NBA Season Preview 2020-21: 5 big questions for the Golden State Warriors

Klay Thompson’s injury has downgraded the Warriors from contenders to pretenders. What can Golden State fans reasonably expect this season?

The days of the Warriors dominating the NBA at a historic level are over. Klay Thompson will miss another season due to injury which effectively ends any remote chance Golden State had of competing for a title this season.

The good news for fans in the Bay is that Stephen Curry projects to be ready to go on Opening Night. It will be up to the dynamic guard to carry this squad throughout the regular season. Any margin for error he had disappeared with Thompson’s knee injury.

Even though the Warriors aren’t title contenders this year, they are still a team full of intrigue. The following five questions must be answered as the regular-season rolls along.

1. What is Stephen Curry in 2020-21 after basically an entire year off?

Curry may still have a baby face that lulls opponents to sleep, but this will actually be the guard’s age-32 season. The question of whether or not he can regain something close to his MVP form of the recent past should dominate headlines for Golden State early in the season.

The good news for the Warriors is that his game isn’t overly dependent on athleticism. He’s never been the sort of player who relies on speed or quickness to explode to the rim. Instead, he’s a clever offensive player who dominates with his sweet shooting skills.

As long as he continues to shoot the three at a percentage somewhere around his career mark of 43.5% he’ll still be the Warriors’ best player. His ability to stay on the floor and continue to compete on defense will really define just how great he can be.

Look for Curry to show plenty of flashes of brilliance this season, but there will be a noticeable decline in his ability to hold up on defense. He’ll still be an All-Star, but his days of being a bona fide MVP candidate are behind him.

2. Name the best-case Andrew Wiggins trade.

Warriors officials hope they have the right coaching staff to unlock Wiggins’ talent. He’s always shown flashes of being one of the league’s top scorers, but questions about his work ethic and interest on the defensive end of the floor have deservedly dogged him throughout his career.

The reality that he’s squarely in the middle of a five-year, $147.5+ million contract makes him a negative trade asset for Golden State. They’d love to flip him for a more consistent player, but there aren’t going to be many teams interested in taking on that massive contract.

That’s why the best potential Wiggins trade is no trade at all. The Warriors need him to maximize his potential under the watchful eye of Steve Kerr. He’ll never live up to his bloated contract, but if he comes anywhere close then it will be in Golden State’s best interest to keep him.

3. Kelly Oubre Jr. + this Warriors team = ??

Oubre’s steady improvement as a professional culminated in a breakout 2019-20 season with the Suns. His reward was moving into Golden State’s massive trade exception.

Despite his status as a veteran of sorts, it’s important to note that Oubre will just be 25-years-old this season. There’s plenty of time for him to continue to refine his game. In particular, continuing to work on his three-point shot will be crucial for his long-term viability as a quality starter for a playoff team.

Unfortunately for Oubre, that won’t be a description that accurately describes him this year. He’ll put up solid counting stats, but he’s not going to be good enough to get Golden State into a good playoff position. He might get them in a play-in game, but he isn’t good enough to lift up the mediocrity on this roster.

4. Project James Wiseman’s rookie season on a scale from Michael Olowokandi to Anthony Davis.

The Warriors made a mistake by selecting Wiseman at No. 2. They should have swung for a player with a higher ceiling. Instead, Golden State elected to fill a big need with a premium draft pick.

That doesn’t mean Wiseman won’t turn into a good starting center in time. He’s got the athletic tools to be a positive impact on the offensive end. His defense needs more work, but it’s reasonable to think he can be an above-average defender after several seasons in the league.

Wiseman will still be a net negative as a rookie. He won’t be Olowokandi bad, but he isn’t going to light the NBA ablaze. The Warriors should hope he turns in something close to what Deandre Ayton did as a rookie in Phoenix. That’s still too optimistic. His final stats will reveal him to be a below-average starting center for a team that struggles to decide who to start at center on a nightly basis.

5. Is Draymond Green washed?

Green was a below-average starter for the Warriors last year. Golden State officials hope that was largely a product of participating in a lost season. The alternative is that Green is squarely in the decline of his career.

The real problem with projecting how Green will look this year is that his skill set really only compliments a borderline elite team. His lack of perimeter shooting makes him ideally suited to play as a small-ball center for teams with elite shooting at the other four positions. His excellent defense provides the most value in tense playoff series. Add it all up and Green will be a quality starter for Golden State this year since Curry will play most of his minute alongside him. His days of being a difference-maker at the highest levels are over.

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