Injuries and the free agency status of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson put the future of the Golden State Warriors up in the air. However, with healthy recoveries and a solid core, the dynasty may not be over just yet.
The worst case scenario happened again for the Golden State Warriors. With a little over two minutes left in the third quarter, Klay Thompson went up for a dunk and landed awkwardly on his left knee. At this moment, Klay was the best player on the floor with 28 points. It was typical “Game 6 Klay.” However, once Thompson slammed the floor and agonized in pain, something was terribly wrong. The dynasty was in trouble.
Despite stretching, jumping around, and making two emotional free throws, all hope was lost when Thompson went to the back and could not return to the game. 72 hours after Durant’s season ended due to a ruptured Achilles, Thompson was done for the year as well with a torn ACL. Despite leading the game when Klay exited, the ending was inevitable. Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors prevailed in Game 6, 114-110, to win the NBA Championship.
What seemed like an inevitability at the beginning of the season became an impossibility once KD and Klay suffered horrific injuries. Injuries happen so credit the Raptors for taking advantage of the depleted Warriors. They flexed their dominance and earned this title. Now, the future remains uncertain for Golden State. Durant can opt out and become a free agent and will most likely miss the entirety of next season. Thompson is a free agent and won’t be able to return until next winter or spring. Without those two stars, can Steph Curry and Draymond Green handle the scoring load? Although it was a small sample size, Curry and Green both struggled at times especially late in games when both KD and Klay were out. The question on everyone’s mind revolves around the Warriors’ dynasty. Is it dead?
Dynasties tend to end abruptly. After winning two straight championships, the “Bad Boys” Pistons lost to Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals and did not win a playoff series until 2002. Speaking of Jordan, the 90s Bulls won six titles. After defeating the Jazz in the 1998 NBA Finals, Jordan retired, Phil Jackson resigned, Scottie Pippen was traded, and the Bulls didn’t win a playoff series for almost a decade. Does this loss to the Raptors signify the end of the Warriors’ dynasty?
Let’s state the obvious. Steph Curry is a three-time NBA Champion and two-time MVP. Draymond Green is a three-time NBA Champion and a former Defensive Player of the Year. They are not falling off a cliff. Despite long recoveries in their future, Brian Windhorst said that the Warriors plan to offer both Klay and KD max contracts this offseason.
Bob Myers cried his eyes out while announcing Durant’s Achilles injury. I appreciate the passion and love for a player, but let’s not act as though Durant died. KD is going to come back in two seasons. Whether or not he’ll be the best player in the world again is up in the air, but I’m confident that Durant will become a prolific scorer again when he returns. The same goes for Klay. Thompson showed that he’s a freak athlete and competitor when he returned to shoot the free throws on a torn ACL. Expect Thompson to undergo a full recovery and return sometime next March.
The elephant in the room revolves around their free agency. Will Klay or KD leave the Warriors this offseason? I’m inclined to believe that Klay will resign with the Warriors for a max contract. It’s hard to believe that Klay won’t want to continue playing with his fellow Splash Brother. Durant’s status is up-in-the-air. Durant has been rumored to sign with the Knicks for months now. The Knicks and a few other teams will most likely still offer Durant a max contract, but the injury makes a return to the Warriors more possible than ever. Durant can either sign a max contract with the Warriors or opt into the final year of his current deal and become a free agent after next season.
The long-term dynasty might still have a chance, but next season is going to be a struggle. The Warriors glaring weakness this year was their lack of depth on the bench. However, when you have most of your money tied up in four players, creating a bench full of depth can be tough. Even if both Klay and DK both resign with the Warriors, they are not going to play for most of, if not all of next season. For as great as Steph Curry is, without any offensive help, it will be difficult to win games if he’s the singular piece for opposing defenses to guard. For as versatile as Draymond is, 7.4 points per game average is not a viable number two option. Who can the Warriors sign to make up the difference? Steph, Draymond, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston are all under contract next season. Demarcus Cousins is open to returning, but without a lot of cap flexibility, it may be difficult especially if Cousins has a high asking price.
The Warriors dynasty may also be in trouble due to the potential shift in the competitive balance. If Kawhi Leonard signs with the Clippers, he automatically elevates them to a playoff contender. A healthy LeBron James will return to the Lakers and if they trade for Anthony Davis, the Lakers will be the favorite to come out of the West. The Rockets are still a force. Plus, the Thunder, Nuggets, Blazers, Jazz, and Spurs should all be in the mix for the playoffs. Simply put, the Western Conference is a juggernaut. Unlike the previous five seasons, Golden State will have to fight hard for a playoff spot next year.
The five straight appearances in the finals might come to an end next season, but don’t be so quick to declare the dynasty, “dead.” The Warriors will need to develop a stronger bench, but thankfully, they still have one of the best President of Basketball Operations in the league, Bob Myers, to build a roster. The Warriors still have Steve Kerr, who is in the upper echelon of NBA coaches. If Golden State can at least resign Klay, the core of Steph, Draymond, and Klay will continue to be one of the best combinations in the game. Plus, you never know if Durant will change his mind about leaving and come back to the Warriors.
The Golden State Warriors will take their lumps next season, but don’t expect them to die. Push the pause button and wait a season. The dynasty is delayed, not dead.