Klay Thompson’s Achilles tear marks the official end of the Warriors dynasty

On Wednesday, just prior to the start of the NBA Draft, NBA Insider Shams Charania broke the news that Warriors superstar Klay Thompson suffered what appeared to be a significant injury during a workout. The entire basketball world held its breath until finding out on Thursday morning what everyone feared, that Thompson’s injury, diagnosed an Achilles’ tear, was so severe that he would once again miss an entire season.

It marks the official end to the Warriors dynasty. But the truth is the dynasty ended two years ago.

The night Klay hobbled off the court with a torn ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 Finals, the last game ever at Oracle. He stunned us all by coming back out to shoot his foul shots, and then disappeared again into the locker room, not to be seen in an NBA game until … well, we don’t know.

When the doors closed at Oracle, so too did they shut on that dynasty. If the Warriors ever recover from this, it’s going to be via a route we can’t quite see yet.

Thompson will likely be out all of the 2020-21 NBA season. But that is just the beginning steps of making it back to the Klay Thompson we all know and love. He will have to work himself back into playing shape and find his rhythm along with his confidence. That will take all of the 2021-22 season. By that time table, Klay won’t be 100% back until 2022, when he is 32 years old.

And that is a huge “if” considering nobody comes back from a torn achilles to their former self. Add on the torn ACL in June 2019, Klay’s chances diminish even further.

Not Title Contenders, But Playoff Hopefuls?

This doesn’t mean that the Warriors fall off a cliff.

They still have a very good roster, and the former unanimous MVP Steph Curry. Steve Kerr is still coaching. Draymond is a shell of his former self, but he remains apart of the culture. The addition of 2nd overall pick Center James Wiseman will be huge for the Warriors offense and defense with Klay out. A full year of talented but unenthusiastic Andrew Wiggins in the Warriors culture should change that second half of the statement. Kelly Oubre Jr. is also added to the roster, likely replacing Klay in the starting rotation.

The Warriors have enough on paper to be in the mix for the playoffs.

Look at the West. Minnesota isn’t good. The Thunder will regress now that CP3 and Gallo are gone. The Pelicans have real questions after trading Jrue Holiday and possibly losing Derrick Favors in free agency. The Kings are still the Kings. Memphis has a ton of promise, but is still young. San Antonio might move DeMar DeRozan and signal the true rebuilding project. The Rockets are imploding almost on an hourly basis.

The Lakers, Clippers, and Nuggets are all better, no question. The Jazz as well. The Rockets, assuming the still have Harden and Russ are better. Portland, Dallas, Phoenix? That is the company the Warriors are in next season as they fight to return to the playoffs.

How does this affect Steph?

Steph is a generational talent. He changed basketball. Has the heart of a champion. The knock on him has been, can he carry a team? His numbers and two MVPs suggest he can, but so much of his success has come alongside not only Thompson, but with Green out there, and Durant, and Andre Iguodala, and so on.

Now you’re looking at Steph, Draymond, the rookie Wiseman, an unproven Wiggins, talented but inconsistent Oubre Jr., and no bench to speak of. This is Curry’s chance to put the critics to rest, will he though?

For the NBA’s sake, I hope Steph turns in a really positive answer to this question, unleashes fury with the ball in his hands. It will take a 2016 Steph Curry performance, and then some, but I think he could do it.

But Klay’s absence impacts Curry’s game immensely.

Thompson makes every teammate’s life easier but that is more pronounced for Curry than anyone else because Thompson takes the toughest defensive assignment and draws eyeballs on the other end.

In the past when Klay was on the bench, Curry’s usage sky rockets. The volume for Steph goes way up with shots taken and points scored. This is fine for 6 minute bursts, a quarter, or a few games. But over the course of a full season and potential playoff run, the Warriors will need to be careful about how much they go to Steph.

Curry’s injury history is well known. HIs ankles are not durable. In the past his two week stints on the injured list were hardly noticeable with Durant and Klay absorbing the loss. But this time around Curry has to stay healthy. Wiggins, Oubre Jr., Weisman, are not capable of carrying a team for weeks. A bad stretch could determine if you make or miss the playoffs in the stacked Western Conference.

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