2020-2021 Record: 39-33

Key Acquisitions: Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, Otto Porter Jr., Nemanja Belicia, Andre Iguodala, (Klay Thompson)

Key Losses: Kelly Oubre Jr., Kent Bazemore, Eric Paschall, Brad Wanamaker

 

Introduction & Overview 

What are your Netflix recommendations like, dear Reader? According to Netflix’s almighty AI, I’m a 99% match for a good number of action films, (shocking I know). It appears that I’m an inveterate sucker for Hollywood’s IV drip of characteristic stylized violence, where everything and nothing is at stake all at once. The kind of morality plays where revenge and a particularly violent idea of justice come inseparably together. But I’m especially moved by a meta element in these stake-less physical dramas, something the algorithm isn’t picking up on, I hope. The more I can tell the minds behind the film want me to know, that they know, this is all dopamine mush in the mouth of a baby the more I’m pleased. I’m looking for a kind of philosophical match with the director. Something that says, “Yes, this is almost certainly a meaningless distraction on our collective journey to some hopefully plush after, but at least this haze of aesthetic violence offers some neon lights and choreographed blood splatter.” Which is a long-winded way of saying, as artists, writers, thinkers, maybe even as fantasy basketball players, we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.

Although I spent last year self-righteously cooing about the book I had to write, the book is, as of now, unfinished. Endlessly repeating that you’re writing a book turns out not to be good for your writing, at least in my case. Put another way, I’m back, baby; and the Warriors think they are too!

There is renewed excitement in the Bay area after two years in the non-playoff wasteland of the Western Conference. Stephen Curry signed a four-year contract extension that will keep him in the Bay through the 2025-26 season. Draymond Green took his unique mix of defensive skills, IQ, and intangibles to the international stage and came home with a gold medal. The Warriors drafted two promising teenagers in Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. Moody looks like the mature-beyond-his-years archetype the Warriors were pining after with their ill-fated selection of Jacob Evans. Klay Thompson will return at some point this year. Jordan Poole looks to continue his growth, cementing himself as a solid rotation piece. The team makes more sense this year—more shooting and beautiful game know-how from veterans and youngsters alike. Of course, Joe Lacob is all in on his own reflection! Bloviating in tech speak about a dual-timeline forever dynasty that has already ended—a yacht for the present and a bridge to the future, so to speak. Warriors fans are just hoping it’s not a bridge to nowhere.

 

Point Guard

Stephen Curry had a scorched-earth 2020-21 averaging 32 points, 5.8 assists, 5.5 rebounds, while shooting 48% from the field, 42% from three, and 91% from the line. Curry’s averages were most reminiscent of his unanimous MVP season in 2015-16, when he averaged 30 points, 6.7 assists, 5.5 rebounds, and shot 50% from the field, 45% from three, and 90% from the line. The increased accuracy on threes led to the slightly higher overall field goal percentage and true shooting percentage. With the help of internal improvement from Jordan Poole and James Wiseman and the increased firepower from the Warriors offseason additions of Otto Porter, Nemanja Bjelica, and Moses Moody, Curry could get back up to six assists. A return to the 50/40/90 club is not out of the realm of possibility but seems less likely than a moderate uptick in assists. The Warriors, at least on paper, have added shooters that can punish defenses for double and triple-teaming Curry.

Health is the main question with Curry. He finished second, behind only league MVP Nikola Jokic in total fantasy value last season according to both Yahoo and Basketball Monster. If Curry plays 60 or more games he should finish in the top ten in total fantasy value as he’s done in recent seasons.

The rest of the names at this position—Chris Chiozza and Gary Payton II—don’t figure to be fantasy relevant. Andre Iguodala might also see some time running the point-forward like Draymond Green, but this likely won’t make him fantasy relevant in all but the deepest of leagues.

Shooting Guard

Jordan Poole could be in line for a breakout season. With Klay Thompson out to start the season, it could be argued that Poole is the third-best scorer on the roster behind Steph Curry and Andrew Wiggins. Otto Porter Jr. may have once had a claim to this status, but a number of injury-riddled seasons have left me skeptical of his ultimate impact. There have even been whispers of Poole being the starting two-guard until Klay Thompson returns. My bold prediction is that Poole ups both his scoring and his assist totals this year, for averages of 14 points, 2.5 assists, and two rebounds. Not a massive leap from his previous year’s totals (12 points, 1.9 assists, 1.8 rebounds), but a slight uptick due to increased playing time and opportunity, especially in the early going with Thompson sidelined. If he gets the minutes, Poole will score and make threes.

