Golden StateWarriors

Payton thinks healthy Steph, Klay put Warriors in title picture


After five straight trips to the NBA Finals, the Warriors spent this last season resting, recuperating and reimagining their roster as they look to return to championship contention next season.

With Steph Curry missing all but five games and Klay Thompson missing the entire season, the Warriors finished an NBA-worst 15-50 and landed the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. But most expect their stay at the bottom of the NBA to be brief, with Curry and Thompson expected to return healthy and rested next season.

Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer and Oakland native Gary Payton knows the Warriors won't be the same wrecking ball they were in years past, but he believes they will be right back in the thick of the title race with the Splash Brothers healthy and ready to silence their doubters.

"They are not going to be the championship team that they were, but they are going to be good," Payton said Sunday on "49ers Pregame Live" when asked about the Warriors' outlook for next season. "They are going to be real good. You can't always take away Klay and Steph Curry -- a healthy duo who can shoot the basketball and keep you in games. Now, what they have to do is put their other pieces around them. If Draymond comes back to be the Draymond of three ago, they will be a pretty good team and contend with anybody in the West.

"Now, we got to talk the other guys, the [Andrew] Wiggins and these guys. They got the No. 2 pick. What are they going to do with that? Are they going to bring somebody in or are they going to get a veteran? Everybody is speculating Giannis [Antetokounmpo], where is he going to go? They are going to try and do that. I think with Klay and Steph Curry, they are a team that has to be reckoned with because those are two great players."

The Western Conference is even stronger than when the Warriors last won it. LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers won the conference title Saturday night by dispatching of the Denver Nuggets in five games and will be a force for the next few years. Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers flamed out in the playoffs but still are one of the most talented teams in the NBA.

The Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz also remain in the title picture, although Houston could be heading for a franchise-altering offseason after the departure of coach Mike D'Antoni.

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There's no doubt the Warriors will be among the best teams in the Western Conference next season. With Curry and Thompson back they have the best backcourt in the NBA, a tandem that any team will struggle to contain.

The Warriors are looking to add a veteran or two this offseason and need to land a draft prospect who can both help them contend for a title immediately and grow into the next face of the franchise. Names like Deni Avdija, James Wiseman, Onyeka Okongwu and Obi Toppin have been floated as potential options, among others.

It will be an important offseason for the Warriors. A healthy Curry, Thompson, Green and Wiggins will have the Warriors back in the thick of the championship picture.

Rested, rejuvenated and motivated to show they aren't done yet.

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