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What Happens with Ex-Champions Golden State Next Season?

We’ve witnesses one of the most unpredictable and wildest NBA season this past campaign. The end of it didn’t disappoint in any way too. It felt like the end of an era for Golden State Warriors. They lost, but they went out of the arena like champions. Klay Thompson and Steph Curry demonstrated a killing shooting performance in the fourth quarter of Game 5 to steal a win on the road. Then the stage was set for the final act. In Game 6, in the final game at Oracle Arena, the team left it all on the court. Klay played one of the best games of his career before the injury cut it short. Then he hobbled out of the tunnel to hit free throws with a torn ACL and told Steve Kerr he just needed a few minute rest before he'd re-enter the game. That alone was a Jordan or Kobe-like act. Draymond Green finished with 11 points, 19 rebounds, 13 assists and 8 turnovers, which is like a classic Draymond Green stats line. Andre Iguodala hadn't been a real scoring option for the Finals so far, but he bounced back to score 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting. It all came down to the final possession, when Steph Curry missed a good look from the 3-point line, but losing the game and the series wasn't the point. The fight from the Warriors in Game 6 was the culmination of a play-off-long effort from the team core - Steph, Klay, Draymond, Iggy, to keep the dream alive even without Durant and Cousins. They lost, but lost with dignity and pride.

What next? Now it seems like everyone expects the Warriors to fall apart and don’t be a force to reckon with in the West the next season, at least. This is quite understandable - Kevin Durant is in Brooklyn, albeit he won’t play next season; Iguodala is in Memphis and the other key bench player Shaun Livingston was waived. Klay Thompson is currently out indefinitely, although medical reports estimate his chances to return somewhere around end of next March or April, as good.

Another factor is Father Time. Steph is 31 years old. Klay and Draymond are 29. Looney is back though and on a very team-friendly contract- 15 million USD for 3 years. Adding D'Angelo Russell after losing Durant was a great move, regardless if he is being moved during the season for some assets or not. Durant was evidently leaving anyway, so gaining an All-Star player in exchange for a leaving free agent is nowhere short of a fantastic job by the franchise’s management. Cleveland received just a trade exception and a handful of middle draft picks when LeBron James left in 2010. Most teams get nothing in this type of situations. Golden State got an All-Star guard who can either help next season or eventually be traded for depth in the next few seasons.

 

So, is it really possible that Warriors are still a factor come next year’s play-off time? Let’s see. If Klay comes back healthy in time, GSW have every chance to offer a decent fight to any team in the West, including both LA teams. They will certainly need every piece of Draymond Green of old though, for this scenario to happen. At his best, he was the backbone of an elite defense and the connecting piece that boosted the best versions of Curry and Klay on offense. Is he still the same player though, after 7 full NBA seasons, spent mostly banging with taller and heavier guys than him? Last season, Draymond averaged 7.6 points per game, his lowest numbers since his second season in the NBA. He only took 6.4 shots per game. He shot 28% from 3-point, his worst percentage since his rookie year.

There’s another thing, looking from the psychological side of the things. Green is eligible for a contract extension this summer and a deal along the lines of what Al Horford recently got in Philadelphia - four years for close to 112 million USD, could make sense for both sides. Green has stated he would be open to signing an extension before free agency next summer, but he also said in 2018 that he doesn't plan to take a discount on his next deal. If no extension happens in the meantime, he'll hit free agency next July. Warriors franchise has proved to be loyal and generous to their loyal personnel, for all the major pieces plus the key bench players in the past 5 years. There’s no reason to assume Draymond won’t get the same fair attitude and offer, regardless if the time. Plus, major contending teams in NBA won’t be too interested in spending max amounts on Draymond Green next summer, for either lack of space or doubts about his longevity at this stage of his career. So it seems kinda likely that both sides will reach a deal somewhere along the way, making small compromises for it to happen.

What can we assume for now though, taking a look at the early NBA outright market? The top dogs first. Both LA teams lead the market of course. Clippers can be backed around 4.00 and Lakers around 5.00+. Maybe fair odds in Clippers case, but on the skinny side for Lakers, as we can’t be sure Bron and Davis will get together well, plus their bench is terribly skinny and suspicious. Milwaukee are offered around 7.00, which seems pretty good in fact and I’ll be tempted to maybe set a small position on them before the season, even more so if the odds drift to 7.50-8.00. Philadelphia and Houston are priced around 9.00 and 10.00 respectively. Sixers’ odds are justified as they are the second-best team in the East now, but I doubt this core can mount a serious title challenge. Maybe they’re still too young, and will need another important piece, more probably. No chance to back Harden-Westbrook led team for a title, that’s a joke. And we come to Warriors at around 14.00 – 15.00 odds. Given all the above mentioned conditions and presumptions (healthy Klay and old Draymond on the floor), these odds don’t look bad at all, even if the plan is to maybe hedge the position back at some point deep in the play-offs. What’s even better – there’s a decent chance we’ll see even bigger odds for the ex-champions at some point early in the season, given Klay won’t play and Russell will need some time to get some chemistry rolling with the team. So, no haste to back GSW just yet, but a pretty interesting line of thought, hopefully…

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