The year 2021 is upon us, and in the land of Golden State, much has changed in this new decade. The Warriors are trying to make the playoffs, let alone earn a trip to the NBA Finals, as they did for five consecutive seasons from 2014-15 to 2019. Star guard Klay Thompson is out for the second consecutive campaign due to injury, and the roster is seemingly in upheaval.
Superstar Stephen Curry is still running the show, however (and thankfully). But with his fellow three-time NBA champion Draymond Green yet to play, the veteran guard has had to lean on the uneven play of new wings Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre. The Warriors got off to an awful start, getting blown out by the Nets and Bucks before a Damion Lee buzzer-beater took down the Bulls, and Curry, with help from Wiggins in the fourth quarter, led a triumph against the Pistons.
The readily apparent ability of rookie center James Wiseman also helped Curry and the Warriors in Detroit. In fact, his rapid accent has changed the direction of this team and franchise. Wiseman’s skills are complete enough to help Golden State win now, or rather, when Green returns to the lineup in 2021, most likely on New Years Day against the Blazers. Plus, he’s an absolute long-term piece on the Warriors, much like Green and Curry–and unlike Wiggins and Oubre.
Succinctly speaking, Wiggins and Oubre are best suited to be role players on this club. The best three options, and thus named (what else) the “Big 3,” are Curry, Green and Wiseman. We’ll see the trio start to grow together rapidly when Green is back in action.
It’s a thought I had after the Warriors’ first two games, and The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami beat me to the punch by a mile in an article the other day. Here’s part of what he wrote:
The Warriors were awful in their first two games this season, both against elite Eastern Conference teams. And during those two embarrassing losses, the Warriors were also pleasantly stunned by the confident and buoyant play of 19-year-old rookie center James Wiseman, who was as surprisingly good as his more veteran teammates were staggeringly bad.
So as the Warriors head into Sunday’s game against the Bulls, they find themselves facing reality and on the precipice of a pretty dramatic shift in focus toward Wiseman and slightly (or more than slightly) away from athletic wings Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr., who are in their mid-20s and combine to cost the Warriors well more than $100 million (counting luxury-tax penalties) this season.The Athletic
Kawakami mentioned that this could of course change if Wiggins and Oubre come alive. Wiggins already did, with his 17-point fourth quarter against the Pistons. But Wiggins is bound to be inconsistent (and good), as he has for his entire career. Oubre is young and skilled, but until further notice, he is not a franchise-type player either.
Later in Kawakami’s piece, he hammered the point home a bit further.
Curry is still the centerpiece. Green and Thompson are the cohort legends. Wiseman is the player who can make them better now and carry the team into another era. And there’s your new Warriors order.The Athletic
So, the roster isn’t in upheaval. It’s merely shifting. And doesn’t it feel better to know that Wiggins and Oubre can revolve around Curry, Wiseman and Green rather than feel the full brunt of the pressure to “replace” Klay Thompson? And when Thompson returns, The Warriors’ original Big 3, the Splash Bros. plus Green, will have the talented Wiseman to help them contend for titles this decade and until they’re old and gray, the basketball version.
(Photo credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)