This Warriors’ season started with a punch to the face and ended with one to the gut. It was less of a basketball season and more like a later season of The Sopranos. Misery and gloom as you watch people you liked meet an unfortunate end.
It was only fitting that this iteration of the Warriors, fresh off another title, would lose in LA to Lebron. Now, everyone in this organization will face their most trying summer.
Besides Steph’s injuries and Wiggins’ time away, just about every wound was self-inflicted. From the terrible start to the season to the lack of tangible development of the youngsters, it all begins and ends with the team. This is what makes this season so frustrating from the top down.
With Iguodala now retired and GM Bob Myers potentially on the way out, change is on its way for Golden State. Perhaps this is exactly what the team needs. Some sort of bloodletting that will force the hands of the organization to focus on getting the most out of the core’s final years.
To really understand what went wrong, there has to be an examination of the failures at each level. The reason why these issues are both avoidable and fixable is that this team can still contend for more titles. However, the work starts now.
November 18, 2020, is the day things became clouded for the front office. After a season where the Dubs were the worst team in the league, they were awarded the second overall pick. Despite the excitement that surrounds getting a high pick, this proved to be the start of a crossroad they would spend close to three seasons dealing with.
This isn’t another James Wiseman bashing piece; instead, any draft pick would have struggled. Outside of Tyrese Haliburton, there wasn’t a clear NBA-ready prospect.
It’s less than Wiseman was the wrong pick, and more than picking any player at 2, outside of Lamelo, would have been wrong. Teams were looking to trade up, especially with how much Detriot rated Wiseman; a deal could have been done.
Instead, it became the birth of the two-timeline plan where the Warriors would try to contend by supporting their big three with a new core of promising talents. The 2021 draft would add two more youngsters, and the plan was entirely in motion.
All these young players could have struggled immensely in the 21-22 season, and they did at times, but that was eased by the excellent roster construction by Myers that season. Every veteran was able to play meaningful moments and contribute in the biggest moments.
Hell, Otto Porter was on a one-year deal and started the finals. Gary Payton was another one of those off-season pickups that proved to be masterstrokes.
That’s why it was confusing to see the front office dive headfirst into the second timeline without the proper veterans in this past off-season. Di Vincenzo was an excellent pickup, but he was too inconsistent when it mattered. JaMychal Green should have had the JTA role but was forced into the Otto role, which was detrimental to everyone.
However, no offseason move was as damaging to the team as GP2’s departure. The guard had come out of nowhere to become a vital piece in a title-winning side. Eventually, he would return after an embarrassing trade that also kicked Wiseman to the curb.
This is where the failures of the front office became compounded with the failures of the coaching staff. To preface this, it has to be made clear that Steve Kerr is one of the best coaches in league history. Kerr is masterful in adjusting in playoff series and is now clearly focussed only on playoff success.
Kerr has always preferred experienced players over youngsters, and this season was another confirmation of that. For almost the entirety of the season, Kerr would play his two-way players and vets over the young guys who needed a run.
Fans were shocked to see Moses Moody disappear from the regular season rotation, only to become a key member of the playoff rotation. Moody is a winning player that could have helped make up for the departure of Payton. Instead, Kerr opted to throw him in to face playoff opponents, and to his credit, it worked.
More reports are coming out showing Kuminga’s displeasure with his role, and he’s right. After being a key piece in the regular season, he was frozen out of the playoff rotation with no explanation. With Wiggins out, Kuminga was getting a good run and showing clear signs of development.
Then, he was suddenly out of the playoff rotation in matchups that he could have helped with. Wiggins was the only Warrior who could help out with Lebron, but Kuminga should have been able to help with his size. The lack of any rim pressure in both series was shocking, and again, Kuminga could have helped.
Finally, some of the players will have to have difficult conversations with themselves in the offseason. Outside of Steph, Draymond, Looney, and Wiggins, there are plenty of questions for the players left on the roster.
Klay was so great for the season, but it just felt like he ran out of gas during the postseason. It makes sense, as he had played the most of any Warriors player after the All-Star break. The conversation he has to have with himself is, what will his role be next season?
This doesn’t mean he needs to come off the bench; rather, it’s about redefining his offensive role. He’s no longer the force that can create out of nowhere and shoot from anywhere without his feet set. Late-career Ray Allen should be what Klay looks at and accept that he must become the third option.
Jordan Poole is the most confusing conundrum for the dubs. For a good part of the season, his offense carried them, and with last year’s performances in mind, he has given so much. However, he has shown no improvement defensively and rushes the offense too often.
Unlike Klay, Poole’s problem lies with the front office and whether they are willing to keep him on. The front office may look to move Poole for more players and look to solidify the bench, and bring more rim pressure. Or, they may see this season as a sophomore slump and continue to ride with him.
Before closing, there needs to be acknowledgment of the Anthony Lamb situation. Despite being credibly accused of sexual assault, the team never acknowledged the situation. Media members were singing their praise while the Warriors continued to remain silent on him.
This is a tougher loss to swallow than the play-in loss two years ago and will force the team into a difficult off-season. The Warriors are no longer light years ahead, but their dynasty isn’t over. It will all come down to what they choose to do this summer.
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