Will the Golden State Warriors make the playoffs?

Assessing Golden State’s current issues and how to fix them


Photo courtesy of Stan Szeto – USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors have had an entertaining start to their 2020-21 NBA season. They are currently 6-5, holding the 7th seed in the Western Conference. And while some may have predicted the Warriors to play better, most fans can appreciate how good they’ve been considering the disheartening injury to All-Star Klay Thompson, which ended his season before it even started.

After Klay’s injury, the Warriors had to reassess their identity. No longer were they a playoff lock with possibilities of contending for a championship. Now, many well-known NBA journalists and website rankings predict Golden State won’t even make the playoffs. So is it indeed possible for the Warriors to have post-season success, given their current roster? And if so, how can they carry out their gameplan so they can reach their goals?

First of all, it’s important to distinguish two terms: capability vs execution. In the sports world, higher capabilities of a team depend on having all the correct pieces – good players, good coaches, good training staff, etc. This is all determined by the team’s front office and their ability to put a good team together. A team’s execution, however, is completely dependent upon the players and their performance. Both concepts are equally important, as a team won’t find success unless they excel in both categories.

In the NBA, many star players are criticized for their team’s lack of success, when in reality, it’s the front office’s fault for not bringing the right pieces to the team. And without those correct pieces, players aren’t put in the best position to thrive, forcing them to be insufficient.

This idea is what Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors are experiencing right now.

Although Steph is the NBA’s 2nd leading scorer (28.6 ppg), including a career-high 62 point outing last week, he still has glaring discrepancies that must be dealt with. From a statistical perspective, he is averaging career lows in field goal percentage (43.2%) and 3-point field goal (36.8%) percentage. Additionally, he is 4th in the league in usage percentage (32.6%). These statistics represent a more significant issue within the makeup of the team. 

Much of Steph’s previous individual prosperity came not from the opponent’s inability to guard Steph, but from the opponent’s inability to guard the collective team. When Steph was surrounded by shooters in past years, it became impossible to enact basic defensive strategies, like help defense, weak-side defense, and rotation defense, because of the excessive attention the other shooters drew to their man. With this drawn attention, Steph had more luxury to operate, making it easier to score and succeed.

But this year, Golden State’s roster has decreased significantly in shooting. In fact, “Golden State is currently shooting a mediocre 123/341 (36.1%) from deep, placing them at 19th in the league.”, according to Fadeaway World. With Steph now being the only shooter on his team, opposing teams can shape their defensive strategy around just him, centering their scheme to stop not Golden State, but Steph. Opponents might press Steph up the court, double Steph off a pick, or trap Steph in the corner to get the ball out of his hands. And even when Steph plays off the ball, opponents still know exactly where he is and might switch on screens or overplay him to prevent his threat. So essentially, Steph ends up indirectly playing 1 v 5 on offense, making it more difficult for him to score and succeed.

Although the Warriors have been able to move forward despite these issues, these problems could cause long-term complications – like exhaust or injury – that could bleed into the postseason.

So how should Golden State move forward? 

Losing Klay Thompson was a huge blow for the Warriors, as his shooting would have been invaluable to the success of Steph and the Warriors. But until he comes back, Warriors GM Bob Meyers and the front office should focus on acquiring more shooters to surround Steph. The Warriors’ approach has always been to shoot – ever since Steve Kerr joined as head coach, they have run the 5-out offensive scheme, giving more opportunities to those shooters. So if Golden State can indeed improve their lineup, Steph can have the space to perform at his best, putting Golden State in a position to indeed make the playoffs.