Warriors

Odd Warriors Season Brings Clarity to the Future

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As the fate of the NBA season hangs in the balance, the Warriors find themselves where they began; confused, disappointed, and uncertain. Their plans for greatness were foiled in the offseason, beginning with Kevin Durant’s signing with the Brooklyn Nets. The brand new Chase Center’s opening should have been a coronation, the opening of a castle that finally befits the king. Instead, the team had a season full of injuries and roster turnover.

However, the Warriors’ future is becoming clearer looking ahead. D’Angelo Russell is gone, Andrew Wiggins is in, and Klay Thompson will return from injury. The Splash Brothers will reunite on the court and the team will have its dynamic backcourt again. Should the season not continue, the Warriors are guaranteed to pick no lower than fifth in the upcoming draft, and they have a bevy of young players on the bench who saw increased minutes and development due to the unique circumstances. The season may have been lost from the start, but now there’s nowhere to go but up.

Roster Outlook

Seeing Andrew Wiggins on the Warriors feels like an alternate reality, but for 12 games the former Timberwolves forward suited up in a Warriors jersey. In that span, he averaged a respectable 19.4 points per game on 45% shooting. Even with the small sample size, it’s impossible to know how he fits, because he rarely played alongside the stars. Of the 12 games, Draymond Green played in just three of them while Stephen Curry only played for one.

With the stars returning, Wiggins won’t have to be the focal point of the offense. Curry and Green will handle the playmaking duties which will let Wiggins find space instead of creating his own shot. Defenses will once again have their hands full with the Warriors, meaning Wiggins should find lots of open looks.

Then there’s the $17 million trade exception, a high-value asset with the salary cap most likely dropping next season. Many teams will need to dump salary to avoid a large luxury tax bill. The Warriors will be a perfect trade partner as they have eight players on rookie or league-minimum deals. Seeing any of these players leave will be difficult for fans as the development of rookies and two-way players was the rare bit of joy in a losing season.

Damion Lee and Eric Paschall are two standouts in the group. After spending most of his career in the G-League, Lee shined immediately after Curry’s injury and averaged close to 13 points per game. Paschall, a second-round pick much like Green, received major minutes out of the gate and stepped up to the challenge. In just his seventh game, he dropped 34 points and had his second 30-point game less than two weeks later. While their minutes may decrease, both players should expect to be back at the Chase Center next season.

Potential Draft Pick

According to Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Warriors intend to select Georgia shooting guard Anthony Edwards if they land the number one overall pick in the NBA Draft. On the surface, Edwards could potentially be the best player in the draft. Our big board from January had him as the top prospect of this class, highlighting his ability to guard multiple positions and his exceptional playmaking skills for a combo guard.

The problem is the team is stacked at guard. There’s rookie Jordan Poole, who began to show signs of improvement after a stint in the G-League. Then add Lee and Ky Bowman, who both signed multi-year contracts after impressive runs. With so much depth in the backcourt it’s hard to see where Edwards fits.

With a plethora of talented guards, the glaring hole in the lineup is at the center position. The team relies on oft-injured Kevon Looney and the still raw talent Alan Smailagic. Memphis center James Wiseman seems like the logical choice, but his limited game-time left many scouts wary of picking him near the top.

Former Dayton forward Obi Toppin is one player who stands out as a perfect fit. Toppin swept all three of the national player of the year awards after averaging 20 points per game while shooting close to 65% from the field. He shot close to 40% from behind the arc, giving the Warriors another terrifyingly accurate perimeter scorer. At 6-foot-9, he could play forward or center for the Warriors in a small-ball lineup. The Warriors could take a risk and trade down like they planned and still end up with a solid talent who fits their system.

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This season was always going to be weird, but the dynasty may not be finished. The full return of Curry and Thompson and the potential for an improved roster in the offseason could lead the Warriors back near the top. Next year will be another Warriors season with a lot of change, but a return to winning could bring a little familiarity.

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

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