The End of a Dynasty: Why the Warriors Won’t Make the Playoffs This Season
Five straight NBA finals appearances. Three championships in the last five years. Six straight fifty win seasons. It’s safe to say that the Golden State Warriors have been the crown jewel of the NBA ever since the fall of the Heat superteam. However, with the departure of Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets; the devastating ACL tear which Klay Thompson suffered in Game 6 of the NBA Finals; and the Western Conference arms race which has resulted in the Rockets, Jazz, Clippers, Lakers, Nuggets, and Pelicans all adding significant assets to their roster, things are going to be much more difficult for the Warriors this upcoming season.
While most would agree that the Warriors will drop significantly in the Western Conference hierarchy this year, the Warriors’ recent free agency departures and significant injuries, in combination with a newly loaded Western Conference, will result in the Warriors not making the playoffs next season.
First, one must look at the teams which are locks to make the playoffs. This tier would include the Clippers, Jazz, Rockets, Nuggets, Trail Blazers, and the Lakers. The Clippers and Nuggets both boast incredibly deep rosters, and will be able to field not only superiorly balanced starting lineups to the Warriors, but also, much deeper second units in comparison to that of the Warriors, which is composed largely of players who have averaged no more than six points per game throughout their careers.
Teams such as the Lakers and Rockets will be able to achieve higher seeding than the Warriors with a combination of star power and excellent starting lineups. Both teams have a superstar duo, in the Rockets case, Harden and Westbrook, and in the Lakers case, LeBron and Anthony Davis, which can outplay a combination of either Stephen Curry and Draymond Green or Curry and D’Angelo Russell. In addition, both the Rockets and Lakers boast a much better supporting cast than the Warriors, with Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, and PJ Tucker for the Rockets; and DeMarcus Cousins, Kyle Kuzma, and Avery Bradley for the Lakers. Both of these lineups should have no trouble defeating a starting lineup with Alfonso McKinnie, who averaged only 4.7 points per game last season in an average of 13.9 minutes per game, and Willie Cauley-Stein, who didn’t even receive his qualifying offer from the Sacramento Kings after the end of last season.
Lastly, the Trail Blazers and Jazz will make the playoffs with a combination of underrated star duos in Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell for the Jazz, and Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum for the Trail Blazers. In addition, both teams boast a solid stash of other quality players who led both teams to the playoffs last year, and in the Jazz’s case, Rudy Gobert, who won defensive player of the year last season and is a menace at the rim.
After the six teams previously mentioned, a multitude of other worthy playoff contenders finish off what may be the deepest conference in NBA history. The Spurs, Kings, Pelicans, and Mavericks could all easily make the playoffs in the weaker Eastern Conference, and will provide stiff playoff competition for the Warriors. To begin with, the San Antonio Spurs, while now a perennial first round exit, have still not missed the playoffs since the 1996-97 season. In combination with the best coach in NBA history in Gregg Popovich, who has only ever missed the playoffs during his first season as a head coach, it would be a let-down of historic proportions for the Spurs to miss this year. Now, that leaves the Warriors, Kings, Pelicans, and Mavericks left to fight for the last spot.
While the Warriors do potentially boast the best star trio of the group, they lack the depth and starting lineup to be favored over the field of three. The Pelicans boast a terrific balanced starting lineup, led by Jrue Holiday at the point, Brandon Ingram, Derrick Favors, JJ Redick, and the most coveted and hyped rookie since LeBron James, Zion Williamson. In addition, the Pelicans can turn to Lonzo Ball off the bench, a solid young point guard, who, despite failing to deliver on superstar expectations, can provide a spark in the absence of the pressure of his father and the famed Big Baller Brand in Los Angeles.
In addition, the Pelicans are owners of an immense treasure chest of future first round picks, often referred to as the currency of the NBA, which can be used to pick up valuable pieces such as Danillo Gallinari, who was almost an All-Star last year, from rebuilding teams at the trade deadline. The Sacramento Kings offer up a lighter version of what the Pelicans have to offer, with DeAaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Marvin Bagley, in conjunction with experienced players in Trevor Ariza and Harrison Barnes. Lastly, the Dallas Mavericks offer a potent duo of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, which if healthy, and with a few lucky breaks, could see themselves sneak into the playoffs at the 8th seed.
All things considered, it’s safe to say that the Warriors will have a much more difficult time this year reaching the heights they have in the past, if not making the playoffs at all. Add in any potential injuries to Steph Curry as a result of his ever looming ankle issues and the wear and tear on his body from his consecutive deep playoff runs, and this season could shape up to be a massive disappointment for the Warriors players, management, and fans as they seek to remain competitive after the most successful era in their franchises’ history.