Warriors

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Warriors

As 2019 comes to a close, it is easy to look back on the Warriors' year and see a lot of negative developments.

From Kevin Durant tearing his Achilles (and eventually losing him in free agency) to Klay Thompson tearing his ACL, the Warriors losing The Finals to the Raptors, and Steph Curry eventually breaking his hand to start a very disappointing new 2019 campaign, the year has been catastrophic.

There had been a few great developments though, including the opening of Chase Center and the emergence of young players like Eric Paschall. The team will desperately welcome a new chapter and new year, hoping to build on the few positives.

Before they can look too far into the future, however, here are five things to monitor the rest of the season in 2020

1. Trades

The trade deadline most likely will be the biggest topic over the next month until it officially comes on Feb. 7. There are plenty of players that the Warriors could possibly move to contending teams in search of reinforcements before the postseason.

Alec Burks is the hottest commodity, scoring 15.5 points per game this season and really shining for a poor Warriors team. His defense has been respectable this season as well, so in terms of a return in a trade, the Warriors might receive the most for Burks (which still should not be expected to be much).

Other names that surely will appear in rumors will be Glenn Robinson III, who has been solid in all aspects of the game from the wing position, and center Willie Cauley-Stein, who has come on strong as of late with great rim-running abilities and a new knack for blocking shots.

 

The big fish that could be a trade possibility is D'Angelo Russell. However, unless the Warriors were blown away with an offer, they have no incentive to trade him during the season. 

2. Two-way players

The players that have the most to gain by a trade are Damion Lee and Ky Bowman. Their number of NBA days is drying up as part of their two-way contracts, so they either have to be sent down to the G League soon or players will have to be removed from the roster to accommodate them.

Sending either Lee or Bowman to the G League would be a major hit to the current Warriors rotation, as both players have filled in nicely in their roles. Lee, in particular, has stepped up as of late, starting at shooting guard and averaging 18.3 points per game over the last six games in 2019 while the Warriors went 4-2 over that stretch. 

Not only will the front office try to secure both players for the rest of this season, but it is also likely they at least entertain the idea of agreeing on a contract for the following season as well, similar to the deal that Quinn Cook signed with the Warriors from his two-way spot during the 2017-18 season.

3. Draft position

The Warriors (9-26) currently have the worst record in the Western Conference and the second-worst in the NBA. If they stay within the bottom three spots by season's end, they will share the highest percentage chance of acquiring the first overall pick.

If they were to finish with the worst record in the league, they would be automatically ensured of a top-five selection. This draft does not currently have a clear-cut top pick like last year with Zion Williamson, but there are a few strong top prospects. So if the Warriors could finish in the top three or five of the draft, they should be well off. 

4. Load Management

There are not many healthy veteran players to actually rest to save their legs, but it is clear that the coaching staff is looking towards a more successful next season, rather than exhausting players now.

Draymond Green will be the most "load-managed" player for the rest of the season. It will be important for Draymond to stay in shape and keep up his conditioning, even if he were to rest in some games so that he can avoid any injuries. But there will be an important balance for him not to exert himself too much while maintaining productive play.

Meanwhile, Kevon Looney will most likely be monitored very closely with his Neuropathic condition. In the minutes he has sparingly played in games of late, he has been out of shape and out of rhythm. Looney is still a major factor for the roster next season, so the Warriors will do everything in their power this season to get him right, conditioned and healthy for 2020-21. 

 

5. The Return of Steph and Klay

Once the team hit the skids early in the season following Steph's hand injury, the immediate thought process changed about the rehabilitation of Klay Thompson. Before the season, many thought there was a chance that Klay could return in late February or early March to push them to a postseason run, but that mindset altered dramatically when Golden State's playoff chances evaporated.

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Now there are question marks if Thompson should return at all this season. More likely than not, the Warriors will take their time with his rehabilitation and perhaps play him in the last few weeks of the season if he is completely healthy, just to get him some positive momentum and confidence heading into the offseason.

Curry, on the other hand, should be ready and expected to play again sometime in March. Similar to Tompson's situation, Curry might want to find his groove again before the end of the regular season. If the Warriors hold onto Russell for the entire season, there could be some interest in taking a longer look at him and Curry working together, and maybe even adding Thompson into the equation.