Why Warriors Won't Make a Deep Run in 2021 NBA Playoffs

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 29, 2021

Why Warriors Won't Make a Deep Run in 2021 NBA Playoffs

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press


    That's the best way to describe the 2020-21, Klay Thompson-less Golden State Warriors.

    In just over a week, they scored a double-digit win over the Philadelphia 76ers, lost to the Washington Wizards, steamrolled the Denver Nuggets and then forgot how to play basketball against the Dallas Mavericks.

    Inconsistency can be fun if you catch it on a good night, but it's hardly the descriptor any playoff team wants attached to it. That's why it's hard to see the Warriors advancing anywhere notable in the 2021 NBA playoffs, along with the following reasons.

Lack of Scoring Depth

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Stephen Curry is a magician. If he catches a little fire down the stretch, he has a chance to take home his second scoring title and gain re-entry into the 50/40/90 club.

    There isn't a more powerful offensive force in today's league, which makes it curious to see the Warriors sitting just 22nd in offensive efficiency. That shouldn't be possible with a point-producer of Curry's caliber piloting the attack.

    But Golden State has been on a season-long search for non-Curry scoring, and at this point it's fair to label this as a fatal flaw.

    Second-leading scorer Andrew Wiggins has a below-average player efficiency rating (14.5). Third-leading scorer Kelly Oubre Jr. has his worst true shooting percentage in four seasons (52.9). The only other double-digit scorers are James Wiseman, a rookie who's out for the season, and Jordan Poole, a sophomore who played 11 G League games this season.

    When opponents inevitably throw the kitchen sink, the refrigerator and the dishwasher at Curry, the Warriors will have nowhere safe to turn for scoring.

Young Roster Isn't Ready

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The Warriors aren't outright rebuilding. That can't happen when players like Curry and Draymond Green are on the roster.

    But they aren't in complete pursuit of maximum victories, either. They've soaked up developmental minutes where they can get them, especially with Wiseman, Poole and, to a lesser extent, Nico Mannion.

    They're operating on two different timelines. On one hand, they're hoping to build momentum for next season, when the return of a hopefully healthy Thompson potentially pushes them back into championship contention. On the other, they're looking to keep the cupboard filled for the next generation, which would ideally be led by Wiseman and maybe a few of the other prospects and draft picks to come.

    If they can strike the balance just right, they could have their cake next season and eat it for the next decade. But it puts the current club in a tough spot, because the lack of an all-out wins pursuit shows the weaknesses in this roster.

The West Is Loaded

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Had things gone differently against Dallas, perhaps Golden State could've dared to dream bigger than the play-in tournament. But that loss pushed the Warriors to 10th in the Western Conference, meaning they'd need to leapfrog four teams in about two weeks to escape the event.

    That's not happening.

    So, before Golden State's true postseason voyage actually begins, it might need to knock off two of the Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs. That's daunting enough on its own with the win-or-go-fishing stakes attached.

    But even if the Warriors advance, then what? They're probably locking horns with the Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns or Los Angeles Clippers. Yikes. Those are three of this season's four teams to post a net rating of plus-6.0 or better. Golden State's, by the way, is minus-0.4, which ranks 18th overall.

    There are great teams in this conference and really good ones, too. The Warriors are mediocre. Curry and Green occasionally help them punch above their weight, but even they don't have the firepower to change this group's reality. Anything beyond a brief playoff cameo would be a major success—and a bigger surprise.


    Statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.