A few weeks ago, the Golden State Warriors seemed poised to be legitimate title contenders coming into the 2020-21 season. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson would be back healthy, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins remained on the roster and they had the No. 2 overall pick to either add a high-upside prospect or flip in a trade for an established veteran.
However, Thompson is now out for the year with a torn Achilles, which completely changes the Warriors' season outlook.
Curry talked to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated about losing his backcourt mate for yet another season, among other topics in a wide-ranging interview:
"I think Klay is universally liked around the league, and understand he's just the greatest dude. He just loves basketball. That was a tough call to get. Obviously, the excitement for us leading up to the draft and him coming back healthy, Draymond [Green] coming back healthy, myself coming back healthy, having the second pick. And now, with James Wiseman, some of the other guys, we really felt like this was a great opportunity for him to reassert himself as the best 2-guard in the league.
"So, to get that call was a gut punch for sure. A lot of tears, a lot of you don't really know what to say, because a guy like that is having to go through two pretty serious rehabs now. But at the end of the day, we have to have his back."
Curry also said he was happy with the organization's acquisition of wing Kelly Oubre Jr.:
"Kelly, he's been around five years now, and I think he's hungry to take that next step. Hopefully we have the culture and the structure to unleash him. With him, with Wigs [Andrew Wiggins], with James Wiseman, E.P. [Eric Paschall] coming back ... I could go down the whole roster, but everybody's locked in on the opportunity, and I think that's what we're calling it. It's a huge opportunity for a lot of guys."
As for Wiseman, Curry believes the No. 2 overall pick could be a "once-in-a-lifetime-type of talent in terms of what he can physically do on the court and how he sees the game" and is excited to play with him:
"I think his demeanor—you can look at his physique and the raw, natural talent that he has, but when you talk to a guy that just has that look in his eye, like, 'I'm just ready to learn, I'm ready to work'—I don't think he's afraid of the challenge. That says a lot. He obviously has to go out and prove it, and we're going to be tough on him early to put him in the right mindset, what it takes to be successful in the NBA. But he's got it."
The growth of players like Wiseman, Wiggins, Oubre and Paschall will be key to Golden State's season.
There's little doubt that Curry will remain one of the NBA's most dangerous shooters and offensive players. The six-time All-Star and two-time MVP averaged 20.8 points and 6.6 assists in five games last season, and he's a career 43.5 percent shooter from three.
There's also no doubt that Green will remain the team's defensive keystone and an important emotional and vocal leader.
But if the Warriors are to return to the playoffs in the tough Western Conference, they'll need Wiseman to give them quality minutes straight away. They'll need Wiggins to be more efficient on offense and more engaged defensively. Oubre needs to shoot better from three than his 32.9 percent career average.
The Dubs should be fun with this group, able to run up and down the court in transition. It will be a challenge for head coach Steve Kerr to mold an offense around the skill sets of these players. And even if that happens, reaching the postseason won't be easy.
The two L.A. teams, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks are all going to be in the thick of the playoff race. The New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings could make some noise, too. It's going to be tough getting into the playoffs in the West.
But Curry is confident.
"Come playoff time, whenever that is, we know we'll be there," he said. "We know we'll be a force to be reckoned with on that front."