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Why the Warriors Have a Solid Chance of Winning the NBA Title This Year

Caption: Photo by Edgar Chaparro on unsplash.com

For the 6th time in 8 years, the Golden State Warriors have become the champions of the Western Conference and advanced to the NBA Finals. This is quite the feat, with the last team making it to the finals 6 times in 8 years being the Chicago Bulls, then led by the legendary Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen (with current Golden State Head Coach Steve Kerr playing a key role alongside Jordan and Pippen). But while the Bulls emerged victorious on each of their trips to the finals, that’s not exactly the case for the Warriors. Led by veterans Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson, (and former teammate Kevin Durant), the Warriors have won 3 NBA championships in 5 trips to the finals since 2014. While Golden State’s finals record may not match the Bulls’, it’s still no small achievement. And this year, Golden State has a real shot at winning their first title since 2018.

The last 2 seasons have been some of the worst for the Warriors. At the start of the 2019-20 season, Kevin Durant, a staple in the Warrior’s roster, an NBA MVP, and a 3 time Olympian left them to join the Brooklyn Nets. In addition, Klay Thompson, the Warriors’ Shooting Guard and a player credited as one of the greatest shooters in NBA history missed the whole season. This was due to an ACL injury from the 2019 NBA Finals, where the Warriors lost to the Toronto Raptors in 6 games. Add that to Steph Curry, the NBA’s all-time leading 3-point scorer, breaking his hand early in the season and only playing in 5 games, and you’ve got a recipe that led to Golden State’s worst season since 2000. At the time of the season’s suspension in March 2020 (due to the Covid-19 pandemic), the Warriors had the worst record in the league. The 2021 season wasn’t much better. While recovering from his knee injury, Thompson sustained a torn Achille’s tendon and missed the entirety of the season again. Curry, however, had returned, and the team performed much better. But without Thompson, they weren’t at full power, and missed the playoffs for the second year in a row, although narrowly this time.

But this year, the Warriors have really turned it around. With the return of Klay Thompson, in addition to Curry being Curry and Draymond being Draymond, the Warriors once again had the makings of a solid team. At season’s end this April, the Warriors were 53-29, a far cry from their 73-9 2015-16 season, (the best season record in NBA history), but still the 3rd best record in the Western Conference, and tied for the best record in the Eastern Conference. At the opening of the playoffs, Golden State was not the favorite to win the Western Conference. They were seeded 3rd in the West, behind the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies. In the first round of the playoffs, they first faced the #6 seeded Denver Nuggets, led by 2-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokić. After finishing them off in 5 games, they faced the #2 seeded Memphis Grizzlies, a team who they were 0-2 against in the regular season. After 6 grueling games, the Warriors emerged victorious. Much of this was due to the reliability of their veterans like Curry, Green, and Thompson, but also thanks to younger players like Gary Payton II, who really shone during the series and recorded career-high rebounds and assists. It would also be remiss to not mention that during game 3 of the series, Grizzlies star player Ja Morant injured his right knee and missed the rest of the series. 

But, even at this point, the Warriors were by no means the favorite, with the #1 seeded Phoenix Suns still in the playoffs. But soon after, a miracle occurred. Luka Dončić and the Dallas Mavericks, seeded #4 in the Western Conference, emerged triumphant over the Phoenix Suns in 7 games, following a game 7 where the Mavericks completely dominated the Suns, leading by up to 42 at some points. Now the Warriors had to defeat the team who bested the #1 seed in the entire NBA and were led by a player with the highest scoring average in NBA playoff history to win the Western Conference. And so the Warriors asserted their dominance, beating the Mavericks in 6 games, with Thompson even outscoring Dončić in game 6. Kevon Looney, a relatively new addition to the team, was also huge in this series, recording career-high rebounds and points in both a great defensive and offensive effort as a center. The return of Thompson has been a huge boost to the Warriors’ offensive capabilities, and this was really exemplified in the series against the Mavericks. With the defeat of the Mavericks in 6 games, the Warriors are now kings of the Western Conference and will go on to face the Boston Celtics in the 2022 NBA Finals. 

The Warriors have had a tremendous season, and at this point, they are favored over the Boston Celtics by the SportsLine Projection Model. With the return of Klay Thompson as an offensive force, combined with the constant skill and grit of Draymond Green and Steph Curry, plus newer talent in Andrew Wiggins, Gary Payton II, and Kevon Looney, the Warriors seem to have, at the least, a very solid chance of defeating Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics. In the regular season, they were 1-1, with both games being pretty close. Considering the Warriors’ finals record, it could go either way, but either way, it’s shaping up to be a very entertaining series. Who knows, by the series’ end, Steph Curry could be hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy over his head. Catch game 1 on June 2nd at 6 PM.

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