After a promising finish to the 2020-21 season and a successful offseason of roster-building, the Golden State Warriors are expected to return to title contention next season. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green both put together spectacular years, and the return of All-Star Klay Thompson should place the Warriors back among the Western Conference elite.
Thompson's return might not come as soon as Warriors fans might hope, however. After missing two full seasons due to a torn ACL and a ruptured Achilles tendon, Thompson may not make his 2021-22 season debut until Christmas, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.
"He's doing well in his recovery, but the Warriors are targeting that Christmas Day game against the Suns for his return," Shelburne said on The Jump. "He could come back a little bit before that, but in terms of getting his conditioning right, they're targeting that Christmas Day game against the Suns. I know that sounds a little late to people, but he was injured on Nov. 18, so this is 13 months from an Achilles injury."
This is in keeping with remarks from Warriors general manager Bob Myers, who said in late June that December was a "more likely" target for Thompson's return.
In addition to his thoroughly entertaining boat rides around the Bay Area, Thompson has been providing updates on his rehab via social media, showing significant progress since his Achilles injury last November.
"This is a conservative target," Shelburne continued. "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."
The Warriors added depth this offseason with rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, along with veteran free agents Andre Iguodala, Otto Porter, Nemanja Bjelica and Chris Chiozza. This is in addition to the returning players like Jordan Poole, Damion Lee, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Mychal Mulder who proved themselves to be rotation-worthy last season, so the Warriors have the manpower to survive, and even thrive, without Thompson.
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Still, if the Warriors are going to truly contend for a title, they're going to need Thompson at full strength. In his last full season in 2018-19, Thompson averaged 21.5 points per game on 47/40/82 shooting splits while earning a spot on the All-Defensive second team. So while the fans may want to see him back in action before Christmas, the most prudent course is extreme caution to avoid any setbacks and ensure Thompson's health for the postseason.
"With a healthy Klay Thompson, I think we're right there with everybody," Myers said. "But I don't know when, or how, I expect him to come back healthy. I don't want to put any pressure on the date because it's not going to be at the start of the season. It's not going to be the first game."