In last year’s play-in tournament, the Warriors lost consecutive games to the Lakers and Grizzlies, missing out on the real postseason. In response to their early exit, Golden State management made only fringe changes to their roster during the 2021 offseason. Expectations weren’t exactly high at the beginning of the season for Stephen Curry and company.
Las Vegas predicted they wouldn’t win over 48.5 games in 2021-22, and their championship odds came in at +1100. It’s safe to say the 35-13 Warriors have outperformed their predictions through the first half of the season.
Stephen Curry is up to his old tricks, scoring 25.8 points per game and jumping into the MVP conversation. Draymond Green has also had a bit of a renaissance. He’s the Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner and the engine that runs the Warriors’ number one rated defense.
Andrew Wiggins is amid the best season of his career, morphing from an inefficient wing into a true two-way force who has a fringe chance of making the All-Star team. Jordan Poole upped his game this year, and with a $2.2 million salary, is one of the best deals in the NBA.
Klay Thompson’s also back. He was gone for what seemed like forever, but through seven games this season, Curry’s partner in the backcourt looks spry and ready to help the Warriors make a long playoff push.
The Warriors are the real deal this season.
Below we give 10 reasons Golden State will walk away with another chip in 2022.
10. The Warriors Will Be Even Better When James Wiseman Returns From Injury
James Wiseman, the second-year center from Memphis, has yet to play in 2021-22 as he recovers from a knee injury. Last season, as a rookie, he showed he’s already a legitimate rim protector and roll man for the Warriors.
Last season he scored 11.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG, and 0.9 BPG while defending 11.9 field goal attempts per game and holding his man to 2.8% under their normal average.
James Wiseman will be a massive boon for the Warriors as a true seven-footer against teams with good offensive 5’s. He’s one of the few players on the planet who can bother bruisers like Nikola Jokic or Joel Embiid, and he’ll help take the pressure off Draymond Green at the rim.
Earlier in January, head coach Steven Kerr gave reporters an update on Wiseman’s recovery, “His knee is feeling good. His spirits are up. He’s bouncing around practice — high energy. He’s getting ready to play with some contact. It’s exciting just to see a smile on his face and to see him back after this long of an absence.”
It seems like James Wiseman will be back sooner than later, which is good news for a Warriors squad that could use his size in the middle as they make their way towards the finals.
9. Jordan Poole’s Shift To The Bench Makes Him One Of The Best Sixth Men In The League
Jordan Poole played the first half of the season as the Warriors starting shooting guard next to Stephen Curry in the backcourt. Now that Golden State’s second Splash Brother is back in the lineup, Poole finds himself coming off the bench as a player who instantly becomes one of the best subs in the league.
Compare Jordan Poole’s 2021-22 numbers versus the top bench players in the league:
Jordan Poole: 16.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.3 APG, 33.9 3P%, 5.1 +/-
Tyler Herro: 20.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.9 APG, 42.9 3P%, 2.4 +/-
Kelly Oubre Jr.: 16.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 0.9 APG, 37.4 3P%, 1.1 +/-
Jordan Clarkson: 15.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.3 APG, 32.0 3P%, 4.5 +/-
Buddy Hield: 14.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.0 APG, 37.0 3P%, -1.6 +/-
Tyler Herro is clearly the Sixth Man of the Year front runner, but Jordan Poole’s overall numbers compare favorably to Oubre Jr., Clarkson, and Hield’s production.
We can’t expect Poole’s point average to stay north of 16 going forward because he’ll be playing fewer minutes the rest of the season with Klay Thompson in the fold. Still, he’s shown this season he’s a capable starting shooting guard on a championship-caliber team who can get buckets in bunches and hold his own on the less fun end (43.3 DFG%). Poole is easily one of the best bench players in the association.
Any team would love to have a player like Jordan Poole, who can soak up heavy minutes as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson rest on the bench. He’s just another reason the Warriors roster is stacked this season and primed to hang another banner.
8. Andrew Wiggins Is An All-Star Candidate This Season
Before this season, Andrew Wiggins was known for three things:
1. He was hyped-up as the next big thing but turned into another number-one pick bust.
2. He was an inefficient offensive chucker who shifted into second gear on the less fun end.
3. He had the best nickname in the league, “Maple Jordan.”
This year in San Francisco, he’s changed the narrative. Wiggins is averaging 18.1 points per game off only 14.1 field goal attempts while drilling 40.4% of his three-point attempts and playing some of the best wing defense in the league.
In the talent-heavy Western Conference, Andrew Wiggins almost certainly won’t make the All-Star team. Still, he’s in the running, and the fact that he’s in the conversation after the reputation he built up over the early years of his career is impressive.
