Dubs Lead

Positive Takeaways Remain for Last-Place Warriors

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In the classic comedy Talladega Nights, Will Ferrell’s character Ricky Bobby utters this iconic line:

“If you ain’t first, you’re last.” Nowhere is this more accurate than the NBA and no team has taken this to heart more than the 2019-20 Golden State Warriors. The vast middle is a no-man’s land in any league, especially the NBA. There are several reasons for that. One being, NBA is a superstar-driven league. If you don’t have a superstar, you won’t make it to the mountain top. And if you don’t drop all the way down in the standings, it becomes difficult to draft a future superstar. You are then left with trades and free agency as the only options to acquire that star. It’s doable, but not easy. You have to deal with complex salary cap rules, not to mention the idiosyncrasies and eccentricities of the stars in this age of player empowerment.

Secondly, the comfort of a playoff spot gives NBA teams and fans a sense of questionable success and fake accomplishment. Of course it also adds some extra cash to the owners, which they love. It’s easy to take that success and settle at that level for years. But more than half the league makes it to the playoffs and it means very little in reality. You can get in as a 7th or 8th seed and get eliminated in the first round. It’s exciting for a team on the turnaround like the 2019 Suns or Kings, but the playoff bloom is typically off that rose in a hurry if the team doesn’t keep progressing up. Being a contender matters, but making it to the playoffs doesn’t matter unless you are a young team on the rise.

Contention or Lottery

Many experts rightly feel teams should either contend in the NBA or try to be high up in the lottery to rebuild effectively. This is what the Philadelphia 76ers did in the name of “The Process.” They tanked their way to multiple high picks in the lottery. The Warriors seem to be following this theory to a tee this year unintentionally. They didn’t want to rebuild, but a rash of injuries more than anything has forced them to the very bottom of the NBA standings. After dominating the league for five straight years, seeing them with a 3-14 record is indeed odd. The Dubs have more than $125 million worth of salaries on the injured list right now. That’s not going to get you wins with any team– especially not this one.

We all know the story by now. The Warriors lost Kevin Durant to free agency. But they also lost Klay to injury. They did the right thing by trading KD for D’Angelo Russell instead of just letting him walk. But that put a hard cap on the Dubs. This forced them to dump Andre Iguodala’s salary in a trade with Memphis. They also lost all flexibility to even take minimum salaries if it meant going over the cap. If you look closely at the names they lost, you will notice a theme. They lost all their best defenders– and thus, their defense has been horrible since the start of the season. Even with Curry, they were not winning and it was the defense, or the lack thereof, that was the problem.

Dubs’ Zeitgeist

Though they were losing their first few games badly, there was this hope that they may figure things out. The young roster was expected to eventually start gelling, play better defense, and win more games. But injuries kept piling on. When Curry was lost for a couple of months with a broken hand, the season was effectively over. Draymond Green, Kevon Looney, Jacob Evans, and D’Angelo Russell have all missed significant time, joining the Splash Brothers on the bench. This put the Dubs firmly in the NBA Tankapalooza. They seem now primed to land a high lottery pick and the fans have totally embraced the momentary rebuild.

Warrior fans have had a magical run the last five years. They are paying through the nose to watch this team play in a brand new Chase Center. Still, they seem to be surprisingly fine with the young team struggling it’s way to a lottery pick. Of course, they hope next season will be all good and the experience the youngsters are gaining this year will only help. The tweet below pretty much captures the Zeitgest of the Dubs fans right now:

Dub Nation is oddly at peace with this season. Two things keep them grounded – 2020 and Eric Paschall.

Eric Paschall for 2020!

The 41st pick in the NBA draft is not supposed to be very good. If they are, teams wouldn’t be tanking to get the top picks. Dubs seem to have found another second-round gem in Eric Paschall. They say luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. This is Paschall’s life right now. Injuries have opened the door and he is absolutely busting through. Paschall is the second-highest scorer among rookies (right behind Ja Morant) and top five among rookies in rebounds.

Paschall’s success reminds everybody of Draymond Green, the Dubs’ 35th pick in 2012. Paschall has a similar body, though a different game. He has drawn comparison to Paul Millsap too, another second round pick (47th) and that’s a compliment. The Dubs are still waiting for 2019 first-round selection Jordan Poole to break through, but they will take Paschall’s growth and contribution for now. With all that said, what’s really in store for the Dubs in 2020? Too early to get into it, but unfortunately that’s the top NBA storyline in the Bay Area right now. So, we will take a quick sneak peak anyways.

(Way Too Early) Offseason Projection

The Dubs will get the Splash brothers back, not to mention Kevon Looney and Jacob Evans. They will have an improved Eric Paschall and hopefully, a functionally useful Jordan Poole. They may have a top-five pick, which is always nice. This part by the way reminds people of the San Antonio Spurs in 1997 when they were a decent team, but a rash of injuries made sure they ended up with the first pick. They picked Tim Duncan and the rest is history. There isn’t a Tim Duncan in the 2020 Draft, but the parallel has some merits.

The hard cap comes off next July and the Dubs have a window when they can use their $17 million trade exception. That means they can take one or more players via a trade up to that salary number even if they are over the cap (which they will be). This is a good asset for a team not afraid to spend money. They will also be able to use their mid-level exception to possibly bring Andre Iguodala back.

Last but not least, they will have D’Angelo Russell, who has also been injured on and off so far this season. Of course the question is, will they really have him on the roster to start the 2020 season? If not, it means they likely traded him for a better roster fit. Either way, D-Lo will be a big part of the 2020 storyline for the Dubs.

In summary, there are quite a few wrinkles the Dubs can add to their capped-out 2020 roster, and that’s what’s keeping Dubs fans future hopes alive.

Follow us on Twitter @DubsLead for the latest Warriors news and insight.

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About Aravind Srinivasan

Aravind loves two things- the NBA and writing. He has been a long-time Phoenix Suns fans since the Charles Barkley-Kevin Johnson era of the mid-90’s. He now lives in the Golden State and follows the Warriors closely. An avid sports and NBA blogger since the early days of blogging, he is now a Suns and Dubs writer for TLSM. His favourite Sun is Steve Nash and his favourite Warrior is Steph Curry. Twitter: @15cent

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