At the end of the 2018/19 NBA season almost every NBA fan was feeling jubilant, the Golden State Warriors had been dethroned and were looking weaker than ever. It was looking likely that Kevin Durant would be leaving the Bay Arena, Klay Thompson was likely going to miss a hefty chunk of the following year and it would be down to Steph Curry and Draymond Green to carry the squad.
The signing of D’Angelo Russell was supposed to change that slightly, take some of the pressure off Green and Curry, as well as providing Bob Myers with a good trade chip in the lead up to the deadline, if a player better suited to their system popped up.
The issue is, since the Warriors signed Russell, pretty much everything has gone wrong.
Over the course of the past few seasons the Warriors’ bench has gotten more and more shallow as they dived deeper into the luxury tax. While it was just about manageable to have such a limited rotation and lack of veterans with their previous roster, it’s coming back to bite them now. Being able to rotate between having one of either Durant, Thompson or Curry on the floor at any one time meant that there was always an All Star on the floor for the Warriors, even with the lesser known second string.
Another key restraint was the means by which the Warriors signed Russell, picking him up in a sign and trade with the Brooklyn Nets, which means the Warriors were greeted by a hard cap, causing major headaches in filling out the rest of the bench.
Needing to trade away star role player Andre Iguodala as well as Shaun Livingston retiring were both big blows for the Warriors, as each man had played a large part in the rotation the previous season, as well as being major locker room presences.
Injuries have hit the Warriors hard
The Warriors have been hit by some awful luck since the beginning of last year’s Playoffs. Losing Durant for stretches, before his big Achilles injury, losing Klay Thompson to a torn ACL during game six of the Finals and now Steph Curry sitting out most of this season so far with a broken hand. It doesn’t get much worse than that.
Golden State weren’t 100% sure where they would fit in the conference this season, needing to see how Curry and Russell worked together in the backcourt, as well as figuring out just how bad their defence was going to be. But with Curry going down so early, the Warriors still have no idea how well the two guards can play together, with the current expectation being that they may be playing together again in March/April, after the trade deadline. Ideally the Warriors would have known the fit before the February deadline, meaning they could have decided if they wanted to move Russell on or not.
This fall from grace for the Warriors just goes to show how quickly a dynasty can topple in sports. The Warriors were just voted the Franchise of the Decade across pro sports, however they now find themselves in a position they haven’t seen for along time, headed for the NBA Draft Lottery.
Going from making five straight NBA finals to holding the worst record in the entire league is one hell of a dropoff, but it’s something that has come to be expected in American sports. Unlike over here in the UK, where we often see football (soccer) teams reign atop the league for decades at a time, continued success isn’t something all that familiar to American sporting franchises. Unfortunately for the Warriors, it seems as though their time could be up, as they begin to hit the reset button.
It’s hard to tell what position they may be in next season. If they continue to rack up losses the way they have to start out the season they’re going to be in line for a top five pick. Next season will also see the return of the Splash Brothers, so only time will tell how long it’s going to be before the Warriors can make their way back to the top.