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Golden State Warriors

Are the Golden State Warriors a lock to make the playoffs next season?

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From left: Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry (Getty Images)

Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): It's been a weird offseason for the Warriors. Their splashiest signing was D'Angelo Russell, who is a questionable fit alongside Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, and they lost half of last season's rotation with Kevin Durant going to the Nets, DeMarcus Cousins and Quinn Cook going to the Lakers and Jordan Bell going to the Timberwolves.

Additionally, they traded Andre Iguodala - along with a future first-round pick! - to the Grizzlies for nothing.

With how much better other teams in the Western Conference got, are they at risk of missing the playoffs next season? Or is Stephen Curry, D'Angelo Russell and Draymond Green enough to keep them afloat until Klay Thompson returns?

Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): It's next to impossible to see a team flat-out miss the postseason after making five straight Finals appearances, and yet nothing's a guarantee in this league. This might sound a little crazy but I'm hesitant to consider them an absolute lock to make it.

Rafferty: It's going to be insanely competitive in the West next season. I think we can lock the Nuggets, Rockets, Lakers, Clippers, Jazz in, right? If so, that leaves three spots between the Blazers, Spurs, Warriors, Kings, Timberwolves, Pelicans and Mavericks.

Maybe even the Thunder if they keep Chris Paul.

Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): It's crazy to think that I read that list of teams you consider locks and my first reaction was you're missing the Trail Blazers and Warriors. That would mean I consider SEVEN Western Conference teams as "locks" to make that playoffs. That just can't be right. Someone's gotta go.

Rafferty: For what it's worth, FiveThirtyEight projects the Blazers and Spurs to miss the playoffs next season. Their model has the Mavericks and Pelicans making it instead of them, plus the Warriors.

McGregor: Ridiculous. The amount of parity and loaded teams in the West means the margin of error might be slimmer than it's ever been. That being said, a slow start out of the gates could be what keeps one of our perceived locks out of the postseason if it sets them back far enough. As they start the season without Klay while working to integrate D'Angelo into their system, I can see them struggling to get going early on.

Irving: It's disrespectful to the Trail Blazers after the season they just had, but the turnover of their supporting cast is enough for me to consider them as not a guarantee to make the playoffs. The Warriors, however, are still a lock in my opinion.

I'm not willing to count out Damian Lillard, which is why I originally stated them as a lock. But I'm certainly not going to count out Stephen Curry - barring injuries, of course.

Rafferty: Right, this might be as simple as a healthy season from Curry is enough to keep the Warriors in the playoffs, regardless of how the other pieces (Russell mainly) fit. The problem is he missed 13 games last season and 31 games in 2017-18.

McGregor: Based on what we saw in the Finals once Steph was (essentially) on his own offensively, they're going to need Russell to do more than just fit in. He has to hit the ground running, like right away. And that's not even taking health into consideration, of either guy. Russell played 81 last year but he missed 34 the year prior.

That's gotta factor in with that margin for error, too, no?

Irving: Definitely. I'm saying if the Warriors (mainly Curry) can stay healthy, they'll make it. Last season they dealt with a handful of injuries but were able to stay afloat because of the depth of their loaded roster. That's no longer the case. If one of their main guys go down for a stretch of time while Klay is still out, the Warriors would be in serious trouble of missing the playoffs.

Look at the teams Scott listed above - the Blazers, Spurs, Pelicans, Kings and Mavericks are all like vultures waiting for one of those "locks" to slip up.

Rafferty: So we agree that the Warriors are a lock to make the playoffs, health provided?

Irving: Yup.

McGregor: Yeah, but it would almost need to be a spotless bill of health, not just avoiding serious injury. A key player missing five games could potentially be a serious setback.

Rafferty: Okay, so let's assume that they do remain healthy because it's impossible to predict that stuff. How good can this team be?

McGregor: Klay's supposed to come back by what point in the season? Midway?

Rafferty: There have been reports that he's targeting a February or March return, in which case he'd miss 50-60 games.

McGregor: At their very best, I can see them winning 35 of 50 or 40 of 60 games without Klay. Easily on pace to be a 50-win team. An All-Star backcourt of D'Angelo and Steph + the Draymond we saw in the WCF is a really good trio.

Irving: Maybe I'm just being optimistic because I'm a D-Lo guy, but I don't see why it wouldn't work offensively. I think he's underrated as a passer because he didn't have to be much of a facilitator in Brooklyn as No. 1 scoring option. He gives the Warriors a third guy who can orchestrate the offence and I don't think he has to take shots away from Klay or Steph. And they're still going to have three sharpshooters around Draymond once Klay gets back.

Rafferty: Defence is going to be an issue, though. There's a lot of pressure on Thompson and Green to carry them on that end of the floor. And that's assuming Thompson returns as the same player as he was before. I think he will, but there's never a guarantee.

Like, how in the world are they matching up with the Rockets? What about the Clippers?

Irving: They're going to need role players to step up on the defensive end, there's no doubt about that. I like their rookie second-round pick Eric Paschall as a player who could take on bigger defensive assignments than you'd expect, but relying on a rookie to defend the juggernauts of the West is a tall task.

MORE: What's next for D'Angelo Russell and the Warriors?

McGregor: I guess a lot depends on scheduling then. It's impossible to know until we see it, but seeing those teams they'll have trouble to match up with early on could very well mean doom, and a very tangible setback.

Rafferty: I guess the good thing for them is that they have more continuity than most teams in the West with Curry and Green. That could work in their favour early on - again, health provided.

Irving: Also, for the first time in about three seasons, the Warriors are actually going to have to give it their 100% effort night-in and night-out. You could take that as a positive or negative, depending on how you look at it.

McGregor: The West looks like it'll be unforgiving next season, but it's safe to say that barring any major setbacks this Warriors team will be right in the thick of things when playoff time rolls around. Their streak of seven-straight postseason appearances is on the line, which I couldn't have seen myself saying a couple of weeks ago.

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