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One for the thumb - Warriors' chase for 5th title kicks off tonight
It's ring night!
Can the Golden State Warriors do it again? After slumming around for most of my lifetime, the team has won four championships since 2015. It’s a huge achievement in any era, but particularly impressive within the timeframe that was supposed to belong to LeBron James.
Fresh off an out-of-nowhere championship last season, Golden State and their core have proven themselves beyond reproach. They won before the arrival of Kevin Durant, with him, and then also: afterwards - proving to the world that this is no fluke. With a reloaded core of developing youngsters and a hungry cast of veterans, this is without a doubt one of the NBA’s most dangerous teams this season.
I asked my lovely wife what she cares about heading ahead of the season’s first game, and she said: can they win again? How’s Klay? What else is new with the contract stuff?
Seems like a pretty good agenda to me. Let’s preview!
WHO: Golden State Warriors (0-0) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (0-0)
WHEN: Tuesday, October 18, 2022
Injuries: Andre Iguodala is inactive (old, busted), and Patrick Baldwin Jr. is questionable (thumb sprain). The Lakers are without Dennis Schroder for a while (after thumb surgery), and also have Troy Brown Jr. (back), and Thomas Bryant (thumb) listed as out on their injury report
Can they do it again?
The question here isn’t if they can. The core of this Warriors franchise is standing among the highest levels of the NBA pantheon now. One of only two groups of teammates with at least one career All-NBA honor each to win four or more NBA titles together in the last 50 seasons, this core is no longer accepting questions from the peanut gallery.
After one of the toughest two-seasons stretches in all of sports history, the Warriors rose from the ashes and reclaimed their glory. It was an astonishing accomplishment that somehow managed to make even the most old school fans question if this recent championship was more emotional than the first one back in 2015. I count myself proudly as a member of the group that is now just happily watching. Silent like the “p” in pterodactyl. I have no doubts worth voicing any more. Of course they can do it again.
Stephen Curry, the most important single element of the complicated Warriors’ ecosystem, is 34 years old but still in some form of his prime years. The undisputed king of three-pointers had a tough year behind the arch last season, shooting a career-worst 38% from deep (barring the injury-shortened five game “season” in 2019).
When I put it into a graphical format, his shooting numbers bear a striking resemblance to a lightning strike - fitting for such an electric player. As always, the base stats are from basketball reference. You can see that after that injury-shortened year, Curry is very much back. I’ll leave it to the reader to build their own level of concern regarding that 38% number from last season.
Significantly, this upcoming season is not solely about Curry and the core. The Warriors spent the closing days of their offseason investing heavily in Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins. Though it does set the team up on a financial collision course with next season, both renewals were well-earned and wisely done.
Poole got the larger deal. A four-year deal that guarantees at least $123 million, it’s got a number of mixed incentives that could carry it as high as $140 million - but some of those are stretch goals like all-NBA and Defensive Player of the year.
Wiggins left a bunch of money on the table, coming back after this upcoming season for another four years just like Poole, and for the bargain price of just $109 million. He actually negotiated himself a salary cut, dropping from $33.6 million this season to $24.3 million next season, and then slowly climbing back up before his final year (which will come with a player option). It’s a major infrastructure development project for the promised bridge to the future. Let’s also not forget that Kevon Looney was also signed up for another three years earlier this summer at a total cost of around $17.5 million.
We’ll have more on the impending salary crunch here at the HQ shortly, for those who are worried at home, just rest assured that everything is good to go for this season.
The Golden State dynasty has also quietly managed to stock their shelves during the lean years without Thompson and Curry. James Wiseman has looked strong to very strong during the preseason, and with Looney now firmly entrenched ahead of him on the depth chart he’ll be mostly matched up against other team’s second units - a stark contrast to his first season when he was thrown into a starting role after a Covid-shortened preseason and training camp.
The hope is that Wiseman can develop alongside the next generation, a growing wave of talent that includes Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. Remember the whole “chasing wins” thing? Well, the Warriors are entering the season with a long lens when it comes to defining the success of this upcoming season.
He’s doing okay.
Thompson has taken a slow re-entry into this season. Partially due to the physical wear and tear that he’s endured over the past few years, and partially due to the mental toll that experience subsequently had on him. The end result is that he is back and ready to play, but everyone involved is interested in taking a slow and steady approach. I’m sure there’s some sort of clever sailing play on words that I’m missing here, but you get the gist.
He did play in the final preseason game, but will be on some sort of minutes restriction - along with a bunch of other Warriors’ players - in the opening games of this season.
IT’S RING NIGHT!
Welcome back, Warriors basketball!