SAN FRANCISCO — Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green remains confident his team can still make its sixth straight trip to the NBA Finals this season despite the fact its roster underwent a major reconstruction over the summer. And on Monday, Green didn’t hesitate when asked what the team’s expectations should be this season.
“I am not sure what everyone’s expectations are,” Green told ESPN. “We haven’t really had any team meetings yet. But I know what my expectations are: They don’t change from year-to-year. They are always the same.”
When asked specifically if he still thought the Warriors could go to the NBA Finals this season, Green was quick with his answer.
The Warriors’ roster is in transition after losing superstar forward Kevin Durant in a sign-and-trade with the Brooklyn Nets. Also gone are veteran stalwarts Andre Iguodala, who was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in a corresponding move, and Shaun Livingston, who retired.
Despite all the movement, both Green and Curry said they believe the expectation for the group should be the same as always — a trip to the NBA Finals.
“For sure,” Curry told ESPN. “As long as we have the solid core that we’ve got. And the experiences to kind of back us up, we’re going to keep that goal in mind. The fun part about it is that we get to kind of recreate the look of it and incorporating the new pieces that we have, and that part’s the most exciting. The last five Finals have kind of been a certain way, so whatever we do from here, you’re going to enjoy it even more.”
After losing in six games to the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Finals in June, Green said it would be “stupid” to think the Warriors’ championship run was over. Both Green and Curry believe the championship experience they’ve had in the past can be a catalyst in helping to teach a group of young players how to win a sixth straight Western Conference championship.
“Because I think obviously what we have returning and myself, Steph and Klay– with the experience that we have, the championship pedigree that we have, and obviously all of us still being in our primes,” Green said. “Then you add in a young D’Angelo Russell, you add in Kevon Looney, who just got a new contract — it is a lot of talent. Like I said, experience and also a lot of younger guys who are out to prove themselves.”
Curry echoed a similar sentiment. The veteran guard believes both he and Green can raise the level of their play when needed as the group learns how to play without Thompson, who will be out most of the season as he rehabs from a torn ACL in his left knee.
“We know who’s on our team still,” Curry said. “Myself, Klay, Draymond, D’Angelo and obviously a lot of newcomers. We got a lot of pieces we got to put together. We understand it’s going to look differen — a new building, a new roster — but when you have the championship DNA that we have and the experiences that we have, we can bank on that.”
Many around the league believe that because of the loss of Durant, coupled with the injury to Thompson and the uncertainty surrounding the youth on the back end of the roster, the Warriors are essentially entering into a gap year as they wait to get healthy and get out of a hard-cap situation next season after acquiring Russell.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he isn’t concerned about what the outside world might say about his team. He’s trying to focus on developing the young talent alongside the future Hall of Famers on the roster.
“I think the expectation for our group should be to develop a young crop of players,” Kerr said. “[What] we have to do this year is put so much of our time and energy into those young guys so that they can become key contributors to the next era of Warriors basketball. If we can do that, if we can get a couple of them can pop become rotational players, we’re going to still be good going forward.”
Whether this new group of Warriors succeeds or fails is contingent on a slew of variables, one of the largest being Russell’s ability to pick up his new team’s offensive system quickly. Like many on the roster, Russell is already drawing some motivation from the fact many people have written off the group this season.
“If it starts out slow, if it’s start out fast, it’s just the process that we’re going to have to enjoy,” Russell said of the group’s lofty expectations. “Instead of putting an expectation on it ASAP like that, I think we can just come in and come to work every day and live with the results when we’re on that platform to showcase it.”