Wednesday night’s Warriors-Mavericks matchup will have a playoff-like feel, as the Western Conference’s No. 6 seed will be on the line. No one wants to go into the crapshoot of the play-in tournament this season, which has been marked by parity in the West.
Before making the call for ESPN, longtime broadcaster and former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy joined 95.7 The Game’s “Steiny & Guru” Wednesday to give his thoughts on the Warriors.
For Van Gundy, the season hinges on the status of Andrew Wiggins, who remains out indefinitely while dealing with a personal issue that has sidelined him the past 16 games.
“They don’t have enough without Wiggins to win a championship,” Van Gundy told hosts Matt Steinmetz and Daryle ‘The Guru’ Johnson. “With Wiggins and with (Steph) Curry playing great, great basketball, they would have a puncher’s chance. The Western Conference is down this year. There’s no one who basically I think is unbeatable. If they have their full roster and they get Payton back as well, then maybe they would have enough. Obviously their road wins are confounding. But they have to get one road win in any given series. I think Wiggins is imperative to their championship hopes. And Gary Payton’s important as well.”
Wiggins was a huge part of last year’s title run, as he helped slow down Luka Doncic in the Western Conference Finals, which lasted just five games.
While the Warriors remain patient with Wiggins this season and are respecting his privacy on his unknown family matter, Payton is set to be re-evaluated on Thursday and has been spotted working out before games, so his return seems imminent.
As for Steph’s supporting cast, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney are still doing their thing. Jonathan Kuminga has stepped up this year while Jordan Poole has regressed. But the Warriors have been overly reliant on two-way players Anthony Lamb and Ty Jerome this season, while Andre Iguodala has essentially been a non-factor.
Curry is doing his part, averaging 29.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 5.0 3-pointers per game, but the Warriors are 23-24 with him in the lineup compared to 14-13 without him. Still, Van Gundy thinks the Warriors superstar needs more help despite playing on the biggest payroll in the league.
“They have actually a losing record with Curry this year,” Van Gundy said. “He alone cannot go out and win a championship. Their roster last year was better. He was unbelievable in the finals and they pulled off, to me, the most improbable championship I’ve seen in a long period of time. He’s good enough, their roster needs to improve. Obviously that starts with Wiggins. I think he would be their second-most important player right now. They have big decisions. Certainly, if they’re going to have a championship window at this late point in Curry’s career, they’re going to have to supplement the roster a lot better.”