Klay Thompson won’t be healthy to start the season, this much we know. His ultimate return date is still up in the air, however. As a result, drafting Thompson is a long-term play this season. You’re hoping he finds his stride soon enough to push you into and carry you through the fantasy playoffs, but there is risk involved. His minutes will be closely monitored and managed all year and it’s reasonable to expect he sits out back-to-backs once he returns. It helps that Thompson has been pretty consistent throughout his career. His points and shooting percentages have generally gone up, but his rebounds, assists, and steals have largely stayed the same. Though a great defender, he’s never been a big steals guy. I imagine Thompson will be even more of a points and threes specialist coming off his two devastating injuries. Here are his career numbers: 19.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.9 steals. A modest hit to his stats across the board seems reasonable. They might end up looking something like this: 15.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.5 steals.

Damion Lee and Mychal Mulder can be streamed when you need threes in deep leagues and that’s about it. However, keep an eye on the Warriors’ projected starting lineup in the pre-season. If Steve Kerr prefers Jordan Poole coming off the bench as a microwave scorer, one of these two could start at the two-guard until Klay Thompson returns.

Small Forward

Andrew Wiggins is not the superstar he was promised to be, but I understand why no one in the Warriors organization has much to complain about with Wiggins. He’s a flawed, inconsistent player (particularly on offense), but he was the team’s second-best defender behind Draymond Green last year and he scored enough timely buckets to earn the team and the fanbases’ respect. Wiggins should be able to slide into the tertiary scorer role seamlessly once Klay Thompson returns. Wiggins shot 38% from three last season and those looks should only get cleaner with a full complement of Splash Brothers. Wiggins tends to come out worse than you expect in fantasy because he does everything a little bit worse than you might expect. Here are his numbers from last season: 18.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.9 steals, and one block, while shooting 47% from the field, 38% from three, and 71% from the line. Why does Steph Curry average more rebounds for his career than Wiggins? And why hasn’t he been able to secure a steal a game in three of the last four seasons? These are questions we should agree not to ask, for our sanity. Wiggins’s role is clearly defined in Golden State and he’s more than capable of executing it. As a result, I’d expect the numbers to look pretty similar this season.

Given that the Warriors signed him to a veteran minimum contract, Otto Porter Jr. is the quintessential low-risk high-reward off-season move. Porter is a career 40% three-point shooter with the feel and basketball IQ to succeed in Steve Kerr’s offensive system. However, how much Porter will be able to play this season is a real concern. He’s played just 42 games the past two seasons and it feels like he’s spent more time out due to injury than he has in uniform over the course of his eight-year career. Porter will almost certainly come off the bench and it’s not hard to envision him getting buried in the rotation, but if things break right he could have a nice bounce-back season. He’s probably not someone you should be drafting unless you’re in a deep league (14 teams minimum).

Moses Moody is 6’6″ with a 7’0 wingspan. He shot 35% on 5.1 three-point attempts and 81% on 5.8 free-throw attempts a game in college. Those solid shooting numbers carried over into the NBA Summer League where, according to numbers found at Real GM, he made 12 of 31 three-point attempts (38.7%) and 10 of 12 free-throws (83%). Moody should be a steady, low-volume contributor for the Warriors from day one. He may have the ability to expand his game in future years, but he should be able to knock down spot-up threes, attack closeouts, and play in transition as soon as he steps on an NBA floor. That said, he’s a rookie on a suddenly deep, veteran-laden team. I wouldn’t expect big numbers for him, but I’d certainly keep my eye on him in keeper and dynasty leagues. In particular, I’ll be interested in what his steal and block numbers look like at the end of the season.

Power Forward

Draymond Green is an imperfect player, but his strengths are undeniable and they help you win basketball games. The Warriors finished fifth in Defensive Rating last season, in large part because of Green. Curry is the bell-weather for the offense as Green is for the defense. But can he shoot? No, no, absolutely not. The halcyon days of 2015-16 are dead and gone for Green’s offense. His scoring numbers have generally been on the decline and there’s been no evidence to suggest he’ll return to being even a 33% shooter from deep. He still does other stuff, right? You bet he does! Here are his numbers from last season: 7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 1.7 steals, and 0.8 blocks, while shooting 44.7% from the field, 27 % from three, and 79.5% from the line. His defensive impact is still incredibly high, but in terms of fantasy, he’s been below a block a game for two straight seasons now. In short, the shooting percentages aren’t great, but depending on your scoring type and team build you can work around that. Green’s end-of-season rankings have fluctuated pretty wildly over the past couple of seasons, but given the veteran additions, Klay’s return, and the continued growth of the young guys, Green should be in line for at least another top 75 finish in fantasy. I’ll say he finishes in the top 50 again—he finished 41st and 42nd in Yahoo and Basketball Monster rankings respectively last season.

