We Are the Champions (Again!)
The Golden State Warriors won the NBA Championship this past season as they defeated the Boston Celtics in six games. The only other time the Warriors were in a six-game series was in the second round against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Warriors defeated the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks pretty convincingly in five games.
The last team to win back-to-back championships was a Warriors team that looks very much like the one currently adorning Steve Kerr’s lineup, and their ultimate goal is to accomplish that goal yet again. That’s something only five teams have done in the history of the league, and it won’t come without a fight.
To start the season at point guard for Golden State is the best point guard in the league and arguably of all time, Stephen Curry. Curry is one of the best shooters of all time. Behind Curry, is another phenomenal shooter in Jordan Poole who had a breakout season this year averaging 18.5 points per game this past season.
Filling up the other guard spot in the backcourt is Curry’s splash brother Klay Thompson. Thompson and Curry are a lethal duo as they both are great shooters and while Curry is the main ball handler, Thompson is more dangerous off the catch-and-shoot.
Thompson also had a remarkable comeback story as he missed the last two seasons with injuries. In his first season back, Thompson still averaged 20.4 points per game and won the NBA Finals. He had the type of return that most NBA players dream about.
Poole is a combo guard who can also play the shooting guard position. The Warriors also recently signed three point specialist and defensive-minded guard Donte DiVincenzo who can make a huge impact next season.
DiVincenzo not only adds veteran experience to the Warriors bench unit but also comes from a winning pedigree. DiVincenzo was on the Milwaukee Bucks 2021 Championship team even though he only played in three games of the Eastern Conference Finals that year. He was also a two-time National Championship winner at Villanova University in 2016 and 2018.
At the wing position, the Warriors have Andrew Wiggins who is a former #1 overall selection back in 2014. Wiggins averaged 17.2 points per game this past season which was his lowest points per game total since joining the Warriors. However, he stepped up big in the playoffs more specifically in the NBA Finals averaging 18.3 points per game. The Warriors also have Jonathan Kuminga who had a solid rookie season averaging 9.3 points per game.
At the power forward, the Warriors have one of the best defenders in the league at that position in Draymond Green. Green won Defensive Player of the Year in the 2016-17 season and is a seven-time NBA All Defense Team selection. One of the most underrated abilities of Green that is not talked enough about is his playmaking and leadership as he would mentor the young guys such as Moses Moody, Poole, and Kuminga in addition to helping out Thompson and Curry by running the pick-and-roll leading to a three or layup for Green.
Green is also 32 years old so who knows if he can continue to play at an elite level defensively as players around the league are becoming faster and more athletic.
Although Green is still great on defense, his offense is taking a hit as he is no longer double-digit scorer he used to be and his three-point percentage has dipped to under 30%.
The center position is definitely the Warriors’ weakest position, no doubt about it. Looney is an undersized center listed at 6’9 and only averaged 7.3 rebounds this past season which was a career high. Looney was also a key contributor to beating the Mavericks in the conference finals. Looney exploded in the Western Conference Finals averaging 10.6 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game for a double-double.
In Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, Looney exploded for 21 points and 12 rebounds leading to a 126-117 win for the Warriors. Looney’s performance in that series made it evident to Mark Cuban and company that the Mavericks needed a defensive-minded center as they traded for Christian Wood.
However, the Warriors still have former second overall pick from 2020 James Wiseman. Wiseman has missed the last two seasons due to injuries. However, if he can be the player the Warriors think he can and stay healthy, this team might not have any weaknesses.
The Warriors’ biggest critical question is can the bench unit hold their own after some key losses. In free agency, the Warriors lost Gary Payton II, Otto Porter Jr., Juan Toscano Anderson, and Nemanja Bjelinca. Also, it is still unclear if Iguodala is going to retire or not. Payton II is considered one of the best defensive players in the league. Porter Jr. averaged 8.2 points per game this past season and offered veteran experience on the bench besides DiVincenzo.
As unlikely as it may have seemed when the offseason started, it may turn out that the Warriors’ bench is even more of a factor next season. That would be huge given the collective age of their starting lineup.