Coming into the 2020-21 NBA Season, the Golden State Warriors had low expectations. With Kevin Durant in Brooklyn and Klay Thompson out for the second straight season, the playoffs were an afterthought at the beginning of the year. However, MVP candidate Stephen Curry proved once again that he can carry a team. Curry led the Warriors to a level of success that national pundits did not think was possible. With impressive growth from some of the younger role players, Golden State is set up well to succeed next season.
For a statistical review, check out the official Golden State Warriors season in review.
The Warriors finished with a 39-33 record, which set them up with the No. 8 seed before the play-in tournament began. After a win against the Memphis Grizzlies on the last day of the regular season, Curry and company faced LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers for the seventh seed in the playoffs. Unfortunately, Golden State lost two consecutive close games to the Lakers and Grizzlies to be eliminated from the playoffs.
After finishing with the worst record in the Western Conference last season, this was a drastic improvement for Golden State. Curry and Draymond Green were both healthy. Many of the young role players who saw valuable minutes in 2019-20 were key bench pieces this season. With Curry on the court, the Warriors were a high-tier playoff team. The biggest key moving forward will be the minutes without Curry on the floor, something that Golden State struggled with this season.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Stephen Curry
In case you missed our MVP case for Stephen Curry, you can find that here. To summarize, here are the incredible statistics that Curry posted in a season where head coach Steve Kerr said “he’s the best he’s ever been.”
32.0 PPG (led NBA)
Oldest to win scoring title since Jordan
38 30-point games, most since Jordan
337 threes (led NBA)
Fourth season of 300-plus three-pointers (most in history)
Seven games of 10-plus three-pointers (most in history)
5.3 three-pointers made per game (most in history)
Broke Warriors all-time scoring record
Plus-220 plus/minus rating (led NBA)
With Curry on the court, the Warriors were a 53-19 team. Without him, they barely scraped a 15-win team. Curry was a top-three NBA MVP candidate this season and the clear MVP of Golden State.
Defensive Player of the Year – Draymond Green
Another player who was a candidate for the national award, and the clear defensive leader for the Warriors. Green defends all five positions and returned this season to his defensive prowess of old. Green had his highest defensive win shares total since the 2016-17 season. Because of his high steals numbers, Green also averaged the highest assist total of his career. In the best shape of his life and playing the best basketball since before Kevin Durant was in Golden State, Green overwhelmingly wins this award.
Even with one of his best seasons yet, Green is not satisfied.
“We got a ways to go because we’re not in the playoffs. So we’re far away,” Draymond Green said. “Because in order to win a championship, we have to be in the playoffs. So we’re clearly a ways away. A few tweaks here and there, we’re not that far. But right now we’re a ways away because we’re not in the playoffs.”
Sixth Man of the Year – Jordan Poole
Realistically, Poole was the Sixth Man of the Year as the biggest surprise for the Warriors. The versatile guard will be in the sixth man role moving forward. When Curry suffered a tailbone injury halfway through the season, Poole made a few spot starts in his absence. He scored 14 or more points in 10 straight games from March 4 to March 25.
In a start against the Pelicans at the end of the season, Poole dropped a casual 38 points in preparation for playoff basketball. After being forgettable in 2019-20, Poole showed up and showed out this year. With Thompson returning next season, Poole leading the bench unit is a sight that opposing teams should be scared to see. 12 points per game off the bench this season is likely nothing compared to what will come next.
Biggest Surprise/Most Improved Player – Juan Toscano-Anderson
Toscano-Anderson (JTA) is one of the best stories of the season. Born and raised in Oakland, he fought to be a part of the Warriors rotation. With Kelly Oubre taking up a lot of minutes at the beginning of the season, JTA did not have much of a role. However, he was a part of many closing lineups late in the season. When Kerr needed stability in his lineup, the forward was able to provide that on both ends of the floor. Although not the biggest scorer, he will not have to be next season with three or four viable scoring threats on the floor at most times. If JTA can provide Green-type stability for the bench unit next season, the Warriors will be much better off.
Biggest Disappointment – James Wiseman
Being selected with the second overall pick in the draft comes with expectations. Unfortunately, due to raw talent and injuries, Wiseman did not meet them. Many games, Wiseman was a defensive liability. Even with in-game coaching from Green, he did not seem to be able to follow the flow of the NBA game. Wiseman showed flashes of greatness before his knee injury.
Thankfully, the Warriors committed to the Memphis product for next season. After the team was dominated by some bigs in the play-in tournament, Golden State cannot afford to trade Wiseman. However, if the Nashville native wants to be a key part of the Warriors next year, he has a lot of growing to do.
“You don’t want to see us next year,” said Steph Curry in his end-of-season press conference. He makes a good point. Here is Golden State’s potential closing lineup next season:
SF: Andrew Wiggins
If Thompson returns healthy and Wiseman makes a decent year-two jump, the Warriors will be incredibly dangerous. Add onto that the potential for a first-round pick from Minnesota this season, and their own 14th-overall pick. That is a lot of capital for Bob Myers and company. If Poole and Oubre accept bench roles, the Warriors could have one of the deepest second units in the game once again.
If Oubre seeks refuge elsewhere, a sign-and-trade package with the Warriors’ picks could bring in yet another star to Golden State. As we have seen, Myers has a flair for the dramatic. Time will only tell what the Warriors front office will do this offseason, but no matter what, watch out for Golden State.
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