Less than three years ago, Golden State reigned atop the basketball world. The Warriors just won a second straight NBA title in June 2018, making quick work of the Cleveland Cavaliers. That league championship marked a third in four years. Yet the next season they would completely unravel.
How did they fall so far so fast? Is there any chance they can reclaim the NBA’s throne?
The decline of Golden State
Last year, things could not have looked much worse. The Warriors finished a shortened COVID-stricken 2020 season with the dismal record of 15-50. This followed a snake-bit series of events which left them in dire straits. The tone set early on as ex-MVP and team leader Stephen Curry missed the whole season after breaking his left hand in October, 2019.
Several months earlier, the first domino dropped: all-world forward Kevin Durant. During a pivotal game 5 of the 2019 finals, Durant tore his right Achilles tendon. Then during game 6, all-star Klay Thompson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Over the span of two games, Golden State’s lofty status came crashing down.
A team in transition
In the weeks following that, the Warriors’ roster saw a serious shake up. Golden State acquired talented young guard D’Angelo Russell as compensation for facilitating a sign and trade deal with the Brooklyn Nets. Unfortunately, they gave up Kevin Durant.
To clear enough salary cap space for this move, they also parted with key role player Andre Iguodala. A major concession signaling a sea change across the bay. A new era to follow, or at least it appeared. But the franchise would soon shift course.
Early in February of 2020, they shipped Russell to Minnesota for mercurial forward Andrew Wiggins and two draft picks. Who could say what the future might hold?
Meanwhile, Thompson prepared to return from a devastating knee injury. That is until, fate dealt them another blow. Last November, Thompson tore his right Achilles tendon during a workout in Southern California. Any hope going into this year quickly dashed.
Golden State sits slightly above .500 today. A somewhat surprising development here given all they lost. The Warriors still feature two members of it’s championship core, with Curry and Draymond Green.
Add Wiggins plus rookie big blue chipper James Wiseman, the second overall draft pick. As they look to find that winning formula once again. Some of the success may be credited to a newly forged defensive identity. Head Coach Steve Kerr must be given credit. His team is doing more than most people anticipated.
They remain a long distance from the mountaintop. In addition they are now minus a number of vital pieces from their remarkable run. Among them: Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and JaVale McGee. Each making important contributions toward the team’s titles.
Time is surely not on their side. Along with a seven year stretch of deep playoff runs, including five consecutive trips to the NBA finals. That’s a lot of hard miles. It seems likely their title window has closed. However never say never in today’s NBA.