Warriors Players Who Will Determine GSW's Ceiling During 2021-22 NBA Season

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 16, 2021

Warriors Players Who Will Determine GSW's Ceiling During 2021-22 NBA Season

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The Golden State Warriors should feel great about two takeaways from the 2020-21 NBA season: Stephen Curry remains one of the league's most explosive weapons on offense, and Draymond Green makes the short list of its most impactful defenders.

    The Warriors have every reason to bank on both of those things being true again this season. It's what will happen around their stars that will determine whether this group can make another run at a world title or not.

    While the entire supporting cast will have a say in this squad's success, the following players look particularly critical in determining its direction.

Klay Thompson

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The last time Klay Thompson hit the NBA hardwood, he brought with him a devastating combination of lights-out shooting and relentless perimeter defense.

    Among other things, he helped bring out Curry's best. Opponents couldn't overload on Curry, because Thompson was too lethal from long distance to leave unattended. At the opposite end, Thompson took on the opponent's best backcourt player to spare Curry from being exploited in the matchup.

    But more than two years have passed since we last saw Thompson in action. He suffered a torn ACL during the 2019 NBA Finals that cost him the 2019-20 season. While ramping back up for last season, he then suffered a torn Achilles' tendon that robbed him of the 2020-21 campaign.

    It's unclear when he'll return this season or how the 31-year-old will look on this side of two devastating injuries. His shooting stroke seems a safe bet to make it back, but will he be the same caliber of scorer and stopper? If not, the Warriors won't be contending for the crown.

James Wiseman

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    There were moments last season when you could see what the Warriors were thinking when they made James Wiseman the No. 2 pick in 2020.

    His physical tools alone could drop your jaw, and imaginations went wild any time he stepped away from the basket for a smooth looking jumper.

    However, there were far more instances in which he just looked like a raw teenager—because that's what he was. He played just three games in college and navigated around multiple absences as a rookie, including the meniscus tear that cut his campaign short in April. He often found himself out of position, struggled with foul trouble and didn't always impose his will as a 7'0", 240-pounder.

    That's what made him (and still makes him) such an obvious trade candidate should Golden State sniff out a win-now star it can get. But it has stood by the 20-year-old so far and needs him to reward that trust.

    There's an All-Star interior anchor somewhere inside of him, and if Golden State can bring that out sooner than later, it has a chance to rejoin the elite ranks.

The Rookies

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    Michael J. LeBrecht II/Getty Images

    For the longest time, the Warriors' pair of 2021 lottery picks were viewed as trade chips.

    They've since become actual prospects: Jonathan Kuminga, the No. 7 selection, and Moses Moody, No. 14. While each (or both) could theoretically still be traded if the right win-now piece becomes available, they're currently primed to handle rotation roles out of the gate.

    Kuminga has a sky-high ceiling with effortless explosion, flashes of high-level shot-creation and endless potential on defense. He needs more polish, but the payoff could be massive. Moody offers more floor than ceiling, which might sound like a dig but is more of a compliment to his three-and-D readiness.

    If both are key contributors for most of this season, the Dubs become that much more dangerous. If they look more like raw rookies, Golden State might struggle to make meaningful gains in the Western Conference standings.