Biggest questions Warriors face heading into 2019-20 NBA season

Biggest questions Warriors face heading into 2019-20 NBA season

The Warriors enter the 2019-20 season under unique circumstances. The roster looks completely different as the team enters its first season at Chase Center with an injured Klay Thompson and without Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.

To get you ready, here are six of the biggest questions facing the team this season. 

How will the Warriors do without Kevin Durant?

Last season, Durant averaged 26.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists amid reports he was leaving Golden State in free agency. By the postseason, he was playing arguably the best basketball of his career before a calf injury -- and then Achilles tear -- ended his final season with the Warriors. 

Durant's absence will be missed. His presence in the Bay Area made the Warriors invincible. Over his last two seasons in Golden State, Steph Curry missed 44 of a possible 168 regular-season games and the Warriors still averaged 57 wins, never finishing a season lower than second in the Western Conference. 

Golden State's future without Durant will depend on if the Warriors hit on free agent reclamation projects Alec Burks, Willie Cauley-Stein, Glenn Robinson III, as well as how much all-star guard D'Angelo Russell can mesh with the roster as Klay Thompson recovers from a knee injury.

(More on that next).

How effective will Klay Thompson be upon return?

After tearing his ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, Thompson is expected to miss most of the 2019-20 season. 

"I don't want to rush it because I want to play until I'm 38, 39, 40 years old," Thompson told ESPN last month. "That's my plan, especially with the way I can shoot the ball. I'd love to see the floor this season. Don't know when that is. I doubt it's before the All-Star break. But at some point, it will be a goal of mine."

While the injury is the worst of Thompson's career, the guard has been the most durable player of Golden State's run. Despite hamstring and ankle issues in last year's postseason, Thompson didn't miss a game to injury. There's no reason to believe Thompson won't be back to his full powers upon return. 

If that's the case, expect a late-season run out of Golden State. 

How well will D'Angelo Russell mesh?

Last season, Russell averaged 21.1 points and seven assists in 81 games last season with the Brooklyn Nets. In his best season as a pro, Russell made his first NBA All-Star team and finished second in voting for the league's Most Improved Player. 

Russell's place on the roster dramatically will shift the Warriors offense. Throughout coach Steve Kerr's tenure, he's been reluctant to employ the pick and roll -- Russell's strong suit -- into Golden State's motion offense, even opting against the vaunted Durant-Curry pick and roll until the most crucial moments. Kerr's reasoning is that he wants everyone on the floor to touch the ball to keep the whole team engaged. With Russell, one of the best pick and roll players in the league, Golden State will have to alter its offense around Russell -- at least until Thompson returns. 

At the end of the day, a backcourt featuring Russell and Curry will be among the best in the league and should be able to carry the Warriors throughout the onset of the season. 

Steph Curry: MVP?

With Durant gone and Thompson out for much of the season, is it fair to pick Steph Curry as an early MVP contender? 

Easy answer: Yes

The last time Curry was on a roster without Durant, he put together one of the best offensive seasons in NBA history, winning the league's first unanimous MVP.

While Curry will have backcourt help in Russell, his offensive burden will be the biggest of his career. A 30-point average is not out of the question for Curry. 

However, the key to Curry's season will be his health. Over his last two seasons, Curry has missed a combined 44 games due to injury, including 31 during the 2017-18 season. If he's healthy, Curry should lead the MVP conversation and the Warriors should cruise to a playoff berth. 

What will the Warriors defense look like?

Kevin Durant's sign and trade forced the Warriors to part ways with Andre Iguodala, one of the team's best defenders. With Durant and Iguodala gone and Thompson out extended time, the Warriors will be without three of their best defenders from last season. 

The onus will fall to defensive anchor Draymond Green to carry the Warriors. Over the last two regular seasons, Green -- who dealt with a variety of injuries -- has admitted conserving energy for deep playoff runs. This season he'll have to return to his output from 2017, when he won his first Defensive Player of the Year. 

[RELATED: Warriors reveal new jerseys ahead of first Chase Center season]

Will the Warriors make the playoffs?

About an hour after Golden State lost the NBA Finals in June, Green promised his team wouldn't miss a beat. 

"I think everybody thinks it's kind of the end of us," Green said. "But that's just not smart. We're not done yet. We lost this year. Clearly just wasn't our year, but that's how the cookie crumbles sometimes. But, yeah, I hear a lot of that noise, it's the end of a run and all that jazz. I don't see it happening though." 

My prediction? Absolutely. The Warriors have both the talent and infrastructure to make another playoff berth and if Klay Thompson comes back at full strength, another Finals run isn't out of the question. 

LeBron James mentions Steph Curry, clowns in cryptic Instagram post

LeBron James mentions Steph Curry, clowns in cryptic Instagram post

LeBron James did not play in the Warriors-Lakers preseason game Monday night in Los Angeles.

But about 80 minutes before the opening tip at Staples Center, the three-time NBA champion created headlines when he spoke to the media regarding the drama between the NBA, China and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.

Then about five minutes before the game started, he sent out two tweets:

Before the fourth quarter began, LeBron and Warriors superstar Steph Curry exchanged pleasantries:

After Tuesday's practice, LeBron said he feels like his pregame comments were taken out of context:

About 45 minutes later, he took to Instagram:

Are "they" -- the clowns that is -- the media in general or anybody who disagreed with what he said? Both?

Why send that message to Curry? 

[RELATEDHow security man Walker shocked Steph with Warriors return]

Does LeBron realize he sounded foolish when he told reporters that he believes Morey "was either misinformed or not really educated on the situation, and if he was, then so be it," and immediately followed that with: "I have no idea, but that is just my belief."

Is he aware that the backlash is self-inflicted?

Are you sick of this whole story?

Let's move on.

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Steve Kerr hopes Kevon Looney will play in Warriors' season opener

Steve Kerr hopes Kevon Looney will play in Warriors' season opener

Well, this isn't exactly the Kevon Looney update you were hoping for.

Steve Kerr announced after practice Tuesday that the Warriors big man will not play against the Lakers on Wednesday or Friday.

Looney tweaked his hamstring 13 days ago and missed Golden State's first three preseason games.

At Media Day, Kerr told reporters that he has big plans for the 23-year-old and is planning on playing him around 30 minutes per night.

Willie Cauley-Stein -- who was projected to start at center -- has missed all of traning camp and is expected to be sidelined the first couple regular season games.

Without these two, the Dubs are getting crushed on the glass.

[RELATEDLooney shares details of ongoing chest injury rehab]

At this point, it would be very surprising if Marquese Chriss isn't on the Opening Night roster.

The 22-year-old is averaging 10.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.7 blocks during the preseason. He's also a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line.

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