Warriors training camp preview: What to expect from starting unit returning from championship run
Coming off their fourth NBA title in eight years, the Warriors were hoping to run it back as they look to capitalize on their championship core for as long as possible.
But payroll restrictions made that goal nothing more than an unattainable dream.
Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr. were two of the bigger offseason losses for the Warriors as they took more money to play elsewhere. With those two key role players gone, Golden State picked up Donte DiVincenzo and JaMychal Green on one-year deals, with the hopes that they can help revitalize those players’ careers in a way the team has done in the past.
The Warriors have a 19-player training camp roster, with 13 signed for the upcoming season, including 2022 first- and second-round picks Patrick Baldwin Jr. and Ryan Rollins.
Of course, the elephant on the roster — or perhaps not on it as of now — is Andre Iguodala, who hasn’t announced yet whether he’ll return for a 19th NBA season.
But all those changes come on the bench, while the starters from the playoff run remain intact. Let’s take a look at the roster, beginning with that championship starting five:
Stephen Curry had only one thing to say after winning his fourth championship and first Finals MVP trophy: “What are they gonna say now?”
Curry has done it all and then some, earning his college degree this spring while helping his team return to the mountaintop of the NBA.
Curry’s greatness was on display throughout the entire playoffs, but he was especially exceptional during the NBA Finals series against the Boston Celtics.
The beauty in what Curry can do extends far beyond his reliable scoring and improved defense. Curry helped Draymond Green, who was rattled by the raucous TD Garden crowd’s boos and profanity-laced chants, with a masterful and emotional Game 4 performance, where he dropped 43 points.
His stat line for the series made him a no-brainer for Finals MVP as he averaged 31.2 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals.
As long as Curry is wearing blue and gold, the Warriors will be title contenders. Golden State is in good hands with Curry at the lead.
This season will give a better idea of what post-injury Klay Thompson can be.
Thompson returned Jan. 9 after back-to-back injuries prevented him from playing for nearly 950 days. He showed flashes of his old self, but was rather inconsistent at times throughout the second half of last season and into the playoffs as he worked to get back into his rhythm.
Thompson finished the season averaging 20.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists.
For the first time in three years, Thompson had a full offseason to recuperate and prepare himself for the upcoming season. When the Bay Area News Group caught up with the reigning champion in July, Thompson said he finally felt free in his body again and was enjoying “the best offseason ever.”
Whether Thompson can return to his All-Star form is yet to be seen. But he’s still an integral part of the Warriors’ success on both ends of the court.
After being a scapegoat for Minnesota’s woes, Andrew Wiggins found his comfortable place in the Warriors organization.
Golden State has plenty of scoring options, taking some of the burden and pressure off of Wiggins, the top pick of the 2014 draft. The ability to play freely and in the Warriors’ system has helped Wiggins, who earned his first All-Star selection last season, flourish into a two-way force.
Wiggins was arguably the second-best player on the floor for the Warriors throughout the playoffs as he rose to the occasion as each round went by. Having been tasked to guard the opposing team’s best players, Wiggins received praise for his dogged defense and tenacious rebounding.
Wiggins will be playing for more than just the chance to repeat as champions. The Toronto-area native is entering the final season of the five-year, $148 million deal he signed with the Timberwolves when he was 23. Wiggins is eligible for an extension, but the Warriors are crippled by the NBA’s luxury tax.
At 27, Wiggins is in his prime and one of the best two-way players in the league. If he plays at the level he demonstrated during the playoffs or higher, he could be due for max money next offseason as an unrestricted free agent.
Draymond Green might be 32 and on the back end of his playing career, but he’s still an elite defender and the brain behind the Warriors’ operations on that end of the court.
A prime example of that came last season as Golden State’s defense lost its luster when Green, an early candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, went down with a back injury near the start of the year.
Green wasn’t the same when he returned in March after missing about two months. He took responsibility for some of his shortcomings, and still came up big when the Warriors needed him most, including in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
Green felt shortchanged by not being named Defensive Player of the Year, though he received his seventh All-Defensive Team recognition. That snub — along with his desire to earn a max contract — might serve as added motivation for Green this season.
There are still ample question marks surrounding James Wiseman and what the Warriors might have in the former No. 2 overall pick, who missed all of last season with a nagging knee injury.
That’s why retaining Kevon Looney, the team’s leading rebounder and only true center, was one of the Warriors’ top priorities this offseason.
Looney agreed to return for three more seasons at the cost of $25.5 million.
At 26, Looney is another player in his prime and coming off his best and most complete season in the NBA. He played all 82 regular-season games and the entire 22 postseason slate for the Warriors, averaging six points, 7.3 rebounds and two assists. He set career highs for rebounds (22) and points (21) during the playoffs.
Looney adds an important presence on the boards and in the paint for the Warriors, who were thin at center last season. His return takes some pressure off of Wiseman as he works his way back into the rotation this season.