The Golden State Warriors have gone through a lot in the three seasons since they were last at the peak of their powers, making the last of their five initial NBA Finals appearances in 2019, ultimately losing in six games to the Toronto Raptors.
That subsequent offseason featured a roster overhaul after two-time Finals MVP Kevin Durant left for Brooklyn, and Andre Igoudala was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in a deal to acquire D’Angelo Russell. The Warriors would also lose Klay Thompson for the first of two-and-a-half seasons after he tore his ACL during Game 6 of the 2019 Finals.
The following two seasons were a far departure from the supernova of greatness NBA fans grew accustomed to for the previous five seasons. The Warriors moved to San Francisco, leaving the fan-favorite Oakland Arena for the posh new Chase Center. What followed the subsequent two regular-season campaigns was a 15-50 COVID-19 shortened season 2019-2020, punctuated by the three-month absence of Stephen Curry due to a broken hand.
“None of these people really removed us from this space,” Green told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk of the team missing the playoffs the previous two seasons. “Toronto beat us, but no one really came and said, ‘All right, the Golden State Warriors’ time is up.'”
Draymond: “None of these people really removed us from this space. Toronto beat us, but no one really came and said, 'All right, the Golden State Warriors' time is up.'" https://t.co/gNK8gsRYwV— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) May 23, 2022
The Warriors didn’t spend that season just losing; at the 2020 trade deadline, the Warriors acquired Andrew Wiggins, a top-3 protected first-round pick and a second-rounder. Although the Warriors weren’t invited to the Orlando Bubble, the future looked bright.
The Warriors spent the offseason going into the 2020-21 season drafting James Wiseman with the No. 2 overall pick. However, the Warriors’ wind got knocked out of them when Thompson tore his Achilles during a pickup game, forcing him to miss the entirety of the season.
The Warriors responded to yet another tumultuous season by qualifying for the newly-created Play-In Tournament thanks to Curry’s scoring prowess, winning his second scoring title and leading the Warriors to a 39-33 record. However, the Warriors hit a brick wall after playing so hard to get to the Play-In Tournament, ultimately losing to the Lakers and the Grizzlies for the final two spots in the playoffs.
“We didn’t leave the space because we just got too old to do it,” Green told Youngmisuk. “We didn’t leave the space because all of us went our separate ways. We left the space because Klay Thompson was out, and then he was out again, and Andre [Iguodala] wasn’t here.
“And then Steph Curry was out. We didn’t leave this space because we weren’t capable of being in the space anymore.”
Heading into this last regular-season campaign, many around the NBA believed that the Warriors would once again be title favorites when healthy. Thompson finally had his glorious on-court return, playing for the first time in 941 days in January against the Pacers. But the season was marred by injuries to Draymond Green and Curry. However, the emergence of third-year guard Jordan Poole helped offset those losses.
The Warriors (53-29) finished the regular season with the third-best record in the West. They went on to gentlemen sweep the Nikola Jokic-led Nuggets, beat Ja Morant and the upstart Grizzlies in six games, and are on the verge of zooming past another superstar in Luka Doncic and the Mavs in a sweep.
This run is even more impressive because the Warriors have beaten the young teams and superstars who are supposed to have next as this Warriors core grows older. Even as their Western Conference foes continue to grow, none of them have close to replacing the Warriors at the top of the League they ruled for five straight seasons.
Heading into Tuesday’s Game 4 against the Mavericks, the Warriors will have their first chance to sweep a WCF foe since 2019, when they beat the Trail Blazers to advance to that fateful 2020 NBA Finals loss. The Dubs have won nine straight conference finals games, going back to a Game 7 win against the Rockets in 2018
“For us to get back to this stage and win one playoff series, let alone where we are now, it’s not motivation,” said Curry, who finished Game 3 against Dallas with 31 points, 11 assists, and five rebounds. “It’s more of an excitement that we can do it a different way.
“The motivation is that we’re back on this stage with an opportunity to chase the Finals appearance after a two-year hiatus with our core and a new cast of characters.”