It’s not that there are too many doubters of the Golden State Warriors left out there now that the team has raced off to an amazing start at 11-2, best in the NBA, heading into Tuesday’s showdown in Brooklyn against the Nets. It’s just that, for a franchise that has been absorbing disappointment for the past two years, there is a tendency to seek out any sign of disrespect, and to throw it onto the fire as fuel.
The poster boy for the Warriors’ recent blues has been Klay Thompson, who tore his ACL during Game 6 of the NBA Finals in 2019, as the Warriors looked to win their fourth title in five seasons. Just as Thompson was preparing to return to action, a year ago, he tore his Achilles tendon.
So when Thompson sees any sign of a slight against the Warriors, he files it away. As he told Sports Illustrated’s Howard Beck:
I love it. I love it. I hope people keep doubting us. I saw somebody on the TV the other day talking about, the Warriors aren’t contenders because they’ve had a soft schedule. Buddy, we got the MVP, a defensive player of the year. That kind of disrespect bothers me. We have so many champions, guys who have done it in the highest pressure moments, and you’re still gonna question our ability? I love it. But whatever. That’s what talking heads are paid to do.
Without Thompson, Warriors Have Impressed
The Warriors are waiting, of course, for the return of Thompson to truly see just how good they can be. And that could be a scary prospect for the rest of the league, because already the team ahs shown itself to be really, really good on both sides of the ball.
The Warriors have the No. 3 offense in the NBA, at 112.0 points per 100 possessions. The have the No. 1 defense, at 99.3 points per 100 possessions allowed. Their net rating of 12.7 is by far the best in the league, well ahead of No. 2 Miami (7.4).
That’s without Thompson, who averaged 19.5 points in the first eight years of his career, making 41.9% from the 3-point line. During that time, Thompson was also one of the best defensive guards in the league and an apt secondary ballhandler for star guard Steph Curry.
But the Warriors still do not know for sure when Thompson will return. Speculation has held he could be back around Christmas, but the team has not given out any timeline. Coach Steve Kerr called Thompson’s return “imminent,” which might make it sound like he could be on the floor at any time. But Thompson has been out for 30 months—in that context, next month counts as “imminent.”
Golden State Has Deepest Roster in the NBA
Adding Thompson figures to give the Warriors the league’s deepest rotation, assuming he can be anything close to his old self. If Thompson has his game together enough to get back into the starting five, it will allow the Warriors to use Jordan Poole—who is averaging 17.2 points—as a star sixth man.
Damion Lee (11.1 points) is another scoring option off the bench, and Gary Payton II has proven himself to be an ace defensive stopper and dunker extraordinaire. The Warriors have vets Andre Iguodala, Otto Porter and Nemanja Bjelica on hand, too, and the early performance of rookie Jonathan Kuminga has shown he is worthy of minutes, too.
That’s not even counting James Wiseman, the No. 2 pick of the 2020 draft, who has been out with a knee injury and will return to the court soon. It’s an embarrassment of riches.
“The thing about depth is it can be a problem,” coach Steve Kerr said. “But it can be a nice problem to have.”