When Klay Thompson Returns, Are The Warriors Contenders?

Ben Margot/AP

The Golden State Warriors came into the NBA season with what looked to be a powerful side. However, because of the season-ending injury for Klay Thompson, Golden State’s title hopes shattered. Now, 12-12, after a quarter of the season through, Steve Kerr‘s men continue to fight for a playoff spot in a competitive Western Conference. Although GSW will be a significantly different team with Klay Thompson’s return, fans wonder if he is enough to bring a title back to The Bay Area. The Dubs will have Many aspects to consider in what will likely be a defining season.

How close can Thompson get to his old form?

In 2019, Klay Thompson came into the finals averaging 22 points per game on 47% FG. The shooting guard was one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA. He was additionally a vital piece to Golden State’s dynasty. A torn ACL in the 2019 finals kept him out an entire season. NBA fans were optimistic the 31-year-old would come back close to as strong the following season. After sitting in Chase Center’s stands for a year, he was ready to come back to the NBA. Soon before the 2020-21 season commencement, news broke of Klay Thompson tearing his Achilles. The guard out of Washington would be out for another year.

The burning question now is if Klay Thompson can regain his past form. With such drastic injuries, it seems unlikely he’ll ever play nearly as well. Furthermore, not playing an NBA game will surely bring upon some conditioning issues of their own along with significantly worse leg movement. Derrick Rose, who suffered a similar injury early in his career, was never able to overcome the injury and never reach his full potential. If Thompson is affected even nearly as severely as Rose was, he’ll likely even make an all-star appearance again.

The current Warriors’ roster

Golden State’s roster looks very vulnerable. Kelly Oubre Jr and Andrew Wiggins have yet to make an impression for the Dubs as they’ve consistently relied heavily on Stephen Curry. However, James Wiseman has been a bright spot in this mediocre season for the Warriors. Averaging 12 points, six rebounds, the rookie has shown tremendous potential. Additionally, Steph Curry has refused to slow down despite coming off a long-lasting wrist injury. The star point guard is averaging 30 points and has been the catalyst in San Francisco. With the likes of Klay Thompson, this team could be dangerous. If James Wiseman can dominate in the paint and Kelly Oubre and Andrew Wiggins start improving their offense, Steve Kerr’s side can make a run at the finals. Additionally, a defensive duo in Draymond Green and James Wiseman should support Golden State tremendously. Thompson can give Curry someone to rely on when going through an offensive rough-patch and prevent constant double-teaming in Curry, which seems too difficult to prevent without enough support.

Where will the Western conference be next year?

No matter what level the Warriors play next season with Klay Thompson, the Western Conference may be too difficult to come out on top. The Los Angeles Lakers will still be dominant as the LeBron JamesAnthony Davis duo shows no sign of slowing down. Donovan Mitchell and Luka Doncic will be ready to bring their respective teams to the top as well. The 2021-22 season is full of teams ready to break out, and maybe too much for Steph Curry’s side.

How the 2021 off-season can change everything

Although the Warriors don’t look likely to find themselves in the lottery, a Timberwolves first-round-pick surely will. In the deal that sent D’Angelo Russell to Minnesota and Andrew Wiggins to Golden State, the Warriors also picked up their first-round pick this year. Minnesota has played far below-average this season and holds the second-worst record in the NBA at 6-18. Unless they manage to turn things around completely, they’ll be expecting a top 5 pick this year. Golden State can take advantage of having a high pick in a strong draft class and trade it for some win-now pieces. Many top-tier offensive players’ names will be circulating in San Francisco.

Along with the draft, the off-season holds numerous high-level free agents. Kawhi LeonardAndre DrummondChris Paul, and John Collins will all be on Golden States’ radar this summer. They’re estimated to have just about 50 million dollars in cap space this off-season, which they’ll throw at any star who considers signing. The Warriors can become a massively rejuvenated team this summer if they play their cards right. If they do so, they can become one of the most dangerous teams in the NBA.

The verdict

It seems too unlikely for the Warriors to get back into full-stride next season with Klay Thompson. It seems unlikely he can get close to the player he used to be. The current Warriors roster doesn’t have enough fire-power to take themselves to the finals. Stephen Curry can only do so much for his team, and the chances are Klay will average just about 15 or so points per game, which isn’t enough to push his side to glory. If they add enough pieces this off-season, everything can change for Golden State; however, as it is, they won’t be adding silverware to their collection for a long time.

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