The Warriors in the last decade have grown to have their biggest nemesis be the closest player still chasing the GOAT on the court. Off the court, a Hall of Famer also has been one of their biggest haters.
Charles Barkley’s fiery hate for the Warriors isn’t cooling off. Draymond Green being his broadcasting teammate at TNT hasn’t helped. It only increased Barkley’s disdain for the Dubs.
He always has a reason to not believe in the Warriors, and though it was in a subtle way, Barkley recently showed his lack of belief going into next season. Speaking with NBC Sports Bay Area’s Monte Poole on "Dubs Talk" at the American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Resort, Barkley only named four teams he sees as contenders right now. They are the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers.
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There were a few teams missing.
Like the one that played the Nuggets in the NBA Finals last season.
Or the one that had the best record in the regular season before a shocking first-round upset to said team above.
And, to really no surprise, Barkley left out the Warriors while talking to a person who covers them.
Golden State Warriors
The Nuggets should be atop anybody’s list of top contenders going into next season. Returning Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr. in their primes has Denver looking down at everybody else right now. But Bruce Brown’s departure will be noticed, and he’ll be a challenge to replace.
The Celtics traded their heartbeat Marcus Smart to Memphis this offseason. They are going into Year 7 of the Jayson Tatum-Jaylen Brown duo while still having too many questions that are running out of time for answers, and Brown on Tuesday morning was awarded the largest contract in NBA history as Boston continues searching for his left hand. The 76ers haven’t made it past the second round once in the Joel Embiid era, and James Harden is hoping the third time's a charm for yet another trade request. There’s no stability in the City of Brotherly Love -- no matter the coach, secondary star or general manager.
Behind the Nuggets, Barkley appears to have the Lakers as the second-best in the Western Conference after being swept by Denver in the conference finals, following their six-game series win against the Warriors. “I think the Lakers have gotten better,” Barkley said. The smartest thing Lakers GM Rob Pelinka did this offseason was staying away from making drastic moves.
They’re bringing back the same starting five they used against the Warriors in five of their six playoff games, retained Rui Hachimura as a strong bench piece and also added Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince, Jaxson Hayes and Cam Reddish for a strong top 10 in the rotation. Their season also rests on the shoulders of LeBron James (still a superstar, but is entering his 21st season, will be 39 years old in late December and has missed an average of 27 games the last three seasons to injuries) and Anthony Davis (still a superstar, but has missed an average of 35 games the last three season to injuries).
Let’s look at a few numbers from that Warriors-Lakers second-round series last season. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combined to shoot 36.5 percent (58 of 159) from the field and 28.2 percent (24 of 85) behind the 3-point line over the final four games. Curry was the better of the two, shooting 42.7 percent overall and 28.6 percent on 3s. Thompson, perhaps the second-best shooter of all time behind his backcourt mate, only made 25 percent of his 56 shot attempts and 27.8 percent of the 36 3-pointers he took. Steph and Klay went 6 of 26 shooting 3s in the Warriors’ season-ending Game 6 loss.
Those numbers, at the least, look like outliers.
Meanwhile, Jordan Poole opened the series looking like he had turned a corner and could be the Warriors’ spark behind a 21-point Game 1 performance where he was 7-of-15 shooting and 6 of 11 on 3-pointers. Poole in the final five games of the series averaged 5.8 points on 30.2-percent shooting. The now former Warrior made one of his 17 3-point shots. One.
Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr., just days into the job, replaced that with a future Hall of Fame point guard, albeit one who is 38 years old, missed the final four games of the playoffs injured and has been one of Golden State’s longest rivals in Chris Paul. Poole’s 252 turnovers in the regular season were the fourth-most in the entire NBA. Paul’s 4.8 assist-to-turnover ratio was the fourth-best in the entire NBA.
Barkley's biggest reason for skepticism is being uncertain if Paul’s arrival will work. There are fit questions. There are health questions. There are personality questions. We’ll all have to wait and see how it all unfolds, but the base of what Paul brings already raises the Warriors’ ceiling.
JaMychal Green was a DNP (Did Not Play) in the Warriors’ final two games of the season and six of their 13 playoff games. He has been replaced by Dario Šarić, a 6-foot-10 former lottery pick who can play either big man position and shot 39.1 percent from deep last season. Šarić has previous chemistry with Paul and was the first player on the Warriors’ free-agency big board.
Dunleavy has built a more veteran roster to complement the Warriors going all-in on the last window of opportunity for the Big Three of Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green. With that kind of construction, there’s no more waiting around for Jonathan Kuminga (21 years old on Oct. 6) and Moses Moody (turned 21 on May 31). Trading Poole for Paul is the ultimate win-now move, and Paul also can help fast track the future.
“I can't even put it into words,” Warriors coach Jacob Rubin told NBC Sports Bay Area in Las Vegas during summer league when asked him what Paul will mean for Kuminga and Moody. “You can't put it into words; you can just see it and you can feel it when you're playing against him.”
It’s somehow also being undersold the fact that Andrew Wiggins missed 45 games last season between injuries and tending to a family matter, and that the Warriors should have Gary Payton II on the floor for more than 19 games -- seven in the regular season and 12 in the playoffs -- next season. Wiggins is a borderline All-Star two-way wing who shot a career-best 39.6 percent on 3-pointers in the 37 regular-season games he did play. Before last season, he rarely missed games and averaged 75 games per season.
The two-timeline plan died the moment the Warriors felt the loss of Payton so much that they were willing to give up on James Wiseman. Payton is finally healthy again and should enter the season pain-free.
This latest version of the Warriors to begin the Dunleavy chapter isn’t perfect on paper and isn’t going to be on the court. They will be feared again, though, and rightfully so. If everything clicks, a Charles Barkley stamp of disapproval once again will be a gift to the Warriors.