The Golden State Warriors are 2-8 in their past 10 games. During that time they have the 28th-ranked defense and 18th-ranked offense. However, they still remain in a tie for the second-best record in the league and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. They have been without their all-everything forward Draymond Green since January and have been about a .500 team since.
His exact return date is still not clear, though he is expected back before the playoffs begin. If the Warriors expect to make a run at their seventh NBA title as a franchise they’re going to need Green and some other things to break their way.
Here are five things that need to happen for the Warriors to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June.
1. A healthy Draymond Green
Before he went down on Jan. 6 with calf tightness, which the team later said was due to an injury in the left L5-S1 disc in his back, Green was the runaway Defensive Player of the Year favorite. He was having his best season defensively since 2017, was a +5.0 in defensive EPM and the anchor of the team with the No. 1 aDRTG.
He was also having a career-best season in terms of shooting efficiency at 57 and 58 eFG% and TS%, respectively.
Green isn’t just the team’s best defender, he is an elite playmaker and a pressure release valve for Stephen Curry. The Curry-Green pick and roll is a thing of beauty. Defenses trap and send two to Curry, who gets the ball to Green, who is now headed downhill with a man advantage. He knows exactly where to get the ball.
The Warriors lost to the Dallas Mavericks last week. Curry played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter and didn’t get a single shot off. Green knows how to get the ball back to Curry after he gives it up and relocates. Something the current Warriors players don’t do nearly as effectively.
2. Steph Curry needs to shoot at his career averages again
37.9% from three on 12 attempts per game and eFG% and TS% of 55 and 61 are elite for almost every other player in the history of basketball. But these numbers are below Curry’s averages of 42.8% from three and career averages in eFG% and TS% of 58.1 and 62.4.
Now you might be thinking, “No big deal, he’ll shoot better come playoffs.” That’s not what the historical data says.
This isn’t exclusive to Curry. Every player’s efficiency dips come postseason. There is the wear and tear of the grueling 82-game regular season, and in the playoffs you don’t get to feast on the league’s worst defenses.
After having to carry a heavy load all season with Green missing so much time, it will be tough to be at his most efficient late in the season. But if anyone can do it, it’s the greatest shooter of all time.
3. Klay Thompson needs to get to about 85 percent of what he was pre-injuries
This is the hardest one to predict, as it’s just going to take time.
It could be that the rest of the regular season will be enough and the crucible of the playoffs will be what he needs to get going. Though that’s unlikely.
To be clear, Thompson has been fine. He has a +2.4 EPM, which is right between the last two seasons he played of +2.2 and +2.5. His shooting efficiency and traditional percentages are down, but he hasn’t played basketball in two seasons, so this tracks.
Next year he will likely be back to pre-injury level production. But that doesn’t help this season’s title run.
4. The “others” will have to play to their capabilities on the biggest stage with limited experience
Everyone not named Curry, Green, Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Kevon Looney has limited playoff experience.
But Jordan Poole, Gary Payton II, and Otto Porter will have to give the Warriors positive minutes in the playoffs. The main guys will play a lot of minutes, as you tend to lean on your best guys in the postseason.
In those 10 minutes where the full A lineup isn’t on the floor, can the role players be net positives?
Andrew Wiggins is a starter and having the best season of his career. Can he maintain it in the postseason? The Warriors will need his defense on opposing wings and his career-best 40 percent on threes.
Every team that wins the title needs luck. Whether it’s injury luck or seeding luck or whatever. It is hard to win an NBA championship. Yes, you have to be an excellent team to even have a chance. But to beat the best players in the world four times out of seven over the course of four intense playoff rounds, you need some good fortune too.
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