Have the Golden State Warriors really improved? Are they legitimate title contenders or are they just a good playoff team who can’t get over the hump? Both those questions will be answered throughout the season.
For the longest time the Golden State Warriors were in the Kevin Love sweepstakes, but their surprising decision to not include shooting guard Klay Thompson in the deal was very disappointing for most Warriors fans. If they would have landed Love and Kevin Martin in return for Thompson and David Lee it would have instantly made the Warriors a title contender, not just a team that will be in the 4-9 range in the Western Conference.
Thompson is a very good player, but the Warriors, as most teams do, overrate their own players. Thompson at this point in his career is a catch-and-shoot player who plays pretty good defense. He’s a player who relies on Stephen Curry to get him the ball as he is limited in creating his own shots at this point in his career. Thompson’s defense is quality but not as good as the Warriors make it out to be. Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green are just as good on defense as Thompson, if not better.
Love doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be successful, as he is one of the best offensive rebounders in the game as well as a very good post player. Love would fit the bill as a true stretch four who, supposedly, new coach Steve Kerr said he wanted. However, the Warriors wanted to keep their back court in tact and were unwilling to take on Martin’s bad defense and contract as part of the deal. That decision could become costly for them next year as well as in the long term.
Thompson is not a max player, but he will be asking for a max contract. Gordon Hayward and Chander Parsons both got contracts of more than 15 million a year and Thompson believes he is better than those players or at least on their level. The Warriors will be extremely cap strapped next season. Even though General Manager Bob Myers has left open about 11 million dollars of cap space it would still be difficult to sign Thompson, especially if he is asking for a max contract. Even if they do have enough for Thompson long-term that will prohibit them from signing any other significant pieces of their team as Green and Harrison Barnes will be due for more money within the next few seasons. Curry will also be due for a raise as he is extremely underpaid right now.
The Warriors plan all along was to get both Thompson and Love on the team together. That wasn’t possible before and it certainly isn’t possible now that there’s been a handshake agreement between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves involving Love and Andrew Wiggins. Love has been quoted as saying that if Lebron James is in Cleveland he will re-sign there. That’s smart on his part. Right now it looks as though the Warriors will be missing out on one of the few impact players in the NBA.
The NBA is a stars league. The Warriors have a star in Curry and a bunch of really good role players, but unless your ten deep like the San Antonio Spurs and have a legendary coach you usually won’t win unless you have stars. With Love the Warriors would have two of the top 10 players in the NBA paired with a lot of quality role players. That would have made them top three in the West and with the potential to dethrone the Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder.
According to the recent Las Vegas NBA Title Odds, the Warriors are 30/1 odds of winning the championship and 20/1 odds to win the Western Conference. According to the Odds the Warriors are fifth in the West. That’s fairly accurate as the Spurs, Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets are better than the Warriors right now. Also throw in an improved Dallas Mavericks squad, the Portland Trail Blazers squad not losing anybody, a healthy Memphis Grizzlies team and an upstart Phoenix Suns team, the playoffs are no guarantee.
The Warriors ceiling is a darkhouse title contender, but nothing more. Curry can only carry the team so far, he needs to have everybody healthy, which is a question mark. Also throw in the Steve Kerr unknown factor, it makes things very interesting.
The Warriors are a team with many expectations surrounding them. If they fail to live up to those expectations they might look back at the inability to include Thompson for Love as the reason why they had a disappointing season.