Golden State Warriors could be headed for years of pain without significant change

Golden State Warriors v Sacramento Kings - Play-In Tournament
Golden State Warriors v Sacramento Kings - Play-In Tournament / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

After years of running through almost everything that came before them, the Golden State Warriors are no longer the envy of the league and rather a team now simply battling for survival.

The franchise's hopes of another playoff appearance went down in flames last Tuesday, but in reality their season was burnt far before their disastrous exit in Sacramento. Change has been promised in the aftermath, yet that's not just about the aspiration of returning to championship contention.

Significant change may be needed at the Golden State Warriors just to ensure they don't enter the doldrums of the Western Conference

The Warriors may need a shift simply to avoid falling further down the standings next season, such is the young talent across the Western Conference right now. As much as their youth shined this season, Golden State still rely on their veteran players headed by a 36-year-old Stephen Curry.

In contrast, the first-seed Oklahoma City Thunder are led by a 25-year-old Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the second-seed Denver Nuggets by a 29-year-old Nikola Jokic, and the third-seed Minnesota Timberwolves by a 22-year-old Anthony Edwards. Luka Doncic is 25 and Zion Williamson is 23, both of whom are also in the postseason albeit the latter is currently out through injury.

All these players are young and seemingly going nowhere, offering the question of how the Warriors can possibly re-establish a place above these teams moving forward? But for all the concern of those above them this season, a look below may provide an even scarier thought for Golden State.

The Houston Rockets nearly caught the Warriors for a spot in the Play-In Tournament, and possessing young players like Jalen Green, Alperun Sengun, Jabari Smith Jr. and Amen Thompson, it's hard to see them missing the postseason for too much longer.

The Memphis Grizzlies were ravaged by injury throughout the entire season, with a healthy Ja Morant, Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. likely to be bouncing back towards the playoff picture. Then you have the 7'4" phenom in San Antonio, with Victor Wembanyama's rookie season indicating that the Spurs' rebuild may be shorter than originally forecast.

Take a glass half empty approach and you can see why things could get dire for the Warriors if they sit idle. This isn't just about the franchise making the most of Curry while he's still at an incredibly high level, but it may be just as much about ensuring that the final years of his career aren't filled with an abundance of pain and complete irrelevance.