It's beginning to look a lot like the NBA regular season is effectively over. Rather than sit around and wait for basketball to come back into our lives, let's reflect on what the season has dished up to this point.
We'll take a look at each and every NBA team over the coming weeks, assessing what went right, what didn't go to plan, and where their journey took them as well as where the team hoped it would take them.
Today, we'll start with the league's cellar dwellers: the Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Golden State Warriors
Record: 15-50 (15th in the Western Conference)
82 game pace: 19-63
The Warriors came into this season in somewhat of a state of flux. After five straight trips to the NBA Finals and three Championships, this side was not expected to be an out and out contender. Kevin Durant was gone; Klay Thompson injured, Andre Iguodala traded, Shaun Livingston retired. Their major additions were D'Angelo Russell and.....Willie Cauley-Stein?
Despite this, the team was still expected to be able to win somewhere around 50 games and push for home court in the first round of the playoffs. Steph Curry was expected to have a monster year, keeping his makeshift side on the periphery of the Championship conversation.
What went right
Not too much, really.
The silver linings from a personnel perspective all revolve around opportunity. Players that wouldn't have gotten extended court time for a contenting Dubs outfit all got to learn on the fly. Untested guys like Eric Paschall, Omari Spellman and Damion Lee all proved themselves worthy of a spot in the league. Reclamation projects in the form of Alec Burks, Marquese Chriss and most famously Andrew Wiggins (and even Dragan Bender late in the season) all found a new level.
Perhaps the biggest positive is in the future draft assets garnered this season. There is, of course, their own pick that's projected to be #1 in the next draft. In the Russell for Wiggins trade, Minnesota gave up a 2021 first rounder: if things fall flat in Minny, that's another juicy piece for the Warriors to either deal or use to restock their pipeline of young talent.
What went wrong
June 2019 went very, very wrong. Any sliver of hope the team had of retaining Durant went with his achilles. Losing Thompson in the very next game was a heart breaker. Even merging centre Kevon Looney couldn't stay on the court. To top things off, four games into the season, Steph Curry's left wrist got caught down under – he'd play only one more game for the season. Draymond Green took up the gap year on offer and was generally awful through the season. Russell put up great stats on a poor team, but couldn't elevate the Warriors before he was traded.
The outcome? A league worst record – that's the outcome! But.....was this season actually good news for Golden State? They get a year relative rest after near continuous basketball for Steph, Klay (enforced in this case) and Draymond over the past five seasons. They've replenished their draft stocks to either bring in young talent, or trade for veterans to make another big run. They've picked up a top end talent in Wiggins and hope to mold him into a player that falls somewhere between a KD and a Harrison Barnes.
Perhaps their biggest win? After so many years at the top of the food chain, there was always going to be some schadenfreude at the Warriors expense. But with so many of the familiar faces sidelined, it didn't feel like we were pointing and laughing at the fallen champs, but rather we were mocking a plucky underdog and that just didn't feel right. Even when they're losing, the Warriors are light years ahead.