March 31, 2020, 12:14 pm
The Warriors season started off with the hopes of making another playoff run but their path was going to be much more difficult with all of the turnover that happened in the offseason. The Warriors lost Kevin Durant to the Nets but were able to acquire D’Angelo Russell as an asset to flip later on down the road. They started the season without another All-Star, Klay Thompson, who suffered an ACL tear in June and was expected to miss most of the season in a “best-case” scenario.
On top of losing two of their four All-Stars, they also would be without Andre Iguodala (traded to the Grizzlies in the offseason) and Shaun Livingston (retired). With all that being said, the Warriors were down from a “Hamptons five” to a “Hamptons two” to start the year.
Defensive woes to start the season
To start the season, the Warriors were set to take on a new-look Clippers team that featured the defending Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard. Remember that Leonard was the one who helped take down the Warriors dynasty last June. The Warriors didn’t look good out of the gate as they were down by 11 points by halftime.
In the second half, the team totally lost all defensive motivation as they gave up 46 points in the third quarter alone and went into the final frame down by 24. After watching that game, Warriors fans were nervous but still had hopes that the team could be competitive against most NBA teams.
Fans had even more reason to worry after watching the team’s second game of the season. The Warriors faced the Thunder and got trounced, giving up 35 points in each of the first three quarters in what became a 28-point defeat.
In those first two games, one thing became apparent. The Warriors were going to struggle mightily on the defensive side of the court. After the Thunder loss, Draymond Green had the quote of the year for the team as he explained why the Warriors were dominant for so many years and why they stunk to start the season as he was quoted after the Thunder loss stating, “Everybody loved our offense, but it wasn’t our offense that was making us great. It was our defense. I’ve said that for years. Our defense right now is nonexistent. I don’t even think we know what defense is right now.”
Green has proven to be a very reliable defender throughout his career and he definitely was right about the team’s sudden struggles on that end of the court. They were outshot by both the Clippers and Thunder by an enormous 20 percent from the field. In the opening night loss to the Clippers, they were outshot .625 to .394 and in the loss to the Thunder they were outshot .564 to .326.
After the loss to the Thunder, those who had bet on the Warriors over this season were starting to rethink it. It started to feel like it was going to be a long season for the Dubs.
To make matters worse, the team got bit by injuries to several of their key players and it all started with the legendary shooter himself, Steph Curry. Curry broke his left hand in the fourth game of the season, which required surgery and forced him to sit out for four consecutive months. If Warriors fans didn’t already write this season off after getting to witness the team’s defensive liability, Curry’s injury definitely brought awareness that this would not be their season.
Luckily, the team still had Green, who has been a part of their dynasty since the beginning. However, that didn’t last long as he suffered an injury to a ligament in his finger in the team’s next game (fifth game of the season).
Damion Lee (non-displaced right hand fracture) and D’Angelo Russell (left thumb sprain), also got hit by the “hand bug” as they both suffered injuries that would force them to miss a combined 23 games, nine games for Russell and 14 for Lee. All of these injuries occurred within the first month of the campaign.
The writing was truly on the wall for the Warriors at this time as it became clear that they did not have enough in the tank to make a run at the playoffs this season. The team that had played in five consecutive Finals just ran out of gas, as is inevitable for dynasties at some point in time.
Unreliable Fantasy Team
The Warriors clearly had to change their course early on in the year as they were without everyone that played a significant role in the 2019 Finals except for Draymond Green. The only two other players that were even on the Finals roster that played in more than five games for the Warriors this season were Jacob Evans and Kevon Looney. Evans played less than two minutes of the series against the Raptors and has had trouble finding his footing on an NBA roster. Looney was a rotational player for the team but has been struggling with injuries since last year’s playoffs.
This season, the team announced that Looney was suffering from neuropathy, a condition which causes pain and numbness in the extremities that has a wide range of causes, including trauma. The condition could stem from the chest injuries that he tried to play through in the 2019 Finals but this has not been reported. This basically derailed Looney’s 2019-20 season as he was only able to average 13 minutes across 20 games this season.
The team chose to treat any rotational player as if they were in bubble wrap. Anytime Green or Russell suffered a minor injury, they would miss more time than what would be expected from a competitive team.
All of this uncertainty made the 2019-20 Warriors one of the most difficult to predict from a fantasy perspective. The surefire top-5 pick, Curry, was gone. Thompson was out through the All-Star break at least, and then later confirmed to be out for the year. Draymond Green and D’Angelo Russell could be rostered throughout the season but not without headaches (especially in head-to-head formats) due to missed games.
