If you were a Dubs role player for the past two and a half years, you probably thought you found a pretty great racquet.
Steve Kerr helped you fit into a player-friendly system. Stephen Curry’s gravity creates plenty of openings for you. Then there’s Draymond Green, finding you with the pass whenever you are open, mentoring you on the defensive end, and helping you take things up a few notches in an area highly valued by other front office execs.
With the return of Klay Thompson, the get-your-minutes-as-you-please Warriors are a thing of the past.
The 2019-20 Warriors Know What I’m Talking About
On a team where Glenn Robinson III averaged 31.6 minutes per game, the Warriors tried to be competitive for all of about five games.
Then came the magnificent tank job masterminded by Steve Kerr. The Warriors said they were giving “try-outs” to NBA rejects, likely just to avoid fines from the league office.
That, and the fact that a pandemic ended things early.
Next up, the Lessons of the 2020-21 Season
The Warriors front office needed this season.
Furthermore, they needed to learn what role players could work in Kerr’s system.
Kent Bazemore’s erratic decision-making? Not great in a read-and-react system. Brad Wanamaker as your backup point guard? Not exactly Shaun Livingston. Finally, I’m happy Kelly Oubre Jr. is finding greener pastures in Charlotte, but his god-awful season essentially killed his “Tsunami Papi” branding.
In addition to missing the playoffs, the Warriors missed what had made them so great in the first place. The offense stagnated to 20th in offensive rating. Consequently, the team floated around the 10th seed, flirting with an under .500 record.
They only stepped on the gas in April, winning 16 of their last 22, including six straight, before falling in the Play-In.
Conversely, they got 39 games out of James Wiseman, his most in a season since his high school days. Equally important was sending Jordan Poole to the G-League, turning him into the asset he is today.
So What Happens Klay Thompson Returns to Playing 30+ Minutes per Game?
Klay clearly has some rust to shake off. In his first three games back, he has yet to eclipse 40% shooting from the field.
Hovering at around 20 minutes per game, the Warriors are just trying to get Thompson’s feet wet again. With one of the best records in the NBA, there’s time to take their foot off the gas pedal a bit and let the man do his thing.
Nevertheless, Klay Thompson will get back to most, if not all, of what he was in years past: a perennial All-Star and the perfect complement to Stephen Curry.
Interestingly enough, Jordan Poole’s role looks stable through those first three games, averaging roughly 23 minutes since Klay’s return. Playing the same position as Thompson, he’s shown his value playing as a 6th man.
We probably won’t be seeing too many more 30+ minute games out of DeadPoole this season.
But What’s Going to Change?
The main culprit for players’ reduced minutes will not come as Klay Thompson returns. Instead, it will come as the Warriors change their philosophy for winning.
Gone are the nights where Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga are trotted out as sideshows of a blowout win or loss. The same goes for JTA and Gary Payton II, except in spot minutes or for some niche specialty lineups.
Alternatively, it will be those veterans signed at the beginning of the season that are finally allowed to fulfill their duties: to win some damn basketball games.
Sure, the high-octane, high-flying Warriors from the first half of the 2021-22 season were terrific to watch. But we all knew that Klay Thompson was coming back at some point. Now that he’s here, a few Warriors who’ve gotten too used to their minutes may wake up to reality with a SPLASH.