Warriors’ struggles prove NBA is competitive again

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After winning three of the last four NBA championships, the Golden State Warriors are looking more vulnerable now more than ever.

The big picture: Even with the quintet of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant (now out for the remainder of this series), Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins, the Warriors are not the world-beaters that most pegged them to be.

Warriors, come out and play!: Coming into the 2019 NBA season, the addition of Cousins made the Warriors seem like the real-life version of the “Monstars.” Granted Cousins was coming off a major Achilles injury, it was still fair to say that Golden State would be the best in the West.

Though the Denver Nuggets gave the Warriors a run for their money for most of the season, Golden State was able to pull out the No. 1 seed because of the strength of their starting five:

  • Went 57-25, the worst mark during Steve Kerr’s tenure.
  • Had four players score in double-figures (Curry, Thompson, Durant, Cousins).
  • With Cousins joining the starting lineup with Curry, Thompson, Durant and Green, they were a plus 3.7 and went 18-3 (85 percent win percentage) in 21 games.
  • If that were extrapolated to 82 games, the Warriors would have won around 70 games, their second time doing so if it happened.
  • Although he only played 30 games, Cousins averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists shooting 48 percent from the field.

Although the Warriors had the No. 1 seed, many were doubtful of their capabilities, especially with Cousins ever-growing list of injuries and Durant’s impending free agency.

Can the Dubs still get the dubs? In previous years, the Warriors’ opponents posed little-to-no threat, having won 13 games in 48 tries in five years. However, this year is different:

  • The Los Angeles Clippers, a team with no discernible stars, was able to push the Warriors to six games, including a momentous comeback in game two.
  • The Warriors will have to play at least six games against the Houston Rockets in the semifinals.
  • Whoever they face in the conference finals will also likely force at least six games.

In all, the Warriors could potentially play 19 games en route to the NBA finals, where potential MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks likely await.

Will Boogie bring back the boogie to the Bay? That all being said, perhaps the Warriors biggest X-factor isn’t whether or not a weakened bench can raise their play as the playoffs continue. But rather, how Cousins will be after his injury.

In game two against the Clippers, Cousins tore his left quad muscle chasing after a loose ball. Initially ruled out for the rest of the postseason, it was recently announced that Cousins might be able to come back, should the Warriors make a deep run.

However when Cousins was on the floor for the two games he played, the stats weren’t pretty:

  • Averaged 5.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 12.5 minutes per game.
  • The lineup of Curry, Thompson, Durant, Green and Cousins had a plus/minus of -3.5.
  • If Cousins is replaced by Kevon Looney in the starting lineup along with Andre Iguodala, that same group has a plus/minus of +5.6.

Considering how weak the Warriors’ bench has been this year and the fact that Cousins is still rehabbing from a potentially devastating injury, it seems wise to have him come off the bench to bolster a bunch that needs a bit of bravado.

The bottom line: This year could be the year that the Warriors’ Golden Gate to the NBA championship is closed. With three teams primed to upend the Warriors quest for a three-peat, Golden State has to play near-perfect basketball to win the NBA finals.

Nevertheless, as long as Curry, Thompson, Durant (assuming he comes back), Green and Cousins are on the Warriors and are able to have some sort of contribution on either end of the floor, Golden State is still heavily favored to win their fourth championship in five years.