The record shows that the Golden State Warriors struggle without Klay Thompson. It may be more of an uphill battle this season than once thought.
The last time the Golden State Warriors finished 3rd in their division, where they are currently projected to finish behind the Clippers and Lakers, was the 2010-2011 season, the year before Klay Thompson was drafted.
At that time, they were coached by Keith Smart, their leading executive was still Larry Riley, and Monta Ellis, David Lee and Jeremy Lin were all still on the roster.
These were the Lou Amundson years, if an era could have a name.
They were not good, but there was room for optimism.
Stephen Curry’s ankle injuries hadn’t yet taken over and he had just wrapped up his second season, averaging 18.6 points per game (ppg) and 5.8 assists per game per ESPN.com. Monta Ellis was the leading scorer, averaging 24.1 ppg, with the occasional 40+ point outburst.
It was a two-man guard show, similar to what we’re looking forward to this season, with David Lee chipping in through a lot of pick and roll actions and Dorell Wright throwing up over six threes per game.
Back then, Steve Nash and the Alvin Gentry-led Suns placed second in the division, Blake Griffin won Rookie of the Year for the Clippers, and Kobe Bryant’s Lakers went 57-25 for first place in the Pacific.
It was a very different time.
Fast forward to now, and we’re looking at a team on schedule to finish as the 7 seed in the West, with an over/under of 47 wins per Caesar’s Palace.
However, they are missing arguably their best two-way player, by far their best perimeter defender, and a guy who has only missed 26 games of 738 in his eight year career, including playoffs per Basketball-Reference.
It can’t be stated enough how big of a difference his absence is going to make.
In the games he’s been on the bench, the Warriors have gone 11-16, including 0-2 in the team’s most recent postseason run. Counting the final game in which he tore his ACL and missed the fourth quarter, Thompson made his on-court value clear with his absence.
It’s scary to think that despite adding an All-Star in D’Angelo Russell, the team could be in trouble early on.
Without Klay, they’ll need to solve their offensive puzzle quickly, and their perimeter defensive issues even quicker.
Because Klay’s been so invaluable and such a mainstay throughout this run, it’s not going to be an easy transition.
Assuming Russell can continue his offensive output, they should be able to score with most teams. But because they’ll be missing Klay on the defensive end, playing on the best perimeter scorer, it’s hard to foresee them playing perfectly out the gate.
To meet league-wide predictions, and to exceed them, they’ll need to mesh early on, and find new chemistry. History says it won’t be simple, even with three All-Stars. But they are a champion-led unit, and they are definitely up for the challenge.