The Golden State Warriors saw things change drastically for the future of their franchise over the course of the last two games of the NBA Finals.
Kevin Durant went down with an Achilles injury and Klay Thompson suffered a torn ACL, leaving the Warriors' dynasty with a number of questions as to if this can continue.
Several members of our NBA.com staff discussed a couple hot-button topics surrounding what's next for the Warriors.
Would the Warriors have beaten the Raptors if they were fully healthy?
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): No.
Fair or not, the prevailing sentiment will likely be that if Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson were fully healthy, the Warriors would have rolled.
Not only is that supremely disrespectful to what the Raptors just accomplished, l also don't think it's true. Though it went six games and came one missed Curry 3-pointer from going to a Game 7, the Raptors very easily could have swept and probably should have won in five. They dominated this series and the manner in which they were built, with a steady dose contributions coming from every direction in a dizzying manner for Golden State to keep up with regardless of who stepped on the floor leads me to believe that this was simply Toronto's time.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): I think they would have. That's not a knock on the Raptors. The Warriors are just a completely different team when they're at full strength. Put it this way: Golden State scored at a rate of 118.3 points per 100 possessions with Durant on the court in the playoffs. Without him? That number plummeted to 110.3.
Obviously having someone who can go out and get 30 points on any given night helps, but his presence alone takes a lot of the pressure of Curry and Thompson, in a way that makes them one of the scariest offensive teams in league history.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): Since the ball bounced on the rim for what felt like an eternity in the Raptors' Game 7 win over the 76ers, it felt like it was destiny for Toronto to win their first title. But with that being said, after seeing one quarter of Kevin Durant playing on essentially one leg, I can't honestly say I believe the Raptors would have won if the Warriors were fully healthy.
This is not to take away from what the Raptors did by any means, it's simply giving credit to just how good KD is when he's at full strength. Toronto was able to tailor a gameplan around making things difficult for Klay and Steph and it worked, but when you add Durant into that mix it becomes impossible to bottle up all three of those offensive juggernauts.
There's no "janky" defence like a box-and-one that can stop three of the best shooters the game has ever seen. When Durant was healthy at the start of the Playoffs, everyone was ready to crown him as the best player in the league today and if he hadn't gotten injured, we could be talking about his historic postseason run instead of Kawhi Leonard's.
Even as a hobbled team, the Warriors still took the Raptors to six games - six extremely competitive games. I'm not even sure they would have even needed a fully healthy Thompson, just get KD back to full strength and I think the Warriors win their third straight title.
What should the Warriors do this offseason?
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): They should offer Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson the full five-year max and reports have begun to surface that it's exactly what the Warriors intend on doing. That's the obvious part.
In the meantime, it's all about filling in the margins with shooting and perimeter depth, a chore which starts with the NBA Draft. They currently have the 28th pick in the draft and they need to nail this pick with a ready-now player that can step in and contribute from day one. That's an admittedly tall task, especially picking that late. If I were them, I'd do everything in my power to draft Cameron Johnson out of North Carolina, a player who might be the best shooter in the draft, but who could be available late given the fact that he's already 23 years old. He's someone that can come in right now and shoot from NBA distance, an important trait given the Warriors need to add scoring to help tread water next season while they wait for Thompson to return.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): They've got to re-sign Durant and Thompson to max contracts, right? Doing so would eliminate any hope of having cap space for the next five years, but as long as the two of them, Curry and Green are on the same team, the Warriors would be the favourites to win the title.
When you have an opportunity to keep those players together, you do it at whatever cost.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): You have to bring back Klay and KD.
I know it's tough to throw that much money at two players in the midst of recovering from significant injuries, but that has to be a waiting game the Warriors are willing to play.
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Sure, it turns next season into somewhat of a throw away, making it extremely unlikely to make a title run with just Steph and Draymond, but if Thompson comes back late in the season they should still be able to make some noise as a playoff team. Then, the following season the gang is back together and if Durant's recovery goes well, they're right back to competing for championships year-in and year-out.
I'd offer them both five-year, max deals. Lock these two superstars up long-term, allow them to take as much time as they need to rehab their injuries and when they get back on the court Golden State will pick up right where they left off.
Was this the end of the Warriors' dynasty?
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): Not even close. Again, what if they lock up both Thompson and Durant long term? What if these injuries and the manner in which these players have rallied around each other ultimately becomes the reason they stay together?
