Uncertainty clouds the Warriors’ future

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Uncertainty clouds the Warriors’ future

PHOTO BY KEITH ALLISON/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

PHOTO BY KEITH ALLISON/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

PHOTO BY KEITH ALLISON/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

By Dylan Lazaga, CONTRIBUTOR

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The Golden State Warriors, back-to-back defending NBA champions, were favored all season to “three-peat” as NBA champions. “Dub Nation” was supposed to have its happy ending in its forty-seventh and last season at Oracle Arena. Yet, their quest ended in one of the worst ways possible.
Even though the Warriors returned to the NBA Finals, injuries clearly hampered their goal for a three-peat. Point guard Stephen Curry played through a dislocated finger. Center Kevon Looney played through a cartilage fracture. Center DeMarcus Cousins played in the Finals after injuring his quadriceps in the first round of the playoffs, although he did not completely heal from that injury.
However, two of the most devastating injuries happened to two of their top players that will affect next season. Kevin Durant suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in Game Five of the Finals, as Warriors general manager Bob Myers revealed after the game. Klay Thompson then tore his left ACL in the Game 6 closeout loss, as ESPN reported and the Warriors confirmed. The injuries, plus a talent deficit, were all too much to overcome as the Warriors would lose to the Toronto Raptors in six games.
The Raptors deserve all the credit in the world for finally overcoming their own playoff adversity. After losing to LeBron James for three straight years, the Raptors took a huge gamble by trading one of their franchise players in DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs for the now-two-time Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard. Whether Leonard, a free agent this offseason, stays or goes, that gamble now completely paid off.
However, had they been healthy, the Warriors could have beaten the Raptors in the full seven-game series.
For Golden State, their season ended in one of the coldest ways possible. When the Warriors lost to LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, it was disheartening. However, they got a consolation prize in Kevin Durant and went on to win two straight championships. With this loss to the Raptors, however, it feels different.
Although the Warriors are optimistic that they can compete next season, it will be very hard. Durant is expected to miss the entire 2019-2020 season, and Thompson could be out until the All-Star break. Even when they do return, it is an uncertainty that they will play the same way they did before they went down, especially in terms of Durant’s injury. Yet, their injuries are only the beginning of the Warriors’ problems for next season, and even beyond.
The Warriors could also be looking at a significant roster shakeup. Whether or not Thompson or Durant sign to long-term max contracts, the Warriors’ front office will have to make very difficult decisions on many of their other players, such as DeMarcus Cousins, Quinn Cook, Kevon Looney, and Jordan Bell, all of whom will be free agents this offseason.
Uncertainty also lies within veterans Shaun Livingston, who is considering retirement, and Andre Iguodala, who is entering the final year of his contract.
Other teams in the NBA are taking that next step to compete in the postseason. The Los Angeles Lakers recently acquired Anthony Davis in a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans to help James. Both the Houston Rockets and the Milwaukee Bucks have their MVP candidates in James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo, respectively. If Leonard returns to Toronto, the Raptors will also be considered a favorite next season. With the Warriors hampered for at least next season, the league is as wide open as it has been in years.
The Warriors made many memories at Oracle Arena. They had one of the greatest playoff runs in the last decade. Even though the last game at Oracle Arena might not have been the ending the Warriors have wanted, they went out fighting.
Nonetheless, it is time for the Warriors to face the reality of the present and the future. Next season will be the most difficult seasons the Warriors have faced since their finals streak began in 2015.
They could still make a miracle run to the playoffs with Curry and Draymond Green next season. However, with severe injuries to Durant and Thompson and a cap-strapped free agency upcoming, they will need a dramatically different roster to do so. They will also have to go through a very strong Western Conference to compete as well.
It is too early to tell if this is it for the Warriors’ dynasty. However, as they open up the Chase Center next season, they now enter a time of uncertainty./span>