This season, Maple Jordan has been an integral part of the Warriors’ success, a much better two-way player than the man he replaced on Golden State, D’Angelo Russell.
Wiggins is playing intelligent and efficient offensive basketball. He takes nearly 80% of his shots at the rim or beyond the arc, avoiding the dreaded dead zone between 10 feet and the three-point line that he relied on so much in Minnesota, cratering his value.
His 2021-22 shot chart is impressive:
He takes 18.4% of his shots from 0 to 3 feet and connects at a 74.6% clip.
He takes 24.6% of his shots from 3 to 10 feet and hits 50.0% of his attempts.
He takes 38.0% of his shots from deep and drills 40.4%.
Wiggins has proved a great compliment to Stephen Curry by spreading the floor from deep and driving to the rack against closeouts.
On the less fun end, Andrew Wiggins has finally leveraged his excellent 6-7 size and athleticism to morph into an outstanding defender who can body up opposing wings like Paul George, Jimmy Butler, and Jayson Tatum.
7. The Warriors Have Four Of The Best Three-Point Shooters In The League
You know about Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson's long-distance ability. They form the best shooting backcourt of all time, and both players can win a game by themselves from beyond the arc.
Their career shooting numbers are ridiculous:
Stephen Curry: 3,041 total three-pointers made, 42.8 career 3P%, led the league in three-pointers made seven seasons, only player to make over 400 three-point shots in a season (2015-16)
Klay Thompson: 1,814 total three-pointers made, 41.8 career 3P%, seven seasons with at least 200 three-pointers made
Compare their numbers to Joe Harris’s, a player who is probably the best high-volume three-point specialist in the league:
Joe Harris: 874 three-pointers made, 43.9 career 3P%, one season with at least 200 three-pointers made
Note: Joe Harris is a “three-point specialist.” He plays subpar D and takes 2/3 of his field goal attempts from deep. At the same time, Thompson and Curry both play excellent defense, can pass the ball, score at the rim, shoot from mid-range, and of course, connect from deep.
Andrew Wiggins has also become a solid high-volume three-point shooter, launching 5.3 shots from deep and hitting above 40%.
Otto Porter Jr. rounds out the Warriors quartet of excellent long-distance marksmen. He shoots 3.9 bombs from beyond the arc and hits at a 40.3% mark.
The combination of Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, and Otto Porter Jr. around Stephen Curry ensures that the Warriors always have at least two excellent shooters on the floor at all times, creating space for the entire squad and constantly putting pressure on opposing defenses. Golden State’s shooting will undoubtedly be a boon in the postseason.
6. The Warriors Rank First In Basketball-References Simple Rating System
Basketball-Reference’s simple rating system (SRS) ranks each NBA squad by their point differential and strength of schedule. Last season, the NBA’s two finalists, the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks, finished third and fourth respectively in SRS, showing this ranking means something.
Several factors have contributed to the Warriors’ impressive play this season.
They’ve had good injury luck. Unlike some of the other championship hopefuls (Lakers and Nets), the Warriors have navigated the 2021-22 season virtually unscathed.
The Golden State Warriors have also competed hard every night, building chemistry and trust in each other, which also differs from the Lakers and Nets, two teams that have often coasted through games.
The Warriors are a deep and talented team with a defensive anchor in Draymond Green, a superstar in Stephen Curry, and two more All-Star caliber players, Andrew Wiggins and Klay Thompson.
The NBA’s history has taught us that a championship squad needs to check off each item on our list above, which is excellent news for the Warriors and their title hopes this season.
5. Steve Kerr Is The Best Coach In The NBA
Gregg Popovich used to be the best head coach in the league. His presence used to guarantee a trip to the postseason. Not so much anymore. The Spurs have struggled in recent years.
Steve Kerr has taken over for “Pop” as the best coach in the league. He’s won three titles and made the finals five times. But let’s go beyond his accolades.
Steve Kerr brings a joy to the Warriors that’s infectious. He rarely gets rattled, and he never got negative even when the losses piled up during 2019-20 (the Warriors finished last in the Western Conference).
An NBA head coaching position is about the most stressful job a person can have in this world. When things go wrong, the entire world not only knows, but they comment about it repeatedly, making your blunders household conversation. It’s incredibly difficult to find a coach who can navigate the difficulties of an NBA season with equanimity like Steve Kerr, but his relaxed attitude in the face of a raging media hurricane flows through his team, helping his players transcend the stress of being in the public eye.
You won’t see the Warriors crack under any type of playoff pressure. They don’t choke. They don’t even get tight during crunch time.
Steve Kerr gives them an edge in the postseason.