It's definitely not a good thing they got hurt, but there is a world in which what just transpired is the spark that keeps this Warriors star core together moving forward. Even if that doesn't happen, they still have Stephen Curry and one of the best GMs in the NBA in Bob Myers.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): It's hard for me to believe that it is, but who really knows. While they're highly unlikely to make the Finals next season, there's a possibility that the Warriors bring back Thompson, Durant and Cousins, which would set them up to be the best team in the Western Conference again in 2020-21. There's also the possibility that those three leave in free agency and the Warriors are left having to build something new around an aging Curry and Green, so there's simply too much unknown at this point to give a definitive answer.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): For the time-being - yes.
If the Warriors can re-sign both Thompson and Durant, then that answer starts moving the needle to the "no" side. If both stars re-sign and can return to the players they were prior to these major injuries then this will NOT be the end of the Warriors' dynasty.
The league is going to be completely different between now and the time that Durant and Thompson both share the court together as, potentially, members of the Warriors. Who knows which superstars will team up together by then. Maybe Zion Williamson takes the league by storm or Giannis Antetokounmpo becomes completely unstoppable with a consistent 3-point shot. Anything can happen over the next year and a half.
But no matter what happens, if the Warriors can have Steph, Klay and KD all on the floor at the same time, completely healthy, this team will always have a shot at competing for a championship.
The first step is re-signing Durant and Thompson, then rehabbing their injuries, and then, the Warriors dynasty can get back on the track they've been on the past five years.
Where does this team rank all-time?
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): Number one. The best team of all-time.
Before long-time Celtics, Lakers and Bulls, or even Heat and Spurs fans starting sharpening their pitch forks, answer me this: did any of the aforementioned great teams completely alter the way that every single other team in the NBA operated?
The Warriors set the entire league on fire.
Teams that were on the fringe of making the playoffs and possibly competing for a championship threw away years of progression knowing they had no shot at beating Golden State. Teams that were on the fringe of winning a championship had to go back to the drawing board, finding any way possible to add more stars to their roster to compete with the firepower the Warriors have.
They changed the way free agents move in the offseason. They changed the way that teams approach the game in general - shooting more 3s, playing position-less basketball, switching heavily on defence.
The influence and impact this Warriors dynasty had on the NBA will change things for years running. That, to me, is why they're the best team of all-time.
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): It's too early to tell and it in part depends on what happens this summer. It's a cop out, but if they suddenly bring everyone back there's a roadmap to 2020-21 serving as the starting point for yet another extended run. To me this is an unanswerable question until we know how free agency shakes out. What won't change regardless is that they are the standard for excellence and are a model organization from top to bottom.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): I don't know exactly where I'd put them, but it has to be near the top. They're only the second team in NBA history to make five straight trips to the Finals and it culminated in three championships. Even if this is the end (which I don't think it is), this has been one of the most impressive runs we've ever seen.
Will the Warriors make the playoffs next season?
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): I'm going to say no.
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The West is unforgiving and will be even moreso next season with more teams in win-now mode given the wide open nature of it all. As we saw with the Lakers and LeBron James this season, a roster of one superstar and not much else leads nowhere. If the Warriors do re-sign Thompson and Durant, it certainly helps long term, but will result in a perilously thin team next year with extremely limited flexibility to add more pieces.
Curry's not exactly Iron Man either. The Nuggets, Rockets, Thunder, Blazers and Jazz figure to be as good or better. The Pelicans are adding Zion Williamson along with a potential king's ransom from an Anthony Davis trade to add next to Jrue Holiday. The Lakers are desperate to make a major move. The Clippers are positioned to be perhaps the best team in the conference if they strike gold in free agency. Even teams like the Kings and Mavericks figure to contend for a top eight finish. I could see 2019-20 shaping out as a punt season for the Warriors as they simply bide their time in the wake of these injuries.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): I think they will, yes. If their core of Curry, Green and, assuming he returns, Cousins can stay healthy, I could see this team winning 45-plus games next season. That's obviously a relatively big if - Curry has missed a total of 24 games over the last two regular seasons and Cousins has suffered two significant leg injuries in consecutive seasons - but the three of them should give the Warriors enough firepower to make it.
Also, I'm always hesitant to bet against Curry. I wouldn't be surprised to see him have another historic season and lead the Warriors back to the playoffs, even if Thompson and Durant miss the entire season.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): The Warriors will absolutely make the playoffs next season. I don't have a question in my mind about it.
As long as Curry can stay healthy, he'll be enough for the Warriors to still finish top-8 in the Western Conference. We could see Steph put up historic numbers trying to keep Golden State afloat. Who's to say the league's only unanimous MVP can't average 30-plus points per game and keep this team competitive while their two superstars heal?
I'm not going to bet against Curry - as long as he's healthy the Warriors will make the playoffs.
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