Warriors' NBA Finals title window wide open with youth-infused experience

Warriors’ NBA Finals title window wide open with youth-infused experience

BOSTON — Steph Curry turns 35 years old next March. Klay Thompson will be 33 in February, and Draymond Green will join him in being 33 one month later. With all that being said after the Warriors just won their fourth championship in the last eight seasons, Golden State’s title window is far from closed. 

It’s wide open. 

Many deemed the dynasty to be done years ago. Think again. They’re taking the San Antonio Spurs’ model of sustained success to whole new heights. 

Jordan Poole, the newly minted “Splash Nephew,” has gone from being labeled as a reach in the NBA draft and a bust through the first two years of his career to looking like the perfect player to keep the Warriors’ offense roaring in the post-Steph Curry era. The 22-year-old scored 15 huge points off the bench in the Warriors’ NBA Finals-clinching win. As the Warriors went on an historic 21-0 run after trailing 14-2 on Thursday night at TD Garden, Poole scored 11 points in that span and hit three 3-pointers. 

In his first taste of the playoffs, he averaged 17.0 points per game while shooting 50.8 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from 3-point range. 

“People tried to write us off a couple years ago and say the dynasty was over, and people tried to write me off, personally,” Poole said after being crowned a champion. “But if you believe in yourself — to anybody listening: If your back is against the wall and you believe in yourself and you think it’s possible, stick to it no matter what, no matter the noise, don’t let anybody ever tell you that you can’t. 

 

“As cliché as it sounds, it’s a fact.”

Poole now is the veteran of the Warriors’ recent draft picks. He’s followed by James Wiseman (21 years old), Moses Moody (20 years old) and Jonathan Kuminga (19 years old). 

Wiseman was stuck to the bench during the playoffs while continuing to rehab a knee injury that kept him out the entire 2021-22 season. But those within the Warriors organization still very much believe in the young 7-footer. There simply aren’t many players with his raw skills and athleticism at his size, and he was seen throughout the postseason putting in work to hopefully make his return during the NBA Summer League.

Then there’s Kuminga and Moody, the Warriors’ two lottery picks from one year ago. Kuminga already is among the best athletes in the league, if not the absolute best. His potential has no bounds, and it makes up for him still learning the ins and outs of the game. 

Moody doesn’t have the athletic ceiling that Kuminga has, but he displays a veteran’s poise and basketball IQ. When given chances as a rookie, he proved to be the perfect glue guy and never shied away from hustling and fighting for loose balls. He’s a winning player, someone who veterans praised all season long for his work ethic. 

The two were relegated to the sidelines in the Finals. However, Steve Kerr wasn’t afraid to call Kuminga’s number earlier in the postseason, and Moody became a big part of the rotation in the Western Conference finals. Wiseman, Kuminga and Moody seeing what it takes to be a champion from the Warriors’ stars and veterans is extremely invaluable. 

“They are excited,” Poole said with a smile when asked about the Warriors’ rookies. “These guys are able to get a ring in their first year, the hardest accolade accomplishment there is to get. They got it in their first year and they played a huge role.

“Moses came in and he made big plays in the playoffs. JK made big plays in the playoffs and in the season. That’s what I mean, people were ready to step up. We have guys who want to take that moment.

“I’m going to throw myself in the group with the young guys right now. This is just the beginning. We’re extremely hungry, and now we got a taste of what this is like at a really early age, and really early in our career. I’m excited for them, and they are enjoying it all.”

This upcoming offseason, Poole is expected to command a contract at, or north of, $100 million. The Warriors have to re-sign center Kevon Looney and guard Gary Payton II after they showed how indispensable they are this season, and Andrew Wiggins, who averaged 18.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in the Finals while locking up Jayson Tatum, becomes an unrestricted free after next season and likely will ask for a max contract. 

 

That doesn’t even take into the account the expensive futures of Curry, Thompson and Green. 

The Warriors’ future payroll is about to hit a number we’ve never seen. Here’s the solution: Winning cures all. That’s all that matters to the Warriors’ Big Three, and that thinking has been ingrained into the youngsters. It’s all that matters to Kerr, who now is a nine-time champion between his coaching and playing career. Even though he has shied away from throwing money around left and right at times in years past, owner Joe Lacob’s competitiveness should only help the Warriors keep this thing going for years to come. 

RELATED: Warriors’ latest Finals victory truly a triumph of the aged

“I’m not sure,” Green said when asked about the longevity of the Warriors extending their dynasty. “I don’t like to put a number on things and say, “Oh man, we can get five or we can get six. We’re going to get them until the wheels fall off. 

“And that’s our goal: To compete at this level every year.”

The Warriors are built by the perfect combination of competitiveness and joy. They’ve pulled off the unthinkable, winning with two timelines in the present and the future, becoming the first team ever to go from the worst record in the NBA to champions two years later. Before 2015, the franchise hadn’t won a title in 40 years. 

Curry, Thompson and Green now are four-time champions. They’ll celebrate Monday at the championship parade, and the next wave of Warriors look ready to keep the party going.

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