Steve Kerr's assessment of the Warriors' 2020-21 season has drawn a lot of reactions from Warriors fans, and ESPN's "First Take" crew was divided as to whether Golden State's campaign indeed can be considered a success.
"When we say season, I'm thinking about the season in its totality, the 72 games played prior to the play-in game, and I would say that's a raving success, I shouldn't say raving success, it's a success," Stephen A. Smith said Monday morning. "Steph Curry without Klay Thompson reminded you of his greatness leading the league in scoring at 32 a game, shooting about 49 percent from the field, shooting 42 percent from 3-point range. You discovered guys like a Jordan Poole for example, and what kind of role he can ultimately play.
"James Wiseman goes down, he gets hurt, that's a 7-footer that can give you some things from the inside on both ends of the floor, we can't forget that. Kelly Oubre wasn't available, he was supposed to be there, OK."
Smith went on to say that a return of a healthy Klay Thompson paired with what the Warriors currently have coming back puts the Warriors among the top Western Conference contenders in 2021-22.
His co-host Max Kellerman disagreed with Smith, saying that what the Warriors had on the roster this season, coupled with MVP and Defensive Player of the Year finalists in Curry and Draymond Green, respectively, should have been enough to at least get into the playoffs.
"Overall no, there's some successful things but you can't call this a success," Kellerman said on ESPN. "Let's not exaggerate like they have nothing on the roster. They have an MVP-caliber player in Steph, they have a former No. 1 overall draft pick who turned into a good two-way player in Wiggins, they have a Defensive Player of the Year-type guy, multiple-time All-Star in Draymond and they have some interesting pieces.
"What they had to do, they had two chances to win a single game to get to the first round of the playoffs. I'm sorry, with everything I just said and you have two chances just to win once against a compromised Lakers team, against a Memphis team. Lose in the first round, at least get to the first round, they couldn't even do that."
Kerr explained why he called this season a success in his postgame press conference Friday night.
"I think this season absolutely was a success Anthony, we would have loved to have gotten into the playoffs and tried to make a run. We were really a good team over the last 22 games I guess," Kerr said. "To put together a stretch like that over an entire quarter of a season, that's not a fluke, we were the No. 1 defense in the league during that span. To watch Jordan (Poole), Juan (Toscano-Anderson), Mychal Mulder, these young guys grow and develop, that makes this a successful season because of what it sets up for next year."
Kellerman's belief seemed to echo much of the response from Warriors fans in the aftermath of Friday's overtime loss in the play-in tournament finale against the Memphis Grizzlies. Although the Warriors would have qualified for the playoffs without a play-in tournament, losing two games in a row and missing out on the playoffs for the second consecutive season is going to leave a sour taste in the mouths of many. No matter the available personnel.
Having a slightly better draft slot this summer is a decent silver lining, but it only would have moved a few spots back if the Warriors had earned a playoff berth.
The Warriors' hiatus from championship expectations should end in 2021-22, as Thompson's return to the lineup brings the franchise's foundational trio back together on the court for the first time since the 2019 NBA Finals.
This season can be chalked up as a success or a failure depending on your perspective, but next year, there won't be any questions about what the expectation will be.
Curry and Green both said as much in their postgame press conferences following the season-ending loss.
It will be championship contention or bust for the Warriors in 2021-22.