2021-22 Record: 53-29
Introduction & Overview
The Golden State Warriors, somehow, enter the 2022-23 season as unsteady defending champions after winning what nearly everyone described as their sweetest championship a season ago. A championship that came after two years in the wilderness of abject failure and mediocrity due to injuries to Thompson and then Curry and then Thompson again. Last season’s championship run also unfolded in the absence of all the “you broke basketball” talk that surrounded Kevin Durant’s arrival in the Bay and it saw Steph Curry win his long overdue finals MVP after a historic series in which there was no doubt he was the best player, not only on his own team, but on either team in the Finals. And yet, here we are.
Draymond Green punched Jordan Poole in the face during a private practice and the video leaked to the world. There have been interviews from players, coaches, and front office members, but what all those press conferences ultimately amounted to was this: we don’t believe we can win a championship without Draymond Green at this time. That may change if Green shows more signs of decline at age 32. I would not be surprised to see Green traded next season, though. I suspect it would unfold in messy fashion and I’d find the whole ordeal quite sad.
All of the principal parties of last season’s championship run, besides Green and Klay Thompson, have been re-upped this offseason. I don’t want to venture into the realm of reckless speculation, but it’s hard not to assume Green was aware that Andrew Wiggins and Poole would be extended while he would not. One thing about Green, however, is that instances of his off-court or locker-room issues negatively affecting his play on the court have been rare. In the infamous Steve Kerr and Draymond Green dustup in 2016 in Oklahoma City–and by dustup, I mean words, as far as we know no punches were thrown—Green played a spectacular second half and helped the team win that game. You could counter by saying Green flailed at LeBron James’ groin area leading to his suspension and an eventual Finals loss. But I could counter by saying that Game 7 was maybe the best game of Green’s life and, had they won the game, he may have been awarded Finals MVP despite his suspension.
Draymond Green is who he is and the Warriors have sowed and reaped that sweet-bitter harvest countless times. Though it should be stated that punching teammates in the face has not been who Draymond Green has been for the majority of his career. Ring night approaches, and the rest will be twilight-of-a-dynasty-defining history.
Despite confidently and ruthlessly picking apart the Celtics in the NBA Finals to win his first Finals MVP, Stephen Curry had a down regular season by his lofty standards last year. He finished the season averaging 25.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 1.3 steals while shooting 43 % from the field, 38% from three, and 92% from the free-throw line. Not only did Curry shoot below 40% from three for the first time in his career when he played a full season, but he also was outshot from the free-throw line by teammate Jordan Poole. There are always injury and rest concerns for a guard entering the season at age 34, but if last season proved anything, it’s that Steph is not a typical 34-year-old. I would expect his shooting percentages to bounce back this season. The all-time three-point chase is behind him and he’s got the wind of a championship and Finals MVP at his sails. All he needs is a month-long hot streak to get into the MVP conversation. Not to mention, Jordan Poole should be better this year, Klay Thompson comes into the season healthy, and if Wiseman can stay on the floor, he adds a vertical spacing element the Warriors haven’t had in years. Curry will help anchor your team’s shooting efficiency and could pair nicely with Rudy Gobert in H2H leagues.
Jordan Poole is the kind of microwave scorer and highlight maker you would expect to win at least one Sixth-Man of the Year award. He can score from all three levels and his speed and quick twitch fakes and side-steps make him incredibly tough to keep out of the paint. He’s not an explosive athlete, but he finishes with touch and poise around the basket. There’s very little to question with Poole’s offensive game. His offensive ceiling will be determined by how well he learns to read the floor on the move and how willing and able he is to consistently make plays for his teammates. Some of this might require him to slow down a little. Poole finished last season averaging 18.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 0.8 steals while shooting 44.8% from the field, 36.4% from three, and 92.5% from the line. Poole shot 37% on catch-and-shoot threes and 34% on pull-up threes last season. He should be able to improve both those numbers, especially his catch-and-shoot numbers. If so, he vaults into a new stratosphere of efficiency and becomes a much more valuable fantasy asset.
I don’t expect Ryan Rollins to be fantasy relevant this season, but he’s worth monitoring in dynasty formats.
Kaly Thompson is a bit of a boring fantasy player. He’s a good defensive guard who doesn’t get many steals, rebounds poorly for his positions, and doesn’t get to the free-throw line much. His quiet steadiness is more of a weakness than a strength in fantasy. That said, he shoots the ball well (duh!), providing strong percentages from everywhere on the floor when fully healthy. Last season he shot just 42% from the field, but for his career, he shoots 45.8% from the field. Like Curry, he could have a bounce-back shooting season this year. Thompson is a better option in roto leagues where punting is less of a viable strategy, but he’s a nice source of points and threes in head-to-head leagues as well.
Donte DiVincenzo is a solid veteran backup option. He played at Villanova under Jay Wright, whom Steve Kerr coached alongside with Team USA. He’s a high IQ player who should fit well into the Warriors’ system and he’s demonstrated real chemistry with James Wiseman in the preseason. It seems difficult to envision a scenario where DiVincenzo closes games given the presence of Curry, Thompson, and Poole and the teams focus on defense and size, but he should play plenty in the regular season and should figure heavily if any of the top three guards suffer injuries. He’s more of a mid-tier streamer in standard leagues, but could be worth rostering in 14-team leagues depending on how the rotation shakes out.
