Warriors

Warriors will need eight things to go right to make NBA playoffs

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USATSI

Warriors will need eight things to go right to make NBA playoffs

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 Klay Thompson healing from a torn ACL and Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston having departed the Bay. The changes has prompted some observers to write off Golden State's postseason chances.

For the Warriors to prove those predictions untrue, here are eight things that need to go right during the regular season.

Take advantage of the early schedule

While the Warriors will play 15 of their first 24 games away from Chase Center, nine of those games will come against teams that did not make the playoffs.

There will be early tests, including opening night against the Los Angeles Clippers, a matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers on Nov. 4 and a road date with the Houston Rockets two days later. The Warriors also will see the Jazz three times before the New Year as well as face the Celtics at home.

The longest trip of 2019 will come around Thanksgiving when Golden State goes East for the first time, playing Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Charlotte before finishing against Chicago.

For the Warriors, these trips are imperative for a team looking to win as many games as possible while Klay Thompson works his way back from injury (more on that in a bit).

D'Angelo Russell/Steph backcourt

The Warriors were gifted the best consolation prize of the summer when D'Angelo Russell was acquired in a sign-and-trade with Brooklyn in a deal that sent Durant to the Nets.

Russell's talent could help the Warriors stay afloat through the onset of the season as the team works to gel. Last season in Brooklyn, Russell averaged 21.1 points and seven assists in 81 games, making his first All-Star team.

Russell's arrival will force Golden State to make key adjustments offensively. Known as a pick-and-roll initiator, Russell's style will clash with the Warriors' motion offense. To help with his transition, Russell has been working out with Steph Curry and Draymond Green in recent months to get a hang of his role within the offense. With Russell, the Warriors will have offensive firepower, but integrating the young star will be vital during the early portion of the season.

Defense

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.

Even with Durant, Iguodala and Thompson in the fold, the team's defense has lagged in recent years. After never falling lower than sixth in defensive rating under coach Steve Kerr, the Warriors finished 11th in each of the last two seasons, respectively. Last season -- armed with historically great talent -- the team routinely would miss defensive rotations during the regular season as it trudged to 57 wins. This season, the Warriors will need to regain their defensive identity.

Draymond Green: DPOY

In order to regain their defensive prowess, Green will need to regain his status as the best defender in the league.

Over the last two regular seasons, Green -- who dealt with a variety of injuries -- has admitted conserving energy for deep playoff runs. In the years following his Defensive Player of the Year award in 2017, he's had the lowest defensive ratings of his career as he missed a combined 30 games.

This season -- months after signing a long-term extension -- he'll have to return to his output from the early years of his career.

Redemption

With the signing of Russell severely limiting Golden State's cap space, the Warriors added eight new players mostly on minimum deals, including some reclamation projects hoping to revitalize their careers on short term deals.

While Willie Cauley-Stein had his best year as a pro last season, the big man has built up a reputation of being inconsistent. He doesn't agree with the label, but he acknowledged the Warriors' culture could help him during his tenure while at summer league.

Meanwhile, a series of stress fractures limited Alec Burks to just 100 games from 2014 through 2016, and he has not played 75 games in a season since 2013-14. Last year, Burks was traded three times and finished year with the Kings. In 13 games with Sacramento, he averaged just 1.7 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.8 assists.

Omari Spellman -- who was acquired in a trade for Damian Jones -- was good enough to be a first-round draft pick, but his struggles with weight derailed his brief stint with the Atlanta Hawks. If each player can make a jump this season, the Warriors postseason chances will be a whole lot bigger.

Rapid growth from young players

In recent years, the Warriors have struggled to find consistency in young players not named Kevon Looney. To combat the issue, Golden State drafted three players -- Jordan Poole, Eric Paschall and Alex Smailagić -- and Golden State hopes all three will contribute right away.

In Las Vegas Summer League, Poole -- Golden State's first-round draft pick ---- showed promise towards that goal, averaging 17.8 points, including a 12-point performance against Denver, helping Golden State overcome a 17-point deficit to beat the Nuggets 73-69 in their final preliminary round game.

Meanwhile, Paschall impressed during the California Classic, shooting 61 percent from the field, including an 18-point, 6-of-8 performance in a loss to the Lakers.

Smailagić oozes potential, but the Warriors will take a slower approach in his development. In Vegas, the 18-year old simultaneously showed why he's worth the contract, while also giving reminders of the work needed to earn playing time. He showed flashes with his dunks, but he was frequently out of position for rebounds due to lack of strength.

Over the summer, Kerr says he's willing to give the young guys a chance for minutes early on. With that in mind, Golden State remains high on Paschall, even though he's a second-round draft pick, seeing his toughness, IQ and defensive prowess as comparable to a young Draymond Green.

