams said, "the sky is the limit" for him. If more shooting on the floor is what's going to allow him to realize his full potential, there isn't a better situation for him than with the Splash Brothers.
Wiggins isn't the only Warriors youngster -- relatively speaking -- expected to be a significant contributor next season. Eric Paschall was arguably their brightest spot of the current season, as the 23-year-old proved to be another second-round diamond in the rough a la Green. He averaged 14.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per game as a rookie while shooting 49.7 percent from the field, and looks like he'll be part of the main rotation for many years to come. The same could possibly be said for Marquese Chriss, who, despite having three NBA seasons under his belt, actually is younger than Paschall.
Then there's the matter of Golden State's first-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, which is guaranteed to fall within one of the first five overall selections. If the Warriors use that pick for themselves, they should end up with one of the top talents in the draft. While rookies often struggle to adjust to the NBA, Golden State has the right group of veterans to help bring them along.
Depending on how it works out, one could make the case the Warriors will have more young talent on next year's team than any other since the playoff streak began.
While the Warriors could add a great young player with their first-round draft pick, it's also possible they'll use it to acquire a current NBA player via trade. Depending on what it was combined with, Golden State could offer a package that theoretically could attain a player that might push them over the top.
While Giannis Antetokounmpo is the dream scenario, the Warriors won't put all their eggs in that basket -- or at least they'll look into other options if and when that one is ruled out. In addition to Golden State's 2020 first-round pick, the Warriors also have the Minnesota Timberwolves' lightly-protected 2021 first-round pick and a huge $17.2 million trade exception -- not to mention their young players -- as assets to dangle in front of potential trade partners.
Golden State has the ability to make a big move. If they do, one would assume it will increase their championship odds.
The Warriors have seen the comments. They've heard the jokes. They've endured the blowouts.
They've also kept receipts.
The rest of the NBA might want to proclaim the Warriors' dynasty as over, but they refuse to believe it. And, with a championship core, why would they?
When the Warriors return for next season, they'll enter it with a gigantic chip on their collective shoulder, which should provide all the motivation they need to return to their lofty heights. They have the talent to get the job done, and also the mission to drive it.