The Warriors are rested, motivated and ready to wreak havoc on the Western Conference again. Well, not according to The Athletic's John Hollinger.
Hollinger, the former vice president of basketball operations for the Memphis Grizzlies, believes a deep Western Conference, plus losing Klay Thompson for another season, will be just too much for Golden State. He predicts the Warriors will finish the 72-game season with a 35-37 record, which is good for 11th in the Western Conference. That would keep the Warriors out of the play-in tournament and out of the playoffs for the second straight season after reaching five straight NBA Finals.
"As much as I may want the old Warriors back ... I don’t think they’re coming back," Hollinger wrote.
Hollinger still believes Steph Curry will be an elite point guard after playing just five games last season. It's everyone else who concerns him.
"Oubre is a good player but, he’s not Klay Thompson," Hollinger explains. "Wiggins, even at his most lethargic, will try more on D than Russell did, but he’s never made any team he’s on better. Green is 30 but looked quite a bit older last year. Behind that is a barely adequate bench and a lot of spare bits and pieces, the residue of having the 30thpick in the draft every year and limited free-agent spending resources."
The truth is, Oubre isn't Thompson but he can still be a solid replacement. Oubre, who turns 25 on Wednesday, averaged a career-high 18.7 points per game last season with the Phoenix Suns and shot a career-best 35.2 percent from 3-point range. If he can continue to improve his shot from deep range and mature on defense, the Warriors will have a solid young player.
The Warriors also believe they can unlock the best in Wiggins, who no longer has to be a No. 1 option on offense. He can expand more energy on defense in Golden State and become the type of player people expected when he was the top pick in the 2014 draft. Green is certainly motivated, and the Warriors wouldn't have drafted James Wiseman so high if they didn't believe he could contribute early on.
One thing is for certain: Curry doesn't agree with Hollinger, or anyone else counting out the Warriors.
"I know you guys could analyze the salary cap sheet and look at what decisions might be in the future, but for what we have right now, I love where we're at," Curry told reporters on Monday. "I love the fact that we have enough pieces, enough talent and enough experience to surprise a lot of people this year and try to compete at the top of the [Western Conference], see what happens."
The Western Conference is stacked. The Warriors do indeed face a tough task this upcoming season. But it's tough to bet against a motivated Curry and Co.