It was 941 days in the making, but Klay Thompson finally made his much-anticipated return to the Golden State Warriors lineup on Sunday night, Jan. 9. He finished with 17 points in the Warriors’ 96-82 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. After missing two years recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and torn ACL, the Warriors have their championship core back, and the rest of the league is in trouble.
“I will never forget the reception that Warriors fans gave us, especially myself,” Thompson said. “Gosh, it was fun and it was worth every single day of being away and in that squat rack or on that shuttle board and all the conditioning days. It was worth every single moment. I am not going to say equivalent to winning a championship. But man, it was pretty freaking close.”
At 30-9 the Warriors are tied for the best record in the league. They are No. 1 in adjusted net rating, No. 1 in adjusted defensive rating, and 11th in adjusted offensive rating. Now they’ve welcomed back a career 41 percent three-point shooter, plus defender and three-time champion.
According to Las Vegas oddsmakers, the Warriors have the second-best odds at winning the title in June at +450. Here are three reasons they will win and you should make that bet.
In the Warriors’ three championship seasons of 2015, 2017 and 2018 they ranked first, second, and 11th in adjusted defensive rating. By the end of 2018 it was their fourth consecutive trip to the Finals and fatigue was setting in. They still managed to be the best defensive team that postseason.
As mentioned they are the No. 1 defensive team this season, led by defensive player of the year front-runner Draymond Green. They are connected on a string, have crisp rotations, and force their opponents into the least efficient shots.
Highlight factories and certain television shows will tell you the game is all about buckets. But half of every game is defense. You have to get stops, and the Warriors are the best at this in the league.
With the return of Thompson to the starting lineup, the Warriors’ first three players off the bench are Jordan Poole, Andre Iguodala, and Otto Porter Jr. Poole has been a starter the majority of the season and has improved his game going against the league’s best. Now he gets to go at backups.
We know how good Iguodala has been over his entire career. Super high IQ, excellent defender and unafraid to take and make big shots. Otto Porter Jr. is a career 40 percent three-point shooter and is excelling in his role.
That’s without mentioning the team’s second best-defender in Gary Payton II, Jonathan Kuminga, Juan Toscano-Anderson, and James Wiseman.
The Warriors’ joy
This part is almost impossible to quantify or measure. The core three of Green, Thompson, and Stephen Curry have a bond and play with a joy and togetherness that permeates through the entire team.
It had been 941 days since Thompson played in an NBA game. Some of the members on the Warriors have never played a single second with Thompson as a teammate, yet to a man they were all hyped for his return. All Warriors players showed up to the game in a Thompson jersey.
The Warriors rocked Klay's jerseys to welcome him back! 🤩
— Sportskeeda Basketball (@Basketball_SK) January 10, 2022
Green was not going to play in Sunday’s game due to calf tightness but he wanted to be on the floor with Klay for his return, and suited up for the tip and committed a foul immediately so he could check out.
Draymond Green is not playing tonight (left calf tightness), but he still wanted to be on the floor with Klay for his return.
So Green was there for the opening tip and took a foul so he could check out of the game ❤️ pic.twitter.com/puAzOy3rxe
— ESPN (@espn) January 10, 2022
There is no metric to explain what that means or how it contributes to winning. But when your workplace environment is enjoyable and your co-workers want you to succeed, it goes a long way in everyone being at their best.
To win a championship everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction and for one another. The Warriors are whole and have that.
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