It’s a bit unfair to completely judge the Warriors at this point after their second straight blowout loss. In the short term, Golden State just dropped a pair of games against two of the best teams in the league, and their roster is bound to gain greater cohesion over time. Panicking after a pair of losses isn’t worthwhile, no matter how ugly.
The Warriors have deserved some modicum of patience after their sluggish start. Stephen Curry still has an offensive gravity relatively near his MVP peak, even if he hasn’t necessarily shot well early on. Draymond Green should return to the lineup by early January at the latest. Even amid a stream of clanked jumpers, there’s the outline of an athletic team anchored offensively by Curry’s shooting. This isn’t exactly the formula for a Finals contender. But Golden State is likely at least a play-in contender, albeit anything but a guarantee. They’re bound to be better than what we saw in Friday’s 138-99 loss against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Yet even considering these disclaimers, it’s hard not to be at least, well, pretty darn worried about the Warriors, at least in 2020-21. Golden State’s pieces around Curry have limped out of the gate to a significant degree thus far, especially on the wing. Kelly Oubre Jr. missed all five of his attempts from three on Friday en route to a 1-10 performance from the field. Andrew Wiggins went 6-18 in a 12-point performance, and Curry finished with a team-worst minus-24 in 29 minutes. The collection of questionable bench pieces failed to produce any impact, and a third-quarter blowout led to an easy Christmas gift for Milwaukee. Golden State showed a flash of life for two quarters on Friday. But in two games against title contenders, the Warriors looked largely non-competitive.
There’s been a palpable sadness to Golden State’s pair of early losses. If Klay Thompson had been on the floor, it’s likely the Warriors would have fared better, if not snagged an early-season win. Thompson completes Golden State’s difficult puzzle. Curry’s lack of size creates limitations to the one-man show, especially considering the lack of spacing on hand. Thompson is a necessary secondary scorer and a valuable defensive partner in the backcourt. It would be hard to consider the Warriors as true championship contenders even with Thompson healthy, but at least we would have had some fun. As Curry runs the show without his Splash Brother, a difficult season could await.
We’ll hold onto some modicum of optimism beyond this year. Perhaps Thompson can have a Durant-esque recovery ahead of 2021-22, and even entering his age-33 season, Curry should remain a dynamic offensive force. And it’s not just the old guards that could lead to a respectable start to the next decade. James Wiseman has looked downright dynamic in his first two games. Golden State has Minnesota’s 2021 first-round pick on the way. Wiggins and Oubre are destined to play at least a shred better than they have thus far, and they sport contracts for a potential impact trade. No plan is perfect for the Warriors after five straight championships and Kevin Durant’s departure. But we could still see Curry and Co. become playoff mainstays for at least some part of the next decade.
The Warriors can take some solace in Wiseman’s development, and a lighter load for Curry and Green in 2020-21 isn’t exactly the worst thing in the world as they wait for Thompson’s return. But it’s also worth recalibrating our expectations for this season in what appears to be ostensibly a gap year for Golden State. The Warriors have a tough road ahead to a top-six seed. A bubble appearance isn’t guaranteed. Curry and Co. are likely stuck in NBA purgatory for the second straight season.