Kurtenbach: The Warriors can be contenders this season, but only if they do this

Peninsula Premier Admin

Whenever I hear Warriors coach Steve Kerr lay out the goals for his team in this peculiar 2021 season, I make the same, lame joke:

“I wonder if he’s told Draymond Green about that.”

The front office and coaching staff of the Warriors are viewing this season like a gap year. They’re not “chasing wins”, they’re trying to build up young and new players so that when Klay Thompson returns next year, the Dubs will be in a position to push in the Western Conference once again.

It’s concessionary, but ignoring away the pride that veterans like Green and Steph Curry have (they’ll always be playing for a title), it’s pragmatic.

After all, the Warriors play in a conference with the Lakers.

But with Anthony Davis’ Achilles injury — there is no timetable for his return, and if he returns soon, the injury will likely nag and possibly limit him all season — the Lakers should no longer be viewed as a monolithic threat. After all, Los Angeles’ excellence stems from their defense, and Davis, in so many ways, is their defense.

Perhaps everyone was giving too much deference to the Lakers initially, but with their new woes, the sentiment I’m picking up is that the Western Conference favorite just fell back to the pack. The West is for the taking.

The teams that benefit most are, of course, the Jazz, Clippers, Nuggets, and perhaps even the Suns, who I might hold in higher regard than most.

But the Warriors are in a position to make a push of their own. They can make this season something more than a gap year.

It’s going to require a shift in thinking, though: They have to want it.

Defensively, Golden State is good enough to be in that aforementioned class of teams. Kerr wanted a top-10 defense, and, I’ll be damned, they’re 10th in the NBA in defensive rating per Cleaning the Glass.

The Warriors’ issue — the thing that is keeping them from being one of the better teams in basketball — is that they can’t score the ball.

Curry is doing his best, playing at an MVP level, but the Warriors are 21st in offensive rating (per Cleaning the Glass), and even those smallball outbursts they’ve had in recent games is only good for 11th in the NBA over the last two weeks.

This is where the absence of Thompson hurts most. Curry is being quintuple-teamed and Golden State doesn’t have anyone who is picking up all that slack.

What the Warriors need more than anything else is another player who can reasonably drop 30 points on any given night.

They should (hopefully, maybe) have that in Thompson when he returns next year, but for now, they’re seriously lacking.

Forgive my pessimism, but I don’t expect Green to be a serious shooting threat ever again. I’d be nice — it might change the entirety of the Warriors’ offense — but I have to see it to believe it. Just let him be a great passer.

I also don’t think Kelly Oubre’s better play will stick, and even if it does, he’s not the kind of player you want shooting at the volume necessary to be a true secondary scorer. We might be a contentious player, but we can agree on that, right?

The only viable in-house candidate to be a true Steph sidekick is Andrew Wiggins, who has only scored more than 25 points once this season. It seems as if Wiggins is maxed out as a third-option type of player — a steady 20-point per game guy who plays really good defense. There’s nothing wrong with that — it’ll fit in great next to Thompson! — and given the challenge in getting him to that point, I don’t think it’s worth asking for more.

So the Warriors find themselves at a decision point.

There’s a window to contend this season. It might be small, but it exists. Do they try to take advantage or do they wait until next year?

If they want to do the former, they need to make a move.

Guys like Buddy Hield, Zach LaVine, Victor Oladipo, and — if the Warriors are lucky — Bradley Beal could be options.

Now, I’ll concede that not one of them is an obvious choice — a no-brainer to acquire.

But remember, there’s no glory without risk.

Contributed by local news sources

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