Warriors

Five things we learned from wild up-and-down Warriors season

Warriors
Draymond Green Steph Curry Jordan Poole

When the Warriors rummage through the rubble of a season that ended in a hail of turnovers on Friday, they should be have satisfied not only with how they finished the regular season but also the things they learned over 74 games.

They finished 39-33 before going 0-2 in the play-in tournament, during which they can kick themselves for squandering opportunities.

At some point, though, maybe as soon as next week, team president Bob Myers, head coach Steve Kerr and his staff can examine the past five months and make a few discoveries.

Here are five that should be near or at the top of a list that should run fairly deep:

Steph Curry has plenty of tread

He came into the season with projections all over the map, from he’ll be lost without Klay Thompson to he’ll be an NBA MVP candidate. Five months later, he proved to be the latter.

Curry, 33, is among three finalists for the MVP award after producing, all things considered, his most impressive season. He became the second player ever, joining Michael Jordan, to lead the NBA in scoring (32.0 points per game) at age 33 or older. Curry led the league in 3-pointers, with 337. He also was among the league leaders in miles per game. His efficiency was high, his tolerance higher.

If he wants to sign an extension in the offseason, it should be ready. If he wants to wait, the Warriors should be accommodating.

“He's never been better. I can say that,” Kerr said. “He's been great for a long time though, so it's hard to say he's at his best now because he's been like this for years. I think what's different this year is just the supporting cast is different. We've got a much younger team, he's been asked to do a lot more with this group and he's gone above and beyond what we've asked of him.

 

"Just an incredible season I'll just leave it at that. He's never been better than he is right now.”

Draymond Green is not washed

He was coming off his worst season, and he knew it. He also heard about it. Some implied that he was finished, while others said the Warriors made a mistake when signing him to a four-year contract worth $100 million in the summer of 2019.

Though Draymond needs to be enough of a scoring threat that opponents are forced to guard him -- rather than play five-on-four defense against his teammates -- his comprehensive game was effective enough to get the most of his teammates.

Green was a force behind the Warriors building a top-five defense out of a roster that, on paper, seems unsuited to the task. It was enough to place him among three finalists for Defensive Player of the Year.

“He's had a great year,” Kerr said. “He should be Defensive Player of the Year. And what that means for the young guys is that they're learning from a guy who is one of the very best to ever do it. Can't have a better mentor than that.”

Jordan Poole is a legit scorer

The Warriors opened the season with a bench built largely with straw and paper clips. Decenter players, but none that would strike fear into an opponent. Poole changed that.

After exhibiting flashes of the potential heralded when he was drafted in the first round in 2019, he was sent to the G League bubble for the month of February to play big minutes and find his rhythm. He thrived. 

Upon his return, Poole made an impact that brought relief to Myers and put a smile on the faces of coaches and teammates. Scoring from all three levels, he reeled off 10 consecutive games of double-figure scoring.

He posted 19 games with at least 15 points and nine with at least 20, including a season-high 38.

“A season ago, he was lost,” Kerr said. “He was lost in the woods and like most rookies are. And it's just confirmation that hard work and perseverance pays off. Jordan was in the gym more than any other player during the pandemic, and he's earned this.

"I’m so thrilled for him. He's got a really bright future, and obviously will play a big role for us going forward.”

Andrew Wiggins is a wonderful No. 4 player

The Warriors believed Wiggins would give them 18-20 points per game. They hoped that he could be a reliable defender. He did both, averaging 18.6 points with career-high percentages from deep (38.0) and overall (47.7).

What astonished the rest of the league was Wiggins’ defensive prowess. Long considered indifferent about defending, he accepted the challenge of guarding the NBA’s most dangerous wings and generally was proficient at it. That he led the team in blocks is testimony to his willingness to challenge.

 

Wiggins is by turns engrossed and oblivious. But on this team, he fits the role of fourth-best player, third-best scorer and No. 1 wing defender.

“He’s a special talent,” Kent Bazemore said. “I remember I was in Atlanta, I played him, and he gave me 33 and I fouled out, surprisingly. But the dude can go. Always been a fan of his and he’s starting to get his feet wet, came here super late last year and now he’s figuring it out.”

Juan Toscano-Anderson is a keeper

It’s uncommon for the last player to make the roster out of training camp to become a staple in the rotation of a team in the playoff chase. Toscano-Anderson’s accomplishment is, in its own way, as impressive as that of anyone on the roster.

The Oakland native entered the season with 13 games of NBA experience but five years of pro basketball training. He clearly learned a lot. He brings a rare combination of competitiveness, smarts, court feel and versatility that make him particularly valuable.

RELATED: How Dubs' furious finish left tank depleted for play-in

As the Warriors were winning 15 of their final 20 regular-season games, Toscano-Anderson averaged 27.6 minutes. He also earned an upgraded contract, from two-way to official NBA.

“He’s done everything we’ve asked and more,” Kerr said. “He just brings that energy and juice to every moment that he comes into the game.

"Obviously, a smart player.”

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