- For the first time in five years, the Golden State Warriors are not the favourites to win the NBA Finals.
- Warriors star Klay Thompson suffered a major ACL injury in the team’s Game 6 loss to the Toronto Raptors in the finals earlier this year, and forward Kevin Durant left the team for the Brooklyn Nets after tearing his achilles tendon in Game 5.
- Thompson is expected to miss the majority of the 2019-20 season, leaving the Warriors depleted in an increasingly competitive Western conference.
- However, in an interview with Business Insider, Thompson said the team can put together another championship run in the next five years with a core that now includes all-star guard D’Angelo Russell.
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Over the course of the last five seasons the Golden State Warriors have put together one of the most impressive runs in NBA history, winning three championships in five straight finals appearances and setting a regular season win record during the 2015-16 season.
But in the closing moments of this year’s NBA Finals, it looked as though the Warriors’ dynasty was crumbling. First, forward Kevin Durant tore his achilles tendon while attempting to bring the team back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Toronto Raptors; then, shooting guard Klay Thompson suffered an ACL injury in a game 6 loss that gave the Raptors their first NBA championship.
Durant ultimately decided to leave the Warriors for the Brooklyn Nets in the off-season, having earned two NBA Finals MVP awards in three seasons with the Warriors. The Warriors made the best of the situation by trading for Nets all-star D’Angelo Russell, who was left without a spot in the Nets’ rotation when Brooklyn signed ball-dominant point guard Kyrie Irving.
Thompson’s injury is expected to keep him off the court for the majority of the 2019-20 season, leaving the Warriors without one of the core pieces that has anchored their championship teams. The team will have to compete against an improved Western conference and several new superstar duos, including the Lakers’ LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and the Rockets’ James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
Despite their upcoming challenges, Thompson said in an interview with Business Insider that the assumptions that the Warriors’ dynasty run is over are premature. Though he acknowledged the significant departures of Durant and supporting players like Andre Iguodala and DeMarcus Cousins, Thompson said the Warriors will be able to contend for an NBA title during the next five years.
Some NBA experts have suggested that Russell could be a potential trade prospect during the coming season, but Thompson and the team’s ownership expect the former No. 1 pick to become a major contributor for the team. With Thompson sidelined, the Warriors will need Russell to provide a secondary scoring threat alongside All-NBA first-teamer Stephen Curry. The team also re-signed forward Draymond Green to a four-year, $US100 million contract extension to solidify his role as the team’s defensive general.
Thompson recently signed a five-year, $US190 million maximum contract with the Warriors, a sign that the team believes Thompson can return to all-star form after his recovery.
“I’ll still only be 30 years old when I return,” Thompson told Business Insider. “Especially after getting D’Angelo, we got something special in the Bay.”
The Warriors will open the 2019-20 NBA season in a new arena in San Francisco, the Chase Center. The Warriors had played in Oakland’s Oracle Arena since 1971 and have built a reputation as one of the NBA’s most dominant home teams during their five straight years of finals appearances.
“It’s sad leaving Oakland, but I’m happy we could bring them three more championships,” Thompson said. “They’re loyal and it’s really priceless.”
After spending the last five years as the favourite in the Western Conference, this Warriors team will have their work cut out for them, but Thompson believes the team will be ready to compete when the season begins.
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