So much for the Golden State Warriors' underdog run through the play-in tournament and deep into the playoffs. As the Dubs turn the page toward what could be a truly transformational summer, let's look back at everything that went wrong in the Bay during a tumultuous 2023-24 season.

Draymond Green's multiple suspensions

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) celebrates behind Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert (27) after scoring a three point basket during the first quarter at Chase Center
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Mike Dunleavy Jr. inadvertently gave away the game with regard to Golden State underperforming early in his exit interview on Thursday.

“Disappointed in our year. Even though we finished with more wins than last year, I thought overall we came up way short in terms of talent-wise, experience-wise, all those things,” he said. “An ownership group, front office, coaches, players all signed off on the roster to start the season, and we just got ourselves too far behind the eight-ball, frankly, as the season went along. Chased it down at the end and it was just too little, too late in a tough Western Conference.”

And what's easily the biggest reason why his team fell so far behind that proverbial eight-ball before its late-season push? Draymond Green's multiple suspensions. The future Hall-of-Famer missed 21 games in total for putting Rudy Gobert in a chokehold on November 14th then striking Jusuf Nurkic in the face a month later, the Warriors going 11-10 without Green before his return in mid-January.

It's no coincidence they righted the ship almost immediately after Green got back on the floor, even in wake of the tragic passing of beloved assistant Dejan Milojevic. Golden State finished 33-22 with him in the lineup this season, good for a .600 win percentage that extrapolates to between 49 and 50 wins over an 82-game sample size—a record that would've put the Dubs neck-and-neck with the Phoenix Suns for sixth in the Western Conference.

This team's realistic ceiling in 2023-24 still fell at least one rung below top-tier title contention, if not more. Yet rest assured that both the organization andDub Nation would be feeling much more optimistic about the Warriors' murky future if they'd simply fallen in the first round of the playoffs as opposed to the play-in tournament, an abjectly disappointing result that can be traced right back to Green's inability to avoid mindless on-court violence.

In-prime veterans underperforming

Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins (22) during the second quarter against the Charlotte Hornets at Chase Center.
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At least marginal decline from the Dubs' Big Three was to be expected this season. It was hardly guaranteed that Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody would take major steps forward, especially while entering their third NBA go-arounds without set roles and rotation spots in place.

Golden State's most stable sense of reliability, then, was supposed to come from Andrew Wiggins, Kevon Looney and Gary Payton II, stalwarts of the 2022 championship run still right in the thick of their playing primes. No one else on the roster save Dario Saric is in their late 20s, with Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Green, and Klay Thompson all 34 or older, and Kuminga and Moody joining rookies Brandon Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis as multiple seasons away from their peaks.

The only consistency provided by Wiggins, Looney, and Payton in 2023-24 instead? Letdowns.

Wiggins played the worst basketball of his career over the season's first six weeks, often looking uninspired and disengaged while clanking jumpers, losing his handle, and getting beat at the point of attack defensively. Looney's marginal athletic decline—huge for a short, already ground-bound five whose defensive prowess was predicated on short-area quickness—was obvious from the moment the 82-game grind began in late October. Payton, whose battle with nagging injuries was no surprise, just wasn't quite the same all-around defensive force and finishing ace during his last full season in his native Bay Area.

All three players were shoo-ins for significant rotation roles coming into the regular season, indispensable components of the Warriors' supposedly ingrained identity. It's not solely the fault of Wiggins, Looney, and Payton that Golden State lost it. Given other variables inevitably at play with their ever-aging core and inexperienced collection of young talent, though, the Dubs' inability to count on that in-prime trio for game-by-game production loomed extremely large.

A never-ending search for identity

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) and head coach Steve Kerr talk on the sideline during the first quarter against the Utah Jazz at Delta Center.
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Golden State began 2023-24 believing it could compete toward the top of the West on the back of its traditional starting five. Why not? The quintet of Curry, Thompson, Wiggins, Green, and Looney not only led the Warriors to another title barely more than a year before this season began but was also the best high-usage lineup in basketball in 2022-23, sporting a gaudy +22.1 net rating, per Cleaning the Glass.

Steve Kerr was quick to bring up both realities once it became clear in the first few weeks of the season that the group's underperformance was a driving force of his team's struggles. Golden State tried to adjust in mid-November, but Green's initial suspension ruined those plans, preventing the team from establishing any semblance of continuity it could fall back on going forward.

