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The Golden State Warriors were in position to steal the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference coming out of the All-Star break, but instead, they’ve only lost ground in the standings and now appear destined to end up as the No. 3 seed heading into the playoffs. In that case, they would likely draw a Denver Nuggets team that has beaten them three times in four tries this season.

Golden State has now lost four of its last five games, and Stephen Curry still hasn’t returned from a foot injury that’s sidelined him for more than a week. As if their current freefall wasn’t bad enough, the Warriors just received the disappointing news that second-year center James Wiseman won’t return to the court this season.

The Warriors are slowly slipping out of NBA title contention

At times this season, the Warriors have looked like the most dangerous team in the NBA. Curry was playing at an MVP level early in the year, Klay Thompson has shown flashes of his old self, and the team has liked what it’s seen from Jordan Poole, Jonathan Kuminga, and Moses Moody.

But Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green have all missed time due to injury this year, and the Warriors haven’t been able to keep up with the Phoenix Suns or Memphis Grizzlies since the All-Star break. Golden State has now lost four of its last five, and it recently went on a five-game losing skid that allowed the Grizzlies to grab the No. 2 seed in the West.

With Curry now nursing a sprained ligament in his left foot, the Warriors could be in danger of an early exit in the playoffs. Things are unraveling at the wrong time for Steve Kerr’s squad, and it doesn’t have much time to fix its problems.

Warriors receive disappointing James Wiseman news

James Wiseman warms up before a game.
James Wiseman of the Golden State Warriors warms up before a game against the Portland Trail Blazers | Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Warriors are losing ground in the standings every night, Curry might not return to the court until the start of the playoffs, and the Western Conference seems to be slipping out of their fingertips. As if that wasn’t enough bad news, Golden State recently announced Wiseman won’t be able to play this season as he continues to rehab his right knee.

“Ultimately, very simple: We’re protecting James’ future,” Kerr said of the decision, per ESPN. “It makes the most sense to take this route. Again, I feel terrible for James. He’s been through so much already in just two seasons. But, his long-term health looks good, the knee looks sound. It’s just a decision that makes the most sense for his own best interest, and his as well.”

Wiseman played in just 39 games as a rookie and has missed his entire second season after undergoing knee surgery last April. As the second overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the center hasn’t had the chance to live up to the hype. Next season will be a crucial one not just for his Warriors career, but his NBA career in general.

LaMelo Ball regret setting in

Wiseman has barely been on the court for the Warriors through two seasons, and he hasn’t been very effective even when he has been healthy. But LaMelo Ball, who went one pick after Wiseman in the 2020 NBA Draft, is already a star.

The Charlotte Hornets point guard made the All-Star Game in just his second NBA season. He’s averaging 19.8 points, 7.3 assists, and 6.8 rebounds per game in 2021-22, and he’s the biggest reason why the Hornets are looking at their first playoff berth since 2016.

Ball has been arguably the most impressive player from the 2020 draft class, and he could be hooping alongside Curry and Thompson right now if the Warriors went a different direction.

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