Betting the Golden State Warriors: Any Value after Fall from Top?
I don't know that I have ever seen anything like what is happening to the Golden State Warriors right now. They played in the NBA Finals this spring, and did so despite all sorts of distractions, the passage of time, and horrible injury luck. And that appearance came at the end of a stretch that made them the NBA team of my lifetime - and I'm not that young. But injuries galore, a big defection, and generally lousy karma have suddenly turned this into a total mess. At 5-24 they are the worst team in the NBA. Worse than the Knicks! I have seen the wheels fall off for contenders, but this kind of crushing annihilation has to be unprecedented. And the fact that it is happening as the team opens a new arena has to fuel the joy of every Warriors hater out there.
Things are laughably bad right now. But what does the shorter-term future hold? And how in the world do we deal with something we aren't used to having to deal with? Let's look at where this team is from a few different angles:
Bad in so many ways: You only need to look at their last loss - by 10 to the Trail Blazers - to see how bad this team is right now. Portland is in a mess of their own and isn't exactly tearing teams apart. And the Warriors shot 16 of 38 from beyond the arc - a very strong 42.1 percent. If the team had done that in their glory days, they would have run away with the game - especially if they did it without their two all-World shooters in the lineup. But they found a way to lose. Many, actually. They just can't play defense. They let Portland get to the line 28 times. They shot 60 percent from the line in their 23 appearances. And they showed nothing even sort of resembling clutch performance after a solid early showing - at least on the scoreboard. It's not like this team is close and is just losing heartbreakers. They are finding every way to get in their own way against the bad teams - never mind what they are doing against good ones.
No upsets: With just five wins so far, it is easy for us to look at each one. They beat the Trail Blazers the first time the teams met. They have beaten the Bulls twice. And they have wins over Memphis and New Orleans. And that's it. The best of that group is Portland, and they are just 12-16. The Bulls are 11-19. Memphis is 10-18, and New Orleans is 7-22. Those are some bad teams. And each win has been followed by at least three losses. This isn't a team that is just not getting breaks. This is a truly awful team right now - and there is no sugar coating it.
Incentive to win?: In short, there is none. Klay Thompson isn't coming back this year in all likelihood. Steph Curry will be back at some point, but not in time to save anything. And the rest just doesn't matter. This is a savvy franchise led by a coach who has earned the ability to set his own terms. At this point there is no reason at all for this team to even sort of try to win. They traded away their first-round pick to Brooklyn this year, but it is protected in the top 20 picks. So, at this point that pick isn't going anywhere. The best thing this team can do is secure as many ping pong balls as possible. James Wiseman would look very good in a Warriors' jersey next year, and a few other top guys would look almost as good. Or, if they decide that they don't want Wiseman's baggage, and they don't need a scoring guard like Anthony Edwards, then trading down with a top two pick could add enough pieces to really make them dangerous and make this a very short rebuild.
Kerr is very smart - smart enough to make a science of tanking. I'm not saying that they have intentionally struggled to this point. They haven't. But they could make an art form of it going forward. And with the roster Kerr has at his disposal most nights, it's not like he has to work too hard at it. They are truly at a place right now where every loss is a win. If they can embrace that, then it's the best they we have for the rest of this season to be any fun to watch at all for the Warriors.
Trade action: The Warriors could be somewhat active from now to the deadline, though they aren't likely to make massive splashes. First, the big one - D'Angelo Russell. The guard wasn't a great fit with Curry when the two were playing, and he has been the center of trade speculation since the moment he was acquired. But it is very hard to believe that he will move now. The cap hell the Warriors are in would make a deal that makes sense very tough, and without him this roster would really be ugly.
But there are still guys that could move. Alec Burks is having a very solid year on a veteran minimum deal that ends this year and will be very attractive. Willie Cauley-Stein has started regularly at center, but he is on a cheap deal, and Marquese Chriss has been a very pleasant surprise this year, so Cauley-Stein could be attractive for a team looking to add big man depth. And Glenn Robinson III is a guy who command a ton of interest with his minimum contract and skill set. But he has been very solid and has likely played his way into a rotation role here going forward. The offer would have to be better than it likely will be for the team to make a deal.
In short, then, relief isn't coming in the short term via trade, but the team can do some shuffling to add a few more assets down the road without really hurting things more than they are already hurt.
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