The most concrete lineup change — at first glance, at least — came right after Green finished ramping up to play upon Adam Silver lifting his indefinite suspension. Shifting Green to small-ball five while starting the previously untenable pairing of Wiggins and Kuminga alongside the Splash Brothers always represented the Warriors' highest ceiling. They played like it for a while, too, going 7-3 with a +9.1 net rating during a season-altering stint just before the All-Star break.

Apparently, that wasn't enough. Kerr rocked the basketball world on February 15th, deciding to bring Thompson off the bench in favor of Podziemski. Thompson responded by flame-throwing against the Utah Jazz, continuing to cement himself as an impact reserve once the season resumed post-All-Star.

Podziemski hit the rookie wall during that same month-long stretch, though, exposing the starters' dire need for additional spacing and scoring punch as defenses hounded Curry. So entered Thompson as a starter once again on March 27th, a necessary move that nevertheless chipped away at some continuity that had finally been established.

Kuminga's knee tendonitis flared up around that same time, paving the way for Jackson-Davis to start next to Green up front. Golden State won five of six with Kuminga out, playing some of this team's best two-way ball of the season as the Houston Rockets' 11 consecutive victories suddenly put its play-in prospects at risk.

The Warriors stuck with that alignment after Kuminga came back, entering Tuesday's disastrous play-in tournament loss to the Sacramento Kings with Jackson-Davis at center—despite years-long success both Looney and Green have enjoyed banging with Domantas Sabonis one-on-one. Kerr addressed that dynamic by opening with the rookie big man stashed on Harrison Barnes, an unfamiliar role that helped the Kings spark an early lead.

Bottom line: Golden State never had a sustained opportunity to truly find itself in 2023-24. Green's absences and a bevy of minor injuries across the roster contributed to that development, but so did a never-ending carousel of proactive starting lineup and rotational upheaval.

Every team in the league would've loved to have the Warriors' “problem” of too many quality contributors. But absent elite top-end talent behind Curry, that moving nightly numbers game only served to prevent Golden State from ever finding the identity needed to win big in a stacked Western Conference.

Loss of Warriors' fastball

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) and forward Draymond Green (23) question the referee after a play against the Portland Trail Blazers during the fourth quarter at Chase Center
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Curry and Green remained by far the Dubs' most impactful players in 2023-24 for the same reasons they've been for over a decade. Unlike in pretty much every healthy past year of the dynasty, though, they just couldn't push Golden State to heights reserved for contention in a two-man vacuum.

The Warriors' net rating with Curry and Green on the floor last season was +8.6, per It was a whopping +14.8 in 2021-22 and +6.9 one year earlier as Golden State—playing without Thompson—fell in the play-in tournament.

The Dubs outscored opponents by just +4.8 points per 100 possessions when Curry and Green played together this season, easily their worst mark as teammates. Peering around the league at other Western Conference teams' top tandems puts that number into stark perspective.

Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray put up a +15.3 net rating. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander managed net ratings of at least +11.6 next to both Chet Holmgren and Jaylen Williams. Further down the standings, Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving boasted a +10.5 net rating.

Curry and Green's pedestrian net rating was right in line with those of Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, LeBron James and Anthony Davis and De'Aaron Fox and Sabonis—other star pairs who couldn't push their teams out of the play-in tournament or barely above it.

Future Hall-of-Famers playing in their mid-30s don't bear exclusive criticism for Golden State's labors, obviously. Units led by Curry and Green can only be so dominant without a talented, cohesive supporting cast. But what's long made them so special is the ability of Curry and Green's rising tide to lift boats around them, an all-encompassing influence that just never materialized in 2023-24.

Curry really did take a step back this season, getting exploited as an isolation defender, falling asleep off the ball, and lacking a degree of off-dribble burst and wiggle he had as recently as this time last year. Green's diminished explosiveness made him much less effective as a rim-protector, and he wasn't the airtight switch defender he's been throughout his career. Both fell victim to careless turnovers and waning energy and intensity—evidence of physical and mental wear-and-tear on full display not just throughout the season, but also as it to a crashing close in Sacramento on Tuesday.