Anyone who closely followed the Golden State Warriors this season was not the least bit surprised by the manner in which they were eliminated from the NBA playoffs.
The Warriors had been inconsistent all season, oscillating between championship contender and a team that deserved a lottery pick. On the road, they almost exclusively looked like the latter, finishing the season with an 11-30 road record.
It was only fitting that they had an absolute meltdown on the road in Game 6 against the Los Angeles Lakers. It was true to the team that they had been all season. How does the saying go? If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck…
The relatively early playoff exit has created lots of speculation about what the Warriors’ roster will look like next season.
Steve Kerr’s post-elimination media interview was particularly telling and definitely a message to the Golden State Warriors’ ownership and management.
Kerr told reporters, “to be fair I think this team ultimately maxed out. We were barely in the playoff picture most of this year … This is not a championship team.”
This may seem like Kerr stating something that many people already knew, but it actually is an important, pivotal point for the Warriors. Since Kerr joined the Warriors in 2014, the players, the coaches, and the management has had an unwavering belief that they have a roster capable of winning titles. Even in the down seasons of 2019-20 and 2020-21, there was a firm belief that injuries to key players, like Curry and Thompson, were all that was holding them back from returning to the top of the league.
In a way they were right. With a fully healthy core the Warriors won the title in 2022 for the fourth time in eight years. But this postseason, the Warriors don’t have any injuries that they can blame. There was a lot of ups and downs during the season and little distractions that accumulated to be big distractions, but at the end of the day, the core was about as healthy as you can hope for at the end of a long season. It wasn’t enough.
This is the first time during this nine-year run that we’ve ever heard Kerr, or anyone from the Warriors organization, publicly state that the roster as it stands is not good enough to win a title. This is a clear message from Kerr to the Warriors ownership — If significant changes aren’t made this offseason, we will not win a championship next year either.
Joe Lacob and the Warriors ownership had been stubbornly sticking to their two-timeline plan of developing youth while competing for titles. The first cracks in that plan came this season when there was an essential mid-season swap of former number two overall pick James Wiseman for Gary Payton II.
If the front office is going to take the hint from Kerr, they will have to derail the two timeline plan. If they plan to keep the core three intact, which is what all indications have been from Kerr and Steph/Draymond/Klay, then the most realistic assets that they have to improve are their remaining youth.
Some combination of Jordan Poole, Jonathan Kuminga, and Moses Moody is likely to be dealt during the offseason. At least that’s what Kerr wants if you read between the lines of his statement.
If the Warriors’ management heeds Kerrs’ constructive criticism, they will make off-season moves. If they don’t, they are essentially fielding a roster that even the head coach doesn’t believe in. Get ready for an active summer of free-agent signings and trades.