After devastating injuries to his ACL and achilles, Klay Thompson is almost set to play in the 2021-22 season. If he is healthy and can return to form, are the Warriors championship contenders?
Taking It Slowly
There is no telling what Klay Thompson will look like in 2021-22. He tore his ACL in the 2019 NBA Finals and now is rehabbing an achilles injury that is even harder to come back from. Simply put, we can believe all the quotes from Steve Kerr and the rest of the Warriors staff, but it’s going to take some time to return to form.
First, we have to see Thompson in live game action, which won’t come until at least the preseason. That’s a ton of time to not play basketball. We can’t just assume he comes back scoring 25 points per game. Therein lies another issue. Why rush Thompson back at all? If the Warriors can use some of their assets in a package with Andrew Wiggins, they could pull off some dastardly trades this offseason to bring in more depth behind Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Thompson.
Even if they don’t make a move, there is no reason to rush Thompson back for the start of the season. While the Western Conference is a bear to contend in, the Warriors should be good enough to hold serve if their reserves continue to grow along with their young center, James Wiseman.
Wiseman was also hurt most of his rookie season so there is upside in the Warriors this season, but I think they would be wise to ramp Thompson back up slowly. That being said, the reports out of Golden State are glowing about Thompson’s rehab. He has already started running and while he hasn’t progressed to scrimmaging in practice, that could come sometime later this summer if the Warriors think he is ready to return to playing early in the new season.
Western Conference Landscape
For the Warriors to win the championship, one would have to assume a few things. The first is that the Lakers will once again be bounced again and not make the Finals. At +500 to win it all next season, the Lakers are the clear favorites in the very early NBA Future Odds. Someone, whether it’s the Warriors or another team, will have to take them out. However, after the Suns at +900, the Warriors are considered the third best championship odds among the Western Conference teams and they are behind the Nets and Bucks from the East.
Along with the Clippers, Jazz and maybe the Mavericks and Nuggets, these are going to be the core contenders in the West next season. The Warriors will have to beat three of the aforementioned Western Conference teams.
Beyond that, they are probably going to be up against a potentially healthier Nets team, or maybe the Bucks make it back to the Finals if they are able to reload and rebound quickly. One also has to assume that the Eastern Conference Finals team in 2022 will be more rested and probably will have played less playoff games leading up to the Finals.
The point being, the Warriors at 10:1 are pretty appropriately priced for their reload year assuming Thompson is healthy. Barring them pulling off some crazy trade where they package Wiggins with picks and young talent for another super star, I don’t see their odds shortening before the season.
They are very much contenders as is, but right now without a huge comeback year for Thompson, or picking up another super star, they may be a player short to win it all.