The most reliable fantasy player on the Warriors prior to the trade deadline was Willie Cauley-Stein. You could have won a lot of money predicting that at the beginning of the season. Other players had flashes as Eric Paschall, Ky Bowman and Damion Lee were on and off of rosters at times during portions of the season. The Warriors became a stay-away from a fantasy perspective except for WCS, Russell and Green.
Sellers at the Deadline
In prior seasons, the Warriors had traded many of their second-round picks away in order to compete in the present, leaving themselves with only one second-round pick through the 2026 draft. All that changed at this deadline as they advertised themselves as sellers with a record of 10-35 by the end of January.
The Mavs were the first partner the Warriors found as they were in the market for a rotation center after Dwight Powell tore his Achilles and was ruled out for the remainder of the season. In exchange for Cauley-Stein, the Warriors netted themselves a second-round pick.
The team from the Bay followed up that move with two more trades on deadline day, including a blockbuster that sent D’Angelo Russell and others to Minnesota in exchange for Andrew Wiggins, a top-3 protected Wolves first-round pick from 2021 (becomes unprotected in 2022), and a future second-rounder. They also shipped out Alec Burks and Glen Robinson III to the Sixers in exchange for three second-round picks.
It was rumored ever since D’Angelo joined the Warriors that his time in San Francisco would be short-lived and that is exactly what happened as he was only with the team for 33 games. The organization was able to evaluate Russell’s fit within the Warriors’ system and determined that the liability on the defensive end was too great. Russell has struggled mightily on the defensive side of the court since coming to the NBA and nothing changed with his time in northern California.
Wiggins might not be the offensive threat that Russell is, but he has proven to be an above-average defender since joining the team. The front office and coaching staff believe mightily in Wiggins’ fit within the team dynamic as they look to get back to their winning ways. Even if Russell is the better basketball player, Wiggins is the better player within the system that the Warriors have built over the last decade.
A team that came into the season with only one second-round pick across the next seven drafts left the deadline with five additional second-round picks, Andrew Wiggins and a very intriguing first-round pick from the Wolves. The rest of the league better watch out if the Warriors can find more players in the second rounds of drafts like Draymond Green and Eric Paschall.
The Emergence of Marquese Chriss
Although the Russell trade had a much bigger impact in terms of real basketball, it wasn’t even close to the most impactful from a fantasy perspective. The WCS trade was one of the rare moments of the season that the Warriors became relevant in the landscape of fantasy. Cauley-Stein’s departure left a void at the center position that needed to be filled as he had started 37 of 41 games for the team and averaged 22.9 minutes per game over that span.
With the roster composition that existed, it was clear that Marquese Chriss was a hot waiver wire pick up as his only competition was Omari Spellman. Chriss went on to beat out Spellman easily and produced 5th/3rd value as he started all 18 games after Cauley-Stein was traded and only missed one game due to injury. Again, you could have made a lot of money betting that Chriss would have been the best fantasy value post trade-deadline.
After being drafted eighth overall in 2016, Chriss had already worn out his welcome for three teams in his first three seasons before the Warriors brought him in on a training camp contract. He wasn’t guaranteed to make the roster but did so well in training camp that the team waived Alfonzo McKinnie in order to create a roster spot for the 22-year-old. He was even waived mid-season in order for the Warriors to sign two-way player, Damion Lee, to a full-time contract. He was only gone for a short period as the Warriors signed him back, first on a two-way deal before converting it to a regular NBA contract.
Now, it appears as if Chriss is in the long-term plans for the Warriors moving forward as they look to build around their aging stars. Perhaps they were able to help actualize Chriss’ potential and he has definitely become a name to consider in fantasy circles heading into next season.
The NBA season being suspended doesn’t have much of an impact on the Warriors from a playoff perspective as they are currently holding the worst record in the league with only 15 wins. That is four fewer wins than the closest teams, as both the Wolves and Cavs are sitting at 19 wins. The only reason that fans were excited for the end of the season was for the return of their two-time MVP, Stephen Curry.
It would have been interesting to see how Curry performed with the new additions on the team like Andrew Wiggins, Marquese Chriss, Eric Paschall and others. Unfortunately, the entire NBA was put on hold just as their All-Star returned from a four-month absence due to a hand fracture that required surgery to repair. Warriors fans will just have to wait a little bit longer to see Curry and the gang get back together.