The Golden State Warriors have higher hopes for the coming season than they did a year ago, and for good reason: They are in a much better position than they were last season.
Andre Iguodala, Nemanja Bjelica and Otto Porter Jr. are better than Kent Bazemore, Eric Paschall and Brad Wanamaker. Klay Thompson is better than Kelly Oubre Jr. Jordan Poole is significantly better in 2021-22 than in 2020-21, as is Juan Toscano-Anderson. James Wiseman is a year older and more experienced (is he James Wiseman?), And Andrew Wiggins is more familiar with the system.
On paper, this year’s Dubs roster beats last year’s roster, which is good as last year’s roster missed not only the championship but the playoffs overall.
But “on paper” always brings with it a few caveats, and one of those caveats is this: Are the Warriors a little too dependent on injury-prone players?
For a team limited to minimum contracts and the mid-level exemption (which they haven’t used yet), the Warriors didn’t exactly have the full flexibility, and that meant accepting some red flags. You have to live with that, and they did.
Porter is a prime example of this. In the last three seasons, the 28-year-old has played a total of 98 games due to back and foot injuries.
For the player, this is a curse. It’s both a curse for the team and a blessing. Had Porter played 75 games a year for the past three seasons, he would likely have landed a multi-year contract of between $ 15 million and $ 20 million a year. Instead, the Warriors signed him for the minimum.
Bjelica only played 37 games a season ago, and while some of it came down to an unknown personal issue, much of it was the result of a back injury.
And that’s just the incoming players. Steph Curry and Draymond Green both missed time last season and are a year older. Thompson will miss the start of the season and may receive load management upon return. Kevon Looney has only played 81 games in the last two seasons, and if he fails the Warriors will have to rely on an inexperienced wiseman with his own complex injury history.
Golden State’s lineup looks strong and deep now, but most teams have few injuries from testing their depth in uncomfortable ways and the Warriors may play there with a little more fire than the average contender. These guys have talent and heart in abundance; Sterling injury stories, not so much.
We know the only thing the Dubs want to avoid after last season is that they get into a period of time when they are on Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, the 15th folks. But it doesn’t take a lot of creativity and imagination to see her in this position.
But there is good news. Winning a championship – and only just under it for most teams – requires a lot of luck and good breaks. The Dubs may only charge a little more than other teams, but they’re all in the same building.