Coming into this season, it was a pretty widely accepted notion that the Golden State Warriors wouldn’t win another title in 2020. After losing Kevin Durant in free agency and Splash Brother Klay Thompson in the NBA Finals to an ACL tear, things were never going to be the same.
But even if you didn’t think a championship was in the offing, you probably didn’t expect this.
This, of course, being two blowout losses to start the season, with the Warriors yet to even hold a lead thus far. The first loss — to the Los Angeles Clippers — was embarrassing, but maybe understandable: Even without Paul George, the Clippers have perhaps the world’s best player on their roster. But the second defeat, a 28-point loss to a new-look Thunder team that had lost its first two games, was alarming.
The supporting cast has been the problem. With six players on the roster who are either in their first or second NBA season, there simply isn’t enough depth around Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and D’Angelo Russell to warrant much faith right now. Warriors coach Steve Kerr once had the luxury of resting his all-stars all at once, since Golden State could chop deficits like a set of late-night infomerical steak knives. But without Thompson as a perpetual-motion off-ball threat, this offense clearly doesn’t have the same kind of firepower.
We wrote during the offseason that the Warriors, as we knew them, were long gone; much of what quietly made Golden State special — the team’s incredible, switch-everything defense, for example — was no longer on the roster. And indeed, the Warriors have the NBA’s worst defense by far to start the season, allowing opponents to shoot almost 88 percent from inside of 3 feet through two games.
The offense has been awful, too, with the NBA’s worst effective field goal percentage. But, as Curry wisely pointed out, it’s especially hard to play offense when every play has to begin with an inbound pass following a failed effort on defense. According to Inpredictable, a whopping 62 percent of the Warriors’ possessions have started after the opponent has scored, the highest rate in the league.
This isn’t to suggest that things won’t improve at some point. Curry is still the best shooter on the planet, and there will undoubtedly be nights when his scoring will be enough for the Warriors to win. Russell may be able to do the same from time to time. And once he gets back in the lineup, center Kevon Looney’s experience will provide a huge boost on defense.
FiveThirtyEight’s NBA predictions still give Golden State a 68 percent chance to make the playoffs. But with how bad things looked during this first week, it may be time for most of us to reevaluate our expectations for the Warriors. They certainly aren’t championship-caliber, and they may not even be playoff-caliber.
Check out our latest NBA predictions.