© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Klay Thompson is probably out for the season with a torn ACL. Stephen Curry is out for at least three months with a broken hand. Draymond Green has a torn ligament in his left index finger. Kevon Looney has a bizarre, concerning neuropathic injury with an uncertain return timeline. Jacob Evans has an adductor strain and is out for at least three weeks. D’Angelo Russell has an ankle injury.
Have you started checking mock drafts yet? You should. That’s what this season is about. It’s the second-best possible outcome, and it’s fallen right into the Warriors’ lap.
Obviously outcome No. 1 was the perfect cohesion between Curry and Russell, a second-half Thompson return and a low-seed push for another championship, but that was always a far-fetched scenario.
If you watched much of the preseason or first two games—which, for the sake of your own health, let’s hope not—you saw the conglomerated mess of late-round draft picks, undraftees and young-ish players who were being given reclamation project-type fliers to remake their careers. It is a roster with no starting small forward, no actual starting shooting guard, and no know-how.
As Green described that lack of knowledge the other day: “You can’t expect them to know what they don’t know.”
But before you go wallowing in pity over the state of the team that won three of the last five NBA championships, read that last part again and think about where this team came from. The Adonal Foyle days. The Andris Biedrins-Kwame Brown on the same team days. The Žarko Čabarkapa days (real guy).
They got to Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes by playing poorly and drafting well before making smart moves in free agency and in the trade market.
What this season now becomes is an opportunity for all those young guys—Evans, Jordan Poole, Eric Paschall, Alen Smailagic, Marqueese Chriss, Omari Spellman—to grow through plenty of game experience. Crucially, it will give Russell a chance to retain or improve his trade value as a 24-year-old scoring guard. Maybe Green will convince him to play defense once in a while.
Russell keeping his value is the next-most-important thing to losing a lot of games. A decent season from him will provide the opportunity for a trade and an escape from the self-imposed hard cap jail the Warriors find themselves in.
In all likelihood (though the NBA’s flattened lottery odds provide an enormous amount of uncertainty), this team will have a top-10 draft pick. Next year, they’ll still have Curry, Thompson, Green, Looney and that young group with a year of more experience… and with that core four group having saved their legs from a season that never had a chance.
If (when) they trade Russell (which can happen starting December 15), there’s a potential to acquire another first-round pick and a capable wing player. Think Robert Covington and the expiring Jeff Teague from the Minnesota Timberwolves, who were rumored to be Russell’s first-choice destination had he hit free agency. It’s where one of his closest NBA friends, Karl-Anthony Towns plays. The Warriors can also throw in Willie Caulie-Stein and one of their other one-year deals like Alec Burks or Glenn Robinson III to make the numbers shake out.
Oh, and if (when) Andre Iguodala gets his way out from the Memphis Grizzlies by the end of the season, there might be a one-year Warriors reunion in the cards.
So please, start searching for highlights of LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman and Anthony Edwards and recalibrate your brain to see an L as a W. By this time next year, this bleak outlook might become bliss.