Stay healthy

Over the last two seasons, Curry and Green have missed a combined 72 games due to injury.

Last season, it was a non-contact groin injury that forced Curry to miss more than two weeks, while Green battled through shoulder, ankle and knee ailments. With Thompson out for an extended time, Green and Curry's availability will be crucial.

[RELATED: Steph primed for MVP season after Warriors' roster change]

Healthy Klay down the stretch

After tearing his ACL, Thompson is expected to miss most of the 2019-20 season, and Thompson says he wants to take his time during his rehab.

"That's my plan, especially with the way I can shoot the ball. I'd love to see the floor this season," Thompson told ESPN over the summer. "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."

A Thompson return will be welcomed in February as Golden State's schedule gets tough down the stretch. Over the final two months of the season, the Warriors will play the Bucks, Nuggets, Spurs, Clippers, Lakers and Rockets on the road.

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 134-131 OT loss to Nuggets

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 134-131 OT loss to Nuggets

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- Since the calendar flipped to 2020, the Warriors (9-33) have been searching for any sign of positively in a dormant season. They didn't find it Thursday night, losing to the Denver Nuggets 134-131 in overtime at Chase Center. 

The loss marked Golden State's 10th straight, as they fell to 0-9 in overtime games over the last two seasons. The Warriors led the majority of the night, taking a 19-point lead in the second half against the Nuggets (28-12) before squandering it in the fourth quarter. 

Michael Porter Jr. scored 18 points, including the go-ahead bucket with 1:16 to go in regulation. A minute later, Nikola Jokic hit a game-tying hook shot to send the game into overtime, leading to Golden State's latest demise.

Here are the takeaways from a disappointing loss:

Early defense gives way to second-half collapse. 

Golden State entered the game against the Nuggets with one of the worst defensive units in the league, allowing opponents to shoot 47 percent. On Thursday, they held the Nuggets to just 22.7 percent in the first quarter and forced two turnovers. By the end of the first half, Denver made just 15 of 49 (30.6 percent) from the field. 

Along the way, the Warriors outscored Denver in the paint and off the bench, building a 19-point lead. Then the Nuggets woke up, outscoring the 89-69 in the second half and overtime, using a 16-6 run to cut the lead to two in the fourth quarter. Before Porter's fourth-quarter layup, the Nuggets had not led all game. 

It was yet another disappointing turn of events for a Warriors team looking for any signs of development. 

Damion Lee returns with a bang

Lee has been waiting most of his career for a chance to play under a guaranteed deal. On Thursday, he made the most of his new status, finishing with 21 points and six assists in 37 minutes. 

Lee's importance to Golden State is apparent. During his 45 two-way days, he started 13 games, averaging 12.8 points over his last six outings. Upon return, Warriors coach Steve Kerr immediately put him in the starting lineup. 

Based on his new multi-year deal, the Warriors would like Lee to be a long-term piece. The plan was made possible by Lee's hard work. After two ACL tears, countless G League stints, and two two-way deals, he's finally on the long-term stage he deserves. 

Russell struggles again

D'Angelo Russell seemed primed for a tear after his 36-point performance last week in Memphis. After a 6-for-19 performance Thursday evening, those plans seem to be on pause. 

The result didn't seem likely in the first quarter, when Russell scored 10 points, including two 3-pointers in seven minutes. However, he shot 4-of-15 over the final three quarters and overtime. The sequence followed a recent theme for Russell, in which hot starts give way to puzzling finishes. In Tuesday's blowout loss to Dallas, he finished 5-of-17 from the field after making four of his first seven shots. 

Russell has the ability to go on large scoring binges. But with that strength comes occasional off-nights. If Russell can curtail the latter, the Warriors can be dangerous as long as he's on the roster. 

Klay Thompson shoots in full Warriors uniform on Chase Center court

Klay Thompson shoots in full Warriors uniform on Chase Center court

Just two days ago, injured Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson said he would "love to get out there" on the court with his teammates.

On Thursday, half of that declaration came true.

Thompson, who is rehabbing a surgically repaired torn left ACL, was out on the court at Chase Center shooting in full uniform.

Thompson was even sporting a headband. The shooting session lasted roughly 20 minutes.

Thompson spoke to the media before the Warriors game on Tuesday and provided an update on his recovery.

“It’s a tough part of the season,” Thompson said during halftime of the Warriors-Mavericks game. “It’s very rare for me not to be grinding through with them. But I’m trying to make sure this type of injury never happens to me again. So, I’ll be very patient because I want to play at a high level until I’m in my late-30s.”

[RELATED: Watch Klay shoot on Clippers hoop]

The Warriors and Thompson have yet to decide if the All-Star will return this season. The team is scheduled to provide an update on Thompson's status in mid-February.

While we wait for Thompson to return to game action, we can just enjoy watching his sweet stroke again in these short bursts.