This isn’t how this season was supposed to go.
On the heels of a campaign lost to injury and exodus, 2020-21 was supposed to mark a return to relevance for the Golden State Warriors. Another championship contender in the Bay, old-school Splash Brothers style.
But like so much else in 2020, those plans went up in smoke, thanks largely to the offseason Achilles tear suffered by Klay Thompson. It’s a devastating setback that will cost him a second straight season after losing 2019-20 to a torn ACL.
Warriors blown out again
Two games into the season against a pair of the East’s top teams and the Warriors look a lot closer to the lottery than they do a return to championship form. Golden State followed up Thursday’s blowout loss to the Brooklyn Nets with a Christmas Day dud against the Milwaukee Bucks, a 138-99 setback that suggests the Warriors aren’t ready to compete in a loaded Western Conference.
Stephen Curry, the two-time MVP and only mainstay on the floor from Golden State’s championship heyday, is frustrated.
“We need to win,” Curry told reporters after Friday’s loss. “Immediately.”
So what do the Warriors need to fix what’s ailing them?
“I don't know,” Curry continued. “We just have to focus more on what we're trying to do. Sometimes when you miss shots, you tend to force and press and not think.
“Our group's collective IQ has to get a lot better in those moments where you're not making shots.”
Gone from the Warriors’ 2019 Finals core are Thompson and Kevin Durant, who looks very much like an MVP contender with the Nets in his first games back from his own crushing injury. They’re obviously not walking through the door.
Draymond Green has also been missing, sitting the 0-2 start with what’s being reported as a minor foot injury. He’s expected to return soon, possibly for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bulls.
New Warriors core not cutting it
In their place are Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre Jr. and rookie James Wiseman. With a nod to Wiseman’s more than promising start, this is a core that’s failed to live up to expectations through two games, much less fill the shoes of their All-NBA predecessors.
Wiggins was acquired last season to help fill the massive void on the wing left by the departed Durant while ensuring that Golden State would get a long-term return on their investment in D’Angelo Russell. The former No. 1 overall pick, of course, was never expected to replace Durant.
But he was supposed to be better than this. Wiggins followed up his 4-of-16 effort on opening night with another disaster from the field on Friday. He tallied 12 points against the Bucks on 6-of-18 shooting, including misses on all four of his 3-point attempts.
Oubre has somehow been worse. Acquired this offseason after the Thompson injury, the former Phoenix Sun scored three points on Christmas on 1-of-10 shooting from the field. He missed all five of his 3-point attempts. Friday’s game followed up a 3-of-14 effort against the Nets. A Splash Brother, he is not.
There is a bright spot for Golden State
Wiseman has provided the beacon of hope in this slow Warriors start. The rookie center is averaging 18.5 points, seven rebounds and 1.5 blocks in his brief NBA tenure while connecting 4 of 5 3-point attempts. It’s the inside-out game the Warriors banked on when making the athletic 7-footer the No. 2 pick in the draft.
But a rookie center showing upside isn’t enough to make Golden State competitive, especially when Curry doesn’t resemble his former form. The Warriors sharpshooter is connecting on just 34.2% of his field-goal attempts, a rate that’s weighed down by a 4-of-20 effort from 3-point distance in two games.
There’s surely better to come from Curry, who missed all but five games last season with a broken hand. Oubre and Wiggins are likewise bound to improve. How could they not?
But even then, it’s hard to envision this version of the Warriors mounting any sort of threat in the West.
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