4. Klay Thompson Is Back
Klay Thompson returned on January 9th against the Cleveland Cavaliers after missing the 2019-20 and 2020-21 season with a torn left ACL and then a torn right Achilles. He’s played seven games since, and he’s looked excellent for a guy who didn’t lace them up for 941 days and suffered two of the most devastating injuries the human leg can sustain.
He’s averaging 14.7 points per game and 33.3% from deep across 22.0 minutes per game. More importantly, he’s shown excellent burst to the rim and good side-to-side agility on defense, evidenced by the way he’s holding his assignments to a massive 13.0% under their typical field goal percentage. Overall, across 149 minutes, the Warriors are 4.4 points better per 100 possessions with Thompson on the court.
The Splash Brothers have made it to five consecutive finals from 2015 to 2019. When Curry and Thompson are both healthy and on the court, they bend the rules of the game with their incredible outside shooting and high-quality D.
3. Draymond Green Is The Best Defender In The NBA
Draymond Green is one of maybe three people in the world (Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo are included) who can switch onto any NBA player and shut him down. Green has the mobility to stay in front of speedy guards like Donovan Mitchell or Zach LaVine. He has the size to handle wings like LeBron James or Jimmy Butler, and he has the length to bother centers like Joel Embiid or Anthony Davis.
Draymond Green’s defensive stats are impressive. He has an excellent 41.5 defensive field goal percentage, contests 8.9 shots per game, and averages 2.4 deflections per contest.
Still, Green’s value on defense can’t be measured by his numbers. He’s the most intense player in the NBA. The former second-round pick makes Jimmy Butler look warm and cuddly. Green’s impassioned play on D has trickled down to his teammates. In the past, Andrew Wiggins and Otto Porter Jr. were negative defenders. This season, both players fly around the perimeter, harassing every opposing player they lay their eyes on. That’s the effect Green has had up in San Francisco and one of the biggest reasons this Warriors team is scary.
2. The Warriors Have The Best Overall D In The League
The Warriors rank first in the NBA in defense at 102.6, a full two points ahead of second place Phoenix Suns (104.9 DEFRTG). You know about Draymond Green’s defensive prowess. He’s Golden State’s quarterback on D.
You might not know that the Warriors are stacked with long and athletic wings.
Andrew Wiggins has become a lockdown wing. Steve Kerr routinely tasks him with guarding the opposing squad’s best offensive wing, and he’s responded with some of the best defensive numbers in the league. He’s holding his man to 4.3% under his normal field goal percentage, and he averages a very impressive 4.0 contested three-point shots per game.
Gary Payton II is a disruptive speedster in the backcourt. He has a 3.9 steel percentage (98th percentile), and he’s proven adept at disrupting opposing offensive schemes.
Juan Toscano-Anderson has a solid 41.9 defensive field goal percentage, and he doesn’t back down from anybody.
Andre Iguodala is back, and he ranks second in NBA.com’s defensive rating (minimum 15 MPG) at a 95.9 mark.
Otto Porter Jr. isn’t far behind Iguodala, landing 12th in DEFTG (minimum 15 MPG) at 99.8.
The Warriors can throw waves of solid wings at opposing teams in the playoffs, finding the best matchup in any situation.
1. Stephen Curry Is Ready To Win His First Finals MVP Trophy
Stephen Curry has two regular season MVP awards to his name, but he’s never won a Finals MVP trophy. This postseason he’ll be ready to remedy his lack of postseason hardware.
This season, Stephen Curry is the best player on the Warriors, and it isn’t close. His on/off splits are ridiculous. According to Cleaning the Glass, the Warriors are 18.6 points better per 100 possessions with Curry on the court, tops in the league out of all point guards. Dunks and Threes give him a +7.6 estimated plus-minus rating, second in the NBA.
Stephen Curry’s incredible gravity morphs the Warriors into title favorites, and he’s primed to help his squad march through a weekend Western Conference to the NBA finals where they match up nicely against the top squads out East.
This is Curry’s time to bring another title up to Northern California and win his first Finals MVP.
Don’t Be Surprised If The Warriors Win It All
The Warriors have all the pieces they need to solve the championship puzzle.
They have a superstar in Stephen Curry.
They have a Defensive Player of the Year candidate with Draymond Green.
They have Klay Thompson, an All-Star to pair with Stephen Curry.
They have an excellent two-way wing with Andrew Wiggins, who can lock down opposing offensive weapons.
They have an offensive spark plug off the bench, Jordan Poole.
They have a true seven-footer, James Wiseman, who can harass opposing post players.
They have depth with Otto Porter Jr., Andre Iguodala, Kevon Looney, and Juan Toscano-Anderson.
That’s a lot of “they have’s,” which is why we believe the Warriors will win the title in 2021-22.