Stephen Curry and the Warriors are in prime position to take advantage of fast-tracked 2020-21 NBA season

On Thursday night, the NBPA approved ownership’s proposal to begin the 2020-21 season on Dec. 22, per multiple reports, with training camp set to begin at the start of December. Trace the math backward to the Lakers’ championship on October 12, and that’s roughly a seven-week official offseason, with a typical offseason lasting roughly between three and five months depending on whether you make the playoffs and how far you advance. 

Obviously, that’s a quick turnaround, and you can expect a load of load managing from the like of LeBron James and other stars and teams around the league who endured a lot of bubble action. That said, eight teams didn’t even go to the bubble, and of the 22 that did, six more went home after just eight games. 

This all after a five-month break from April to August as the league suspended play in the midst of the pandemic’s initial surge. So while some teams and players are going to be dog tired heading into the 2020-21 season, others are going to be fresh as a daisy. The Golden State Warriors are one of them. 

“I’ve taken advantage of the time, really, but I’m also ready to go,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr recently told NBC Sports’ Monte Poole. “I can’t wait to start practice. We all kind of feel that way. When I say, ‘we all,’ I mean organizationally. I’m sure the Lakers and the Heat aren’t really ready to start camp yet. But we are. We’re ready to roll.”

The Warriors last played a game on March 10. Draymond Green half-hearted his way through 43 games last season — knowing it was a lost one after the departures of Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala and the injuries to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson — at just 28 minutes a night. Curry only played in five games last season after breaking his left hand on Oct. 30. Thompson hasn’t played since Game 6 of the 2019 Finals on June 13th. By the time the 2020-21 season starts, he won’t have played NBA basketball for basically a year and a half. 

There could be a rust factor there, and we can’t be sure how he’ll respond physically after an ACL tear, the same as there can be a bit of concern about whether Curry will feel the impacts of his broken hand as there were early reports of some nerve issues, though there hasn’t been much talk of that of late. 

Still, the rest Curry, Thompson and Green got over this past year cannot be overstated after five straight seasons of playing well into June. And those aren’t just regular games. Those are five NBA Finals runs. That is taxing. Mentally and physically. This sort of reset is almost unheard of, where the Warriors’ best player basically got to take a year-plus off while the team momentarily stunk enough to land the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft. 

Whether the Warriors keep that pick, move down for multiple picks, or package it in a trade for a win-now player, they’re going to be re-loaded and, as Kerr says, ready to roll from the outset of a season that everyone else is dreading because they’re exhausted. This can mean a hot start for the Warriors, which can pay big dividends in the race for playoff seeding in what will, once again, be a brutal Western Conference. 

There’s also a cumulative effect. By the time the Warriors get to the 2021 postseason, they will still be fresher than all the other teams they’ll be competing against, all of which played in the bubble, some deep into the bubble. Keep in mind, the other seven teams that didn’t qualify for the bubble are not teams that are expected to be contenders next season, or perhaps even playoff teams, meaning they likely won’t have the opportunity to take advantage of their relatively fresh bodies against more worn-down competition deep in the postseason. 

The Warriors have every intention of playing deep into the 2021 playoffs. So now imagine a Warriors-Lakers conference finals series in which LeBron is just a little bit gassed from what was a crazy 2020, while Curry is physically fresh and fully motivated to prove he is still a championship force to be reckoned with. 

A similar dynamic could play out in Brooklyn, which will be leaning on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Durant, like Thompson, hasn’t played since the 2019 Finals. Irving only played in 20 games last season. Again, we don’t know how they’ll respond post-injury, but from a pure conditioning standpoint, they’re going to be ultra-fresh. That’s going to be a big factor in this rushed 2020-21 season, and it could well pay major dividends. 


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