Culture of Hoops

The Not So Golden Warriors

The Golden State Warriors were previously at the top of the NBA world. The team won three titles and made five consecutive NBA Finals appearances between 2015 and 2019. However, the team finished the 2019-2020 campaign with a record of 15-50, the fourth worst winning percentage (23 percent) in franchise history. This in large part was due to the departure of Kevin Durant as well as injuries to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Unfortunately the start of the 2020-21 season hasn’t been much kinder as they have gotten off to a slow start thus far. Can the Warriors return amongst the NBA’s elite, or is the Golden Age in Golden State over?

Play of Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry has previously had the luxury of playing next to great players like Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant. Because of that, he hasn’t always needed to carry a team on his own. However, that changed last season. Thompson tore his ACL in the 2019 NBA Finals and missed all of the following season. Durant’s departure to the Brooklyn Nets in that offseason also dramatically hurt the Warriors. Curry needed to step up. Although it was a small sample size, Curry’s production massively shrunk in five games last season as the Warriors’ only star. In those five games, Curry averaged 21 points while shooting 40 percent from the field and 24 percent from three as the Warriors went 1-4. To put that in perspective, Curry averaged 27 points per game while shooting 47 percent from the field and 43 percent from three the season before. Unfortunately for Dub Nation, the pain didn’t end with just poor performances from Curry; he eventually had a season ending left hand injury that destroyed any chance of them being relevant in the NBA.

Upon his return this year, Curry has continued to underperform as the Warriors’ only star. In the first three games of this season, Curry averaged 25 points per game, great, right? Well, he has been shooting just 38 percent from the field and 25 percent from three as the Warriors suffered 26 and 39 point losses to the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, while also barely sneaking by the winless Chicago Bulls. When not playing with great teammates like Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, Curry’s play has shrunk.

Stephen Curry’s supporting cast

Curry’s lackluster start is certainly not the only reason why the Warriors have struggled. After Klay Thompson’s season-ending Achilles tear, the Warriors traded for Oklahoma City’s small ball forward Kelly Oubre Jr. The former Kansas Jayhawk was expected to replace most of Thompson’s production. Additionally, Andrew Wiggins, the former number one overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, was also expected to step up. Wiggins and Oubre have not lived up to expectations as the two of them have shot a combined 23-89 from the floor and 4-30 from three through the first three games of the season. Oubre has shot an astonishing 0-31 from the field on non-dunk attempts thus far.

Any reason for optimism?

The Warriors were trailing by nine points with under four minutes remaining in the 4th quarter against the Bulls this past Sunday. It looked like this was going to be a very bad loss for the Warriors because they were playing a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2017. However, Stephen Curry was able to score ten points in the game’s final four minutes which gave the Warriors a chance. After a Zach LaVine pull-up with five seconds to go, the Warriors found themselves in a two point hole. However, a game-winning three by Damion Lee with just seconds to go gave the Warriors their first win of the season.

Despite the team’s 1-2 start, which featured two blowout losses, we have seen some positive things from the Warriors. In his first three career games, rookie center James Wiseman has averaged 15 points and six rebounds per game while shooting 47 percent from the floor and 83 percent from three while appearing in just 24 minutes per contest. The Warriors used the second overall pick from this past draft on the 19-year-old Wiseman. Despite his young age, the Warriors believe he can be an immediate contributor. He’s shown that he can be.

Warriors fans should also be happy about Stephen Curry’s performance in Chicago. Against the Bulls, Curry had had 36 points and six assists in the victory while shooting a more respectable 33 percent from deep. The Warriors will need those types of performances from Curry on a consistent basis if they want to be competitive without Klay Thompson. Kelly Oubre and Andrew Wiggins will have to step up big time in order to do that. Oubre averaged 19 points per game last season while Wiggins has averaged at least 20 points per game in a season multiple times which shows they have the talent to contribute for the Warriors. If Curry remains one of the best players in the league and gets enough help from his supporting cast, the Warriors can turn things around from what we’ve seen thus far.

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