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The Golden State Warriors are better but are they back?

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It’s only been two seasons since the Warriors went on a five-year NBA Finals run, but it feels like rehashing the first day in high school. You sort of understood it was temporary, but at the same time, you were certain nothing would be the same ever since experiencing that whole new level. But perspective grows with experience, and for the Warriors, especially since Kevin Durant jumped ship… well, they have undergone a new perspective. But with Klay Thompson mercifully returning, can the Warriors actually hope to kick-off where they left?

The best move they could have made was signing the soon-to-be all-time leader in three-pointers made, Wardell Stephen Curry II, to his second contract valued at over $200 million, so they did. That means Steph will be a Warrior until well into his mid-thirties. But for a team that just missed the playoffs and now has aspirations of winning a championship, the rest of the front office moves were not precisely jaw-dropping.

They botched the Kelly Oubre Jr. contract by letting him walk for absolutely nothing. That’s after going over the tax bracket to sign him. I’ll let you do the math, but that is one epic failure. But at least the fans can say they cherished every moment of having Oubre Jr. in the throwaway season… I’m just going to stop talking now. 

So to replace him, they brought in Otto Porter Jr. on a veteran minimum’s deal. A career 40% 3-pt shooter, Porter can also be a key rebounding big when the Warriors run small-ball. Well, that’s if he can play more than 50 games for the first time since 2018-19. More money moves included drafting a win-now prospect at no.14 in Moses Moody and a heigh-ceiling prospect in Jonathan Kuminga at no.7.

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Jordan Poole hasn’t proved he can be more than a ‘streaky shooter’ with a Warriors’ style arsenal of catch-and-shoots, pull-ups, and an increasing ball handling game. Andrew Wiggins, on the other hand, was the one who proved he could be an extremely valuable two-way asset. But although he will look even better defensively next to Klay, a legitimate question is, has he just had the breakout year everyone wished for but little recognized? And no other 19-year-old has ever made me as nervous for the sake of their development as James Wiseman. He needs to find his niche in this system. 

Yes, he was thrown into one of the more complicated systems with very little experience. Yes, he tore his MCL, which on top of the injury, meant he couldn’t join some much-needed team practice. Yes, he faced some unnecessary pressure being a not-so-ready NBA 2nd placed pick in a not-so-patient NBA franchise. But I’m not asking him to match Embiid for a night or even average something in the twenties, but he just has to do something that proves he's closer to an Anthony Davis than an Anthony Bennett. 

But barring James Wiseman learning how to play defense, the Warriors are not contenders the same way the Kawhi Leonard-less Clippers are not contenders. They merely exist as a dark horse, with one puzzle piece away from entering title favorite waters. Alex Kennedy from Basketball News analyzed remaining free agents that could make a difference and mentioned Isiah Thomas recently had a workout with the Warriors - not sure he's that puzzle piece.

No team in the league has three aging stars in the tail-end of their primes, AND three recent lottery picks WHILE competing for a chip. The closest team to try this mad science experiment and come out on top would probably be in ‘99 with David Robinson’s and Tim Duncan’s first championship San Antonio Spurs. 

Kevin Durant’s recent recovery defied historical precedence on what you can do returning from nasty injuries. Plus the fact that Klay is a shooter, and not just any shooter- a Splash Brother! That just means that Klay Thompson might actually be back without a minutes restriction come playoff time. When that happens, then the entire NBA wins.

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