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The Splash Brothers are returning, but the landscape in the West has changed

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After a two-year hiatus, the Splash Brothers are finally back. One-half of the Splash Brothers in Klay Thompson was out of action for two consecutive seasons due to suffering back-to-back tore ACL injuries.

The duo of Steph and Klay have combined for three NBA championships, five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, and numerous all-star game appearances between the two. If both players can remain healthy for the majority of the season, they will be in the conversation for being one of the elite teams in the Western Conference.

However, compared to previous years when the Warriors steamrolled through the West, the conference landscape has changed entirely. Teams that Golden State would have no issue defeating, such as the Clippers, Jazz, and Lakers, have gotten better while Thompson recovered from his injuries.

Also, new up-and-coming teams in the West, such as the Grizzlies and Suns, will make the conference as competitive as ever before. Golden State witnessed first-hand how the landscape of the West had changed when they were involved in an intense contest with the Memphis Grizzlies.

The NBA’s play-in concept returned for the 2020-2021 season after making its debut during the pandemic year in which the league played in a consolidated bubble down in Orlando, Florida. The Warriors were vastly improved compared to the previous year, but they were nowhere near their championship-contending levels. They would lose both play-in games, which would prevent them from returning to the playoffs.

Steph Curry had another stellar season, but the overall team could not fill Thompson’s void. Without question, when Steph and Klay are on the court together, it significantly changes the game dynamics. On any given night, either Curry or Thompson can go on a scoring spree. Curry did it on multiple occasions last season.

His production had gotten to a level where his name was mentioned for Most Valuable Player. At the moment, Golden State will be without the presence of Thompson on the court. According to ESPN’s NBA reporter Ramona Shelburne, the Warriors expect Thompson to return on Christmas Day when they take on the Phoenix Suns.

“A lot of this is conditioning,” Shelburne said. “He’s doing well in his rehab, but he’s missed two seasons in a row now. So you don’t bring him back [too early]. This is a conservative target. If he does well and his conditioning is up, and he feels like he wants to come back earlier, he will. But this is a conservative target of Christmas Day because you need time to build your conditioning back up when you miss two NBA seasons.”

While Thompson is still preparing to return, the Warriors must establish themselves as a team that can be competitive in the West. The more games they can win while Thompson is out, the better position that Golden State will be in once the Splash Brothers are back on the court. The Warriors start their 2021-2022 campaign tonight at the Staples Center against the Los Angeles Lakers.

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Meet Derrick Branch, the founder and chief wordsmith at Strike 7 Sports. With a sharp focus on the NFL and the NBA, Derrick's expertise in sports is matched only by his passion for sharing it with others. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications from the prestigious University of Arizona Global. Let his insightful and engaging writing take you to the heart of the action.

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