Sport is full of surprises – that’s the secret of much of its popularity with fans. And the bigger the surprises, the more it tends to delight.
But some surprises are definitely unwanted, especially when they come in the form of the catastrophic loss of form that affected the Golden State Warriors last season. Considering their incredible record between 2015 and 2019 when they became a fixture in the NBA finals, their humbling last season was hard for many to take.
Many reasons have been given for it and it’s undoubtedly true that serious injuries played their part. Klay Thompson’s season-ending ACL injury and Stephen Curry’s broken hand were two of the most serious and it seemed somehow inevitable that this was going to have major ramifications for the team.
The fact that this season they are well away from the bottom of both the Pacific Division and the Western Conference says a great deal about the team’s ability to bounce back, not to mention coach Steve Kerr’s leadership.
No doubt this is also being reflected in the NBA spreads, and it also suggests that better days are around the corner. But there are certain questions that will need to be answered first before we can be sure that the Warriors will be back to their league-beating best.
Will the “big three” continue to deliver?
There are undoubtedly three players who make up the core of the team – Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. For sustained success, these three will need to continue to deliver.
Curry will be 33 this season and some are wondering if his best days may be behind him. He’s often been compared to the Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash in terms of career trajectory. Nash was still picking up MVP awards at this age and, by the same token, there could still be another three or four seasons left in Curry.
Thompson has his torn ACL to fully recover from and the signs are all good but the biggest question concerns Green. He’s well-known for the intensity of his play, but the issue is how long he can sustain this level of commitment. So, many fingers are crossed that his body holds out for at least three more seasons and helps the Warriors come out fighting.
Can Andrew Wiggins be consistent?
There were high hopes for the Canadian when he made the move from the Timberwolves. But there have also been questions asked about whether he can really justify the sky-high salary that was agreed in the move.
Luckily, there have been some very encouraging signs, but there’s always been the danger that he manages to shine for a few games before regressing to being relatively ineffectual. However, the fact that Draymond Green is also on the team should provide the impetus he needs to keep his foot firmly on the gas.
But whether he can really be up to being a suitable replacement for the incredible Harrison Barnes very much remains to be seen.
Will the youngsters come good?
The failures of last season have had some positive elements for the Warriors and one of these has been the emergence of number of young players. One of the most notable of these has been Eric Paschall. Already, he’s proved to be a good match in a line-up with Wiggins and Green and his 14 points average is very encouraging.
Marquese Chriss and Damion Lee were also major revelations who could both go on to have very bright futures with the team.
While Chriss still shows some inexperience he’s young and has plenty of time to develop and mature. Lee has done a little more to prove his worth and we can expect to see him becoming a regular starter with the team.
Can Kevon Looney’s hips hold out?
Looney is definitely one of the Warriors’ most important acquisitions of recent years, not to mention one of the best value ones the team has ever pulled off with the contract he signed in 2019. At $15 million for three years, even if he only turns out for a proportion of the games it would still be good value.
But the problem is the same one that has dogged him throughout his professional career – repeated hip injuries, several of which have needed surgery. Last season he only managed around 260 minutes across 20 games and in these his mobility definitely seemed restricted.
However, he’s shown that he’s adaptable enough to change his game to include faking opponents and getting them off-balance in order to prevail and, at just 25, there should be many more seasons left in him.
Is it a question of spending big?
Finally, it all comes down to money. Following the opening of the Chase Center, the Warriors catapulted themselves into the position of being the third most valuable NBA franchise valued at around $4.3 billion. Their finances are also said to have been bolstered by around $2 billion worth of sponsorship and other commercial deals.
So if they take a bold approach and invest just of their cash reserves in more players who’ll be able to make a difference, the future could look very rosy indeed.
Whether they will is a very different question – and it’s one that their many fans would like to be answered as soon as it possibly can.