Just like Rhett and Scarlett in Gone With The Wind, The Golden Championship Generation of the Golden State Warriors are living life at a perpetual crossroads. Rebuild, Reload, Reconstruct, ReMarry (damn Scarlett, again!?) whatever Re you’d like to use to get the job done the Warriors need to mostly ReFresh.
These past two seasons have been draining. Injuries and the pandemic have put years between the Warriors’ last championship—2018—and today. Klay Thompson made it all the way back from one injury just to have a major setback on the eve of his return. The commercials were already airing during NBA games he was so close.
Wiseman worked his way into the rotation, then worked himself out. It was a wayward year for the rookie. Steph has battled his own injuries. Draymond Green swings from championship fulcrum to crippled folly of a contract in a matter of a week. On February 6 against Dallas, Green had the most “Draymond-y” of lines with 6 REB, 15 AST, 7 STL, 4 BLK, and 2 PTs… Green makes Golden State go at times but without the full complement of stars around him, the ideas that made the Warriors work crumble like old cornbread on the cattle trails.
The Splash Brothers and Draymond Green are all eligible for over-30 leagues now. Their bodies will start giving them more frequent ReMinders as they chase one last championship. They’ll relate to Ashley’s yearning for yesterday when she proclaimed, “I want the old days back again and they’ll never come back, and I am haunted by the memory of them and of the world falling about my ears.”
The Warriors used to rule the NBA world, now they are just slowly falling apart. At least that’s how it seems from the outside. The Warriors came into the season with low expectations compared to the golden years. Kevin Durant ventured East and Thompson would be in street clothes for the second straight year.
2020-2021 was all about supporting Curry’s ascent up the legacy rankings and shot records charts while developing young talent. James Wiseman adapted to the NBA game well at times but spent far too much time on the court being one thought and two steps behind the play. It affected his confidence. Eric Paschall, Nico Mannion, and Jordan Poole simply gave no evidence of growing up together and winning like Curry and Co. This is not Spiderman seeing his other self. This is talent evaluators living out Scarlett and Rhett’s observations when comparing the bench players in Golden State to the average playoff team.
One bright spot among the sea of auditioning young players was Juan Toscano-Anderson. Anderson became just the fifth player of Mexican descent to play in the NBA and the only Mexican player currently in the league. He showed heart, hustle, and grit all season, earning the respect of his teammates with plays like this:
Shooting 40% from three and an Oscar-worthy 58% overall, earned JTA a full-time contract in May.
“Sir, you are no gentleman!”
“An apt observation. And, you, Miss, are no lady.”
Curry is that Gentleman, though his old playoff rivals would say his unending barrage of three-pointers was pretty cruel. Curry gave all the evidence needed to ensure he is a unanimous first-ballot Hall of Famer. He led a depleted team to the fringes of playoff contention. Curry made a three-point shot in Every, Single, Game. Again. His streak is up to 125 games. (He somehow missed a game years ago.) Curry’s current streak will overtake his current record of 157 sometime around Christmas. How long will Golden State be able to count on Curry’s consistency? How much will it cost them, in wages and roster construction limits, to sign Curry to a max-level deal? Will Curry seek other options?
Curry will have a market. Stars will try to recruit him for a run. Curry averaged more points this year (32) than during his unanimous MVP season (301.). He walked away with the scoring title when everyone knew to gameplan against him getting 40. He still produced like a surefire Hall Of Famer.
“Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect. We take what we get and are thankful it’s no worse than it is.”
After the obstacles of the past few seasons and the new NBA Landscape, the Warriors winning one more title would cement them in the upper echelon of champions. Right now, the homegrown core is mid-tier on the title totem pole, plus their years Kevin Durant. Weight those titles against history at your leisure. The chase could be what keeps the band together, after all, “They knew that love snatched in the face of danger and death was doubly sweet for the strange excitement that went with it.”
The fact that is even a reasonable question is a sign that this season was the end of the Good Times in Golden State. They are now on the clock, anxious like every other fanbase. Golden State is going into the offseason with 13 players under contract for over $166,000,000.00. Those zeros matter. Some of them are worth 150% of their value on the paycheck for salary cap purposes. Some are being spent on guys that have yet to prove capable of supporting a championship run.
Following Thompson’s injury, Kelly Oubre Jr. signed up to stand in as the second Splash Brother but spent the season crashing his market value as he shot 31% from deep. Andrew Wiggins may never get the chance. He is the best trade asset and shedding his salary in a trade would save Golden State’s ownership over $40 million in luxury tax payments. On the other hand, there is no way to replace Wiggin’s money with talent except to trade him for a couple of rotations pieces. That will negate most of that tax savings.
“Hardships make or break people.”
Curry will make $45 million in the last year of his contract. Klay Thompson is owed $38 million next season with two years left on his max-level deal. He will be 34—not 24—and will be making $45 million in 2024. Green will average $26 million for the next three years. There are old so many ways to build around this old core to protect them for deep playoff runs. There is also only so much time to do so and all efforts could still prove futile.
Curry is solidly in his mid-30s and the toll of all these injuries to Thompson cannot be understated. Basketball is a game of runs. The Warriors had theirs. Now Father Time is making that one last run at what is left of the Death Lineup. The Warriors have two lottery picks this year but it is unlikely either of those players will be ready to contribute much to one last championship run.
Warriors look up, see the end is near…
Golden State Warriors: Where shall we go? What shall we do?
The NBA’s New Era: Frankly old guys, we just don’t give a damn.
Those Warriors the NBA feared? They are dead.
For more of Dodson’s NBA Season Obituaries: