After a nearly unprecedented run to five straight NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors have missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
Only the Boston Celtics boast a better run, having made the Finals in 10 straight seasons from 1957-1966.
But the Warriors’ modern dynasty came to an end amid crippling injuries and free agent defections.
Later, Durant elected to go east, initiating a sign-and-trade deal to the Brooklyn Nets.
Now, the Warriors seemed poised to make another run at the NBA title.
But as the team expects Thompson’s return from injury, and Iguodala returns to the roster, Golden State might struggle to ascend in the Pacific Division.
Pacific Division Heavyweights
The NBA’s Pacific Division stands as the most successful grouping of teams in recent memory.
In each of the last seven seasons, the Western Conference champion came from the Pacific Division.
Road to Finals: Pacific Division Dominance
2015: Warriors (Won NBA Finals 🏆)
2016: Warriors (Lost NBA Finals)
2017: Warriors (Won NBA Finals 🏆)
2018: Warriors (Won NBA Finals 🏆)
2019: Warriors (Lost NBA Finals)
2020: Lakers (Won NBA Finals 🏆)
2021: Suns (Lost NBA Finals) https://t.co/KJwrgfwhO6
— Inside The Sun (@_insidethesun) August 6, 2021
The run extends further, to 10 of the last 15, going back to 2007.
The Warriors expect to be competitive in 2021-22 after missing the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
But Golden States faces the defending conference champions, the Phoenix Suns, and the conference’s odds-on championship favorite, the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Suns seem prepared to make another title run, considering they re-signed veteran All-Star point guard Chris Paul.
The Lakers, meanwhile, remain built around LeBron James.
But one season after winning their 17th NBA championship, Los Angeles struggled to a first-round playoff exit and opted to reshape the roster around James and Anthony Davis.
It’s not just those two title contenders Golden State has to worry about.
The Los Angeles Clippers also reside in the Pacific Division.
And they, too, might be better that the Warriors if and when they’re healthy.
The Clippers will be without Kawhi Leonard for at least part of the 2021-22 season, but they’ve built a reliable supporting cast around him.
And once Leonard returns, all bets are off.
Warriors Hoping For Return To Greatness
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) August 19, 2021
There’s an argument to be made for each of those clubs finishing with a better regular season record that the Warriors, especially if Golden State suffers a similar injury fate to recent seasons.
But the Warriors feel they can contend with any team in the NBA when fully healthy, though that caveat has crippled them in recent years.
There’s plenty of hope for this season, though.
Now, those two hope to see fellow All-Star and champion Thompson return to the lineup this season.
He could markedly improve the offense from there.
The team brought back Iguodala, and added veteran Otto Porter Jr. to provide depth at the forward position.
But the real key will be the development of the Warriors’ young talent.
James Wiseman, the team’s No. 2 overall pick in 2020, must return from injury and find his form.