If the Warriors manage to win the NBA Finals this year, after all they’ve gone through, considering all they could face in the upcoming playoffs, they will have pulled off their greatest accomplishment yet.
But winning the Finals won’t be easy.
This season’s journey to the championship will their most difficult. Here are the top five issues the Warriors face:
1. They’re physically vulnerable.
They may still the best team in the NBA when they’re healthy, but they’re not remotely healthy.
Draymond Green is playing with an injured shoulder which could require surgery during the offseason. Kevin Durant has a crack in the cartilage that binds his ribs to his sternum and could miss the rest of the regular season. And Klay Thompson has a broken thumb on his shooting hand and could miss the rest of the regular season, too.
The Warriors expect Durant and Thompson will make full recoveries by the time the playoffs start, and they may. But, the Warriors don’t know what to expect from Stephen Curry. Can’t know.
Curry could miss the rest of the regular season and part of the playoffs with an injured right ankle, which he has sprained four times since December. The Warriors downplay his injury, refer to it as a “tweak.” Whatever that means. His famous ankle is shrouded in mystery, and it is unclear how injured he is.
Even if Curry returns for the playoffs, which he probably will, he almost certainly won’t be 100-percent healthy. His mobility on offense and defense could be compromised. The last time the Warriors had an immobile Curry in the playoffs — 2016, when he sprained his knee — they lost in the NBA Finals.
The Warriors are totally different without Curry. When he plays, they’re the best 3-point shooting team ever. When he doesn’t play, they’re a bad 3-point shooting team.
Bad 3-point-shooting teams don’t win championships anymore.
2. They’re mentally vulnerable.
Once the mind goes, the body soon follows.
The Warriors are running a marathon, and are keenly aware of just how far they’ve gone since their first Finals appearance in 2015.
They’ve played in 62 playoff games the past three years. That’s an extra three quarters of a season. A tremendous workload for any team to endure.
But, don’t take it from me. Take it from Steve Kerr and his players. For months, they’ve said how difficult it is to make the Finals four seasons in a row, and how special their run of success has been.
It sounds like the Warriors may have hit the wall. Sounds like they may be getting their excuses in order now, so they can protect themselves from criticism down the line just in case some team eliminates them during the playoffs.
3. They’re not the No. 1 seed.
Every year the Warriors went to the Finals, they had the best record in the NBA and home-court advantage in every playoff series. They fought for home court. Talked about how important it is.
This year, they won’t have home-court advantage — the Houston Rockets will.
“It’s a harrowing experience,” Kerr said sarcastically before the Warriors 98-93 loss to the Sacramento Kings last Friday. “I’m just trying to process it all. Second in the conference would just be devastating.