Moses Moody is an up-and-coming player in the Warriors organization and a trusted shooter. He saw minutes in the conference finals last season against the Dallas Mavericks, but his lack of athleticism makes getting to and finishing around the basket difficult for him. As a result, I think he’ll be a better real-life player than a fantasy player. I don’t expect him to score at the rim or get to the free-throw line much and there’s very little reason for Moody to be taking midrange shots given the better scorers on the team. If Moody can generate more steals he could become a solid threes and steals streamer, but for now, he’s definitely more of a deep league option and even then the upside is limited.
Andrew Wiggins‘ importance to the Warriors cannot be understated, evidenced most by the Warriors signing him to a four-year, $109 million extension. Wiggins was crucial to the Warriors’ finals run, often hounding the best wing on the opposing team into poor shooting nights, including Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum. Wiggins’ rebounding was also crucial to the Warriors having success while playing small. With a championship ring in his jewelry drawer and an All-Star selection on his resume, the question for Wiggins is whether or not he can get better. Can he maintain or improve upon his 39% shooting from three in last year’s regular season? Can he get to the free-throw line more (3.2 FTA in 2021-22) and shoot better when he gets there (63% in 2021-2022)? Will his newfound rebounding ability—4.5 rebounds a game during the regular season and 7.45 rebounds a game during the post-season—translate to the regular season? I’m uncomfortable betting on these things for a full regular season, but I trust that Wiggins will show up to the fight and bounce back from adversity in the postseason. My discomfort with betting on Wiggins’ improving almost has less to do with Wiggins than it does with his role. He’s the fourth option on offense and will be asked to expend plenty of energy on defense guarding the other team’s best wing. There might be significant gaps between his touches, it’s just hard to stay locked in and in rhythm under those circumstances. Furthermore, his issues at the free-throw line seem as much mental as physical, making them precarious at best to predict and difficult to project improvement. Wiggins was the 97th-ranked player per Yahoo in average value last season. If he can crack the top 75 this season, you’ve got a steal in the draft, but he’ll be a low-grade option for points, threes, and steals regardless.
Draymond Green is Draymond Green. He’s aging. He won’t block as many shots or grab as many rebounds as he once did, but he’ll still dish out assists and anchor the Warriors’ defense. Last season over 46 games, Green averaged 7.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.1 blocks with shooting splits of 52/29/65. I would expect his free-throw shooting percentage to rise, but his overall field goal percentage could drop. Last season’s 52% from the field was a career-high. Green is taking fewer threes than he did earlier in his career, which could be buoying his field goal percentage, but even a modest drop seems expected.
Jonathan Kuminga is dripping with potential and the only question is whether or not he can put the pieces together. He’s shown flashes of doing just that this preseason. On Saturday, Kuminga finished the Warriors’ final preseason game on October 14th with 17 points (6-7 FG, 1-2 3PT, 4-4 FT), 6 rebounds, 7 assists, and two steals. The assist total is what jumps off the page. They indicate an ability to read the game and a willingness to find the open man and be unselfish. Kuminga is an elite downhill athlete with impressive leaping ability, his shooting—from three-point range and the free-throw line especially—and feel for the game are the biggest questions heading into his sophomore season. Despite his flaws, he’s a worthy upside play in deep leagues.
Andre Iguodala might get a little more run this season, but he won’t be fantasy relevant. Iguodala has all but assumed the Udonis Haslem role of player-coach for the Warriors. He’ll be a vocal leader and teacher, but doesn’t figure to have a huge impact on the court.
I don’t expect Patrick Baldwin Jr. to be fantasy relevant this season because I’m not sure if his defense will allow him to stay on the court and there’s plenty of competition from the players ahead of him. That said, in a year, Baldwin’s body and defensive awareness might have matured to the point of allowing him to get and stay on the court long enough to provide value with his three-point shooting. He’s certainly a watch for dynasty leagues.
I expect Kevon Looney to be the starting center for the Warriors on ring night. Unfortunately, that only does so much for his value as a fantasy asset. Looney provides good field goal percentage and good rebounding, especially on a per-minute basis, but his lack of scoring, poor free-throw shooting, and inconsistent playing time make him more of an option in deeper leagues rather than standard leagues. Last season Looney played in all 82 games and averaged 6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 0.6 blocks while shooting 57% from the field and 60% from the line.
After admitting that they threw James Wiseman in the deep end by starting him two seasons ago the Warriors appear to have carved out a smaller more manageable role for Wiseman this season. Most importantly, Wiseman is healthy entering the season and was able to make it through a full training camp, which provided him with necessary skill development within the context of the Warriors’ offensive and defensive system. Wiseman is a no-brainer in deep and dynasty leagues, but likely more of a top-of-the-watch list player in standard leagues. Wiseman has looked good in the preseason, crushing dunks and blocking the occasional shot. And as I always say, it’s easier to be a useful center in fantasy than it is in real life. Andre Drummond was still a worthwhile grab in fantasy at least a couple of seasons after people stopped believing he could be more than a good rebounder around the NBA.