I’m not a draft expert, but all the draft experts say that Jonathan Kuminga is incredibly raw. The Warriors didn’t have it in them to put James Wiseman in the G-League last year, but I wonder if they’ll have the same qualms about Kuminga? Maybe such a “drastic” move won’t be necessary given the restructuring of their coaching staff around development. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kuminga get a chance here and there, but the Warriors have one of the more complicated offenses in the league and Kuminga likely won’t have the ball in his hands nearly as much as he did in Summer League. I can’t see him having much fantasy impact this season, but he looks like a low-floor high upside piece for the future. He’s an obvious player to pay attention to in dynasty leagues.

Juan Toscano-Anderson is the incumbent at this surprisingly crowded position and he’s the best defensive player of the bunch not named Draymond Green. Toscano-Anderson also shot 40% from three last year (57/40/71). In writing this piece, I’ve assumed JTA would get minimized this season in favor of the new additions who have stronger resumes as shooters, but JTA knows the system and can defend at a level I don’t think Porter or Bjelica can get to. None of this means he’s necessarily on the fantasy radar, but it will be interesting to see who wins the majority of the minutes at the backup power forward spot. It will likely be a committee approach—something Steve Kerr has favored over the years. JTA should be healthier than the other veterans vying for the backup spot and that alone means he’ll be a useful streaming option in deep leagues at some point this season.

Nemanja Bjelica knows how to play basketball. He was better than Marvin Bagley in Sacramento and the politics of development and institutional resources limited his playing time and ultimately pushed him out the door. He should fit into the Warriors’ more laid-back culture better than he did Miami’s cafecito-driven militarism. He’s a career 38.7% three-point shooter who can flash some surprising drive and kick ability. He can also duck in and take advantage of mismatches on the post and he’s a sneaky good passer. I repeat, he can play the game of basketball. The problem for Bjelica is his lack of athleticism and therefore defensive ability. He’s not big enough or athletic enough to protect the rim and he’s not mobile enough to defend on the perimeter. Bjelica’s playing time will depend on the matchup and the whims of one Steve Kerr. Bjelica is usually good for a two-week heater every year.

P.S. Some confluence of factors have turned good players into bad players in Golden State, recently—see Brad Wanamaker and Omri Casspi. Hopefully, Bjelica doesn’t suffer the same fate.

Center

Early indications are that James Wiseman will be ready for training camp, coming off his torn meniscus last year, but I’d still expect the Warriors to start the season with Kevon Looney at center. We’ve seen what it looks like when a not-up-to-speed Wiseman is out there with Steph Curry and Draymond Green. Looney is a low-upside metronome type player. He’s reliable and consistent and that’s really all the Warriors have expected from their centers over the course of their dynasty. I would expect Wiseman to eventually win the starting center spot but he’s going to have to earn it this time around. Unlike last year, when the Warriors inexplicably handed him the position and far too much offensive freedom to go along with it. Looney will be a solid streamer/bench option in 14-team or larger leagues, but the upside and long-term play is all about Wiseman.

James Wiseman is the type of player whose fantasy impact is likely to outstrip his real NBA impact until he completely figures things out. There are lobs and put-backs to be had. There are easy blocks to be had in almost every game. Last year Wiseman averaged 11.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.9 blocks a game. In an interview with Tim Kawakami after the Olympics, Steve Kerr said he was encouraged by what DeAndre Ayton was able to do in the 2021 playoffs and saw Ayton as a model for Wiseman’s growth. The problem for Wiseman is that Ayton averaged 10.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists as a rookie. Wiseman has the physical gifts to be a good rebounder, but he does not, as of now, have the hands to be a good rebounder. He struggled to grab loose balls and hang on to simple passes at times last year. Still, even with those issues, he amassed the respectable numbers listed above. With even modest improvement, you’d expect him to average something like 13 points, 6.5 rebounds, 0.8 assists, and 1 block a game. By dint of winning the genetic lottery, Wiseman should score points, grab rebounds, and block shots. At what volume those things happen this year, will go a long way to determining his ultimate ceiling.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *