Warriors' best chance at maximziing season after Klay Thompson injury
How Warriors can best maximize the season after Klay's injury originally occurred at NBC Sports Bayarea
Almost a year of anticipation for Warriors fans was wiped out Thursday when it was confirmed that Klay Thompson ripped his right Achilles and is likely to miss the entire 2020-21 NBA season.
The Warriors spent most of a year planning their return to the NBA spotlight. Their year abroad was coming to an end, and with Steph Curry and Thompson, both of whom were perfectly healthy, they planned to make the league known.
Thompson's injury is almost certainly a death knell to her 2021 title chances. It feels like deja vu.
Last fall, the Warriors started the season with Thompson, who is expected to miss the entire season while rehabilitating a torn ACL. But with Curry, Draymond Green, and D'Angelo Russell, they should be competitive. Curry broke four games in his hand and the gap year was born.
Fast forward to Thursday and the feeling is the same. Andrew Wiggins has replaced Russell and James Wiseman, # 2 overall, is now on the line. But Thompson is someone whose absence cannot be filled. The warriors will just try to mend it. You don't have to waste another year of Curry's Prime. They'll try to add two or three pieces that they hope can add up to 75 percent of what a perfectly sane and highly motivated Thompson would have given them.
But how? And for what purpose?
To answer the second part: yes, things are undoubtedly much darker now than they were 24 or 48 hours ago. Instead of coming out of their gap year, the warriors plunged back into a cave of the unknown and forced to find a new path back to the light.
Thompson's injury knocks the Warriors down a few pins on the NBA ladder, yes. But at the moment no NBA super team dominates the league like the Warriors once did. Neither Goliath decimated the league and zapped the other 29 teams in the hopes that they would play for something other than second place.
The Los Angeles Lakers are talented and have the best duo in the NBA. But they're flawed, and LeBron James is another year older. The quick turn from the bubble could hinder LA out of the gates. The Clippers have their own problems to solve as they attempt to recover from a breakdown in the Western Conference semifinals. The Milwaukee Bucks added Jrue Holiday but are still trying to add more pieces after their (illegal) mark and deal for Bogdan Bogdanovic fail.
It's hard to see now. But there is hope. It starts at # 30. The NBA is a superstar league and the Warriors still have one of the top three players in the NBA in Curry.
After listening for a year to speak about his death and the death of the warriors, Curry was determined to turn his critics upside down. More weight is put on him with Thompson, but as long as he lace them up, the warriors have the chance of a puncher.
More is required of Green. He has to find his old form or something close by if the warriors are to fight. The pressures on Wiggins are mounting, but he's only 25 years old and should thrive alongside curry. The talent of a # 1 overall winner is still there and the Warriors must find a way to unlock it.
As for the rest of the roster, the Warriors will have to use their three chips - the $ 17.2 million trading exception, the $ 9.3 million disabled player exception given due to Thompson's injury and will seek the taxpayer exemption - to give Curry enough help to maximize its year 32 season.
The need is obvious. The warriors need wings - wings that can shoot and defend multiple positions. When Thompson is gone, it will take them two, probably three, to feel like they did everything possible to give Curry the parts necessary to try and keep a fading dynasty on the support of life.
President and General Manager Bob Myers said the warriors received many calls about their trade exemption and that Thompson's violation could affect their use by the warriors.
This trade exception allows the Warriors to add a player who can earn up to $ 17.2 million. The candidates have been discussed extensively, but one now deserves special mention: Kelly Oubre Jr.
The interest in Oubre reported by the warriors has been well documented this off-season. It was recently traded on the Oklahoma City Thunder as part of the Chris Paul deal. The 24-year-old is an energetic grand piano who plays well in transition and can guard one to three. His 3 ball was dubious early in his career but he's improving.
The Thunder own half of the draft picks by 2027, so it's unclear what they'd want in addition to the trade exception to part with Oubre. Oubre's $ 14.4 million deal would swell the Warriors' luxury tax bill, but they can't back off their promise to spend money to fight and still face Curry.
Oubre is the ideal target to fill in the void Thompson left and all reports suggest the Warriors and Thunder are on the verge of hitting a deal to send the young wing into the bay.
As for the $ 9.3 million disabled player exception, the Warriors' list of targets is a bit smaller. The exception allows teams above the cap to use the same amount of money as the middle exception (or half the injured player's salary, whichever is lower) to add a player for a season.
You could use DPE to try and win for forward P.J. Tucker of the Houston Rockets, who is in the final year of his contract. The missiles are in a mess, but would they really want to help their old rival? Owner Tillman Fertitta wants some relief from the hat, but I don't think he'll try.
The best way to use the DPE is through a free agency where Jae Crowder, Marcus Morris, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jerami Grant or Danilo Gallinari can be attacked. Out of those five, Crowder and Morris seem like the most realistic option of getting a one-year deal and getting back on the market when it's more stable in the next off-season.
Crowder is a multi-position defender who works well with a low-stakes RPG player. He is an unreliable shooter but can get hot from within 3 point range. Morris doesn't seem like a culture that suits warriors. The ball often gets stuck when it hits it and its defense buy-in is questionable.
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If the Warriors can get Oubre and Crowder, they would have two players who can fill about 65 percent of what Thompson brings.
The remaining mid-level taxpayer exemption for a wing like Austin Rivers or Avery Bradley would be the final blow in a master plan to avoid disaster.
Bradley is a great defender and a reliable 3 point range shooter when given the right amount of looks. Adding Bradley would also weaken a Lakers team that relied on their bulldog mentality to establish their defensive identity.
With Bradley off the table, Rivers could be a good fit as a tough, secondary ball handler who can knock down open shots and play solid defense.
If the Warriors can complement Curry, Green, Wiggins, and Wiseman with three athletic wings that can hold multiple positions and put down open shots, they'll have done all they can to fill 75 percent of the shortage if Thompson fails again.
The other 25 percent cannot be caught up. It's unique to Klay and something the warriors have to try to survive without.
This is all the warriors can do to take a blow they never expected and give Curry enough support to bring an indictment in the Western Conference.
They owe it to Curry and Thompson to do whatever it takes to maximize a year in which they should announce their return to the main NBA stage. You can still make this year worth it. You only have work to do.
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