The Golden State Warriors will have to learn to navigate the upcoming 2019-20 season in a very different way than they have for the past five seasons.
While they have a laundry list of incertitudes, there are also three secrets to their potential success and potential playoff run.
The Warriors will largely depend on two catalysts to make the most of either end of the floor — Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. While D’Angelo Russell is a potent and welcomed addition, he can’t nearly change a game in the way that Curry can with his offensive gravity or Green with his constant disruption at the defensive end.
Both Curry and Green have double-digit games in each of the past few seasons, making their health and endurance among the biggest keys to the Warriors’ success.
While both players could see an uptick in minutes and up their production, it’s also worth noting that this could result in fatigue and potential injuries, as they’re carrying a load bigger than the rest of the NBA after making trips to five consecutive NBA Finals.
Golden State will only go as far as the two-time MVP and the former Defensive Player of the Year can carry it, and while the organization isn’t currently trying to manage their workload, it would prove smart to do so at the midway point of the season to help take off some strain from their bodies.
2. Role players need to step up to the challenge
Golden State no longer counts with a ruthless assassin like Kevin Durant, nor with the elite-level marksmanship acumen of Klay Thompson, who is expected to be out until February or March upon recovering from an ACL tear. That means more minutes for Alfonzo McKinnie and a bevy of new players hoping to make their mark in this roster.
The Warriors will put a lot of time into the development of their rookies: Jordan Poole, Eric Paschall, and Alen Smailagic — but they will also have to make the most of their minutes to warrant that playing time.
Poole was drafted to be that potential scorer in the absence of Thompson, but he add in a playmaking dynamic that will earn him some run even on nights when he isn’t putting the ball in the hoop.
Paschall prospects as the most NBA-ready guy off the bunch and one well-rounded enough to play solid minutes after Green gets a breather. If he flourishes within this system, he could likely wound up closing games as a power forward with Green at center. Smailagic is still a rather raw product and one that will need to make the most of his chances to play.
Willie Cauley-Stein is a legitimate 7-footer, but among the worst at blocking shots. The hope is that playing alongside Green will teach him a few things about weak-side defense, positioning, and most importantly discipline when challenging shots. If he can develop into a decent shot-blocker, the Warriors will have a better chance at winning games instead of merely hoping to outscore teams with their new firepower.
1. Klay Thompson’s return
Granted that Thompson can return close to the All-Star break, the Warriors might need more or less from their sharpshooter depending of their place in the standings. Winning 30 to 35 games by that mark should suffice to challenge for a playoff spot, considering the high level of competition with so many teams in the West able to claim their stake at the Western Conference crown.
It’s very unlikely that any team will finish with 60 wins in the West, considering how the top teams will beat each other up in their fight for the top spot — something that could arise as an opportunity for Golden State to sneak through.
Upon returning, Thompson’s shooting should help the Warriors immediately, but it’s his defense and mobility that could be the biggest concerns after he returns from a major injury. The coaching staff will surely input some limits upon his initial return, but they might have to let those go sooner than later if the race gets too tight and the team is in need of wins down the stretch.
Eventually it will be Thompson’s return and contribution — along with the chemistry of this team upon his return — that will determine whether the Warriors can make the playoffs and thrive during them after regaining their full firepower.