Where the Warriors dynasty ended
The “two timelines” collide
BY DAVID THORPE
On January 15, the Golden State Warriors—the most expensive team in the NBA and a proud dynasty—lost to a Memphis team led by a 19-year-old named GG Jackson, who was playing in his 15th NBA game. It’s as good a moment as any to declare the Warriors’ dynasty over. Or you could pick 10 days earlier, when 21-year-old Warrior Jonathan Kuminga expressed a lack of confidence in head coach Steve Kerr. Or a month before that, when forward Draymond Green was suspended indefinitely for punching Jusuf Nurkić in the face.
In any case, the Warriors have the 21st-best record in a 30-team league.
To make noise in the playoffs, they’d need a laundry list of unlikely things to happen. They’d need Stephen Curry to go at full throttle; Klay Thompson to play positive defense; Draymond Green to keep it together; Chris Paul to stay healthy; Wiggins to rediscover his two-way prowess. They’d need Kevon Looney and Dario Šarić to command the paint against Nikola Jokić, Ivica Zubac, Domantas Sabonis, and Rudy Gobert. They’d need Kuminga, Moses Moody, and last summer’s first-round pick Brandin Podziemski to excel in roles they’ve never been asked to play.
Is there a chance? Sure. A good one? Not even close.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The “light years ahead” team craftily took a title-winning core of Curry, Green, and Thompson, and with the magic of lottery picks and luxury tax, added an impressive collection of role players—Wiggins, Looney, and Gary Payton II—as well as draft picks Kuminga, Moody, and now-Piston James Wiseman. They talked about “two timelines,” meaning Curry would lead a team that would win now, and Wiseman and Kuminga would lead a team that would win later.
In the first year of that experiment, it looked like genius: The Warriors won the title.
What’s clear now, though, is that the Warriors made a critical strategic flaw.