There’s one main ingredient missing from the Warriors headed into Friday’s opening of NBA free agency, the one that’s needed for a successful offseason. Draymond Green is hitting open waters, but Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. hasn’t been sitting back and watching from the boat.
Dunleavy began his new role with a splash. Trading for Chris Paul, a move that can’t be official until July 6, is a move that will take much longer than that to process. Three players already have been shipped off of last year’s roster, two have been added through the draft and a 38-year-old future Hall of Famer is on the way.
Green also isn’t alone.
Donte DiVincenzo will join him in free agency as a Warrior who turned down his player option. Ty Jerome, Anthony Lamb and JaMychal Green are all set to be unrestricted free agents, and Lester Quinones is a restricted free agent. Andre Iguodala hasn’t officially retired yet, too.
He promised ahead of last season that would be his final year in the NBA. He also can’t be completely counted out until all steps are completed.
Here’s how the Warriors’ roster currently stands: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Kevon Looney, Paul (not yet official), Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, Gary Payton II, Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis. Though he will have his suitors, the assumption remains Green continues wearing a Warriors jersey. Dunleavy has signaled his expectation being the Warriors begin the season holding 14 players, a tax-purpose plan.
So, what’s missing? The Warriors essentially have three open slots, and could be looking at three categories.
New offseason, same size concerns. The issue has been top of the mind for Dub Nation year in and year out. It’s a rinse-and-repeat frustration, and keeps on trucking. This offseason, it’s more understandable than usual.
The Western Conference features star big men in Nikola Jokic, Anthony Davis, Domantas Sabonis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, Jaren Jackson Jr., Lauri Markkanen, and Zion Williamson when he plays. Deandre Ayton and Jonas Valanciunas can cause problems, Walker Kessler and Alperen Sengun are on the rise, and Chet Holmgren and Victor Wembanyama are poised to be basketball’s new unicorns.
Meanwhile, the Warriors traded 7-foot center James Wiseman at the Feb. 9 deadline and moved their tallest remaining player during the draft. That’s what made them dealing Patrick Baldwin Jr. to the Washington Wizards initially so shocking. Baldwin checked two boxes that Golden State’s roster can use: Size and shooting.
Bob Myers’ final first-round draft pick as Warriors GM is at least 6-foot-10 and hit 38.1 percent of his 3-point attempts in limited time as a rookie.
Warriors center Kevon Looney (6-foot-9) played all 82 regular-season games for the second straight year, is coming off his best statistical campaign at 7.0 points and 9.3 rebounds per game and is elite at his position for what he provides to his team. Looney can also use some help. Right now, he only has is coming from a rookie.
When Jackson-Davis wasn’t taken in the first round, the Warriors immediately were on the phones gauging interest on him around the league and what it might take to add him. Steve Kerr is a fan of Jackson-Davis, the son of one of Kerr’s former teammates, and especially likes how much experience the rookie has at a high level of the college game. Jackson-Davis is going to be 24 years old in February, racked up numerous awards throughout his college career at Indiana, was a double-double machine as a senior – averaging 20.9 points and 10.8 rebounds per game – and like Looney, has unselfish playmaking skills.
And he’s listed at 6-foot-9. Green (6-foot-6) is the Warriors’ small-ball center, and is sure to see plenty of action there going forward. The Warriors need another big body, whether he can stretch the floor or not.
Brook Lopez is the dream option. The former Stanford product also likely is much, much more dream than actual option.
Free-agent options: Robin Lopez, Alex Len, Mason Plumlee, Dwight Powell, Bismack Biyombo
The Warriors still have the greatest shooting backcourt ever in Curry and Thompson, and both are coming off great shooting seasons. Curry made a total of 273 threes in 56 games, making 42.7 percent of his attempts, his best clip since the 2018-19 season. Thompson led the NBA in threes for the first time in his career, making 301 on 41.2 percent shooting, his best since 2017-18.
Still, some cold shooting from the two in the second round of the NBA playoffs ultimately doomed the Warriors.
Jordan Poole gave the Warriors three players with at least 200 3-pointers, but he made only 33.6 percent of his threes in the regular season and shot 25.4 percent behind the 3-point line in the playoffs. Poole is on his way out as part of the Paul return, and CP3 was much more efficient beyond the arc last season. Paul shot 37.5 percent as a 3-point shooter last season on 4.4 attempts per game. It’s not the main part of his game, but Paul is a 36.9 percent shooter for his career from 3-point range.
Shooting was a priority with the Warriors’ first-round draft pick this year. Podziemski shot 43.8 percent from long range as a sophomore at Santa Clara, and that skill set will be his early ticket to playing time as a shooter who can score in multiple ways.
That leaves Moody, who has made 36.3 percent of his 3-point shots through the first two years of his career and just shot 59.1 percent (13 of 22) from three in the playoffs. Kuminga improved as a 3-point threat last season, made 37 percent of his tries and has been working on making his shot quicker this offseason. Payton isn’t going chuck shots up left and right but he has shot 38.1 percent from 3-point range the past two seasons.
Quinones has a lot of fans within the building and is a strong two-way contract candidate. He averaged 21.8 points per game for the Santa Cruz Warriors in the G League, shooting 45.1 percent overall from the field and 35.4 on 3-pointers. Quinones will play for the Warriors’ summer league team, too.
Whether it’s the Warriors or not, no team can have too much shooting and Dunleavy knows the Warriors can use some help. Ideally, a shooter would come with some size and that can be an emphasis to help in more than one area.
Free-agent options: Quinones, Kevin Love, Dario Saric, Joe Ingles, Yuta Watanabe, Trey Lyles, Damion Lee
Extra Ball Handler
Turnovers always have been a part of the Warriors’ offensive DNA for their open, flowing style. Last season, though, they were a detriment. Adding Paul should be an immediate upgrade there, and the issue was something the Warriors had to address.
They led the NBA in turnovers per game, and Poole was a major reason why. He gave away the fourth-most turnovers in the league, averaging 3.1 per game. Paul averaged 1.9 turnovers per game, the lowest of his 18-year career. But like the man ahead of him, Paul is going to need rest.
The 38-year-old played 59 regular-season games and missed the final four of the playoffs for the Phoenix Suns. Curry, 35, played 56 regular-season games as he dealt with two injuries that kept him out for long stretches. The Warriors need an extra point guard they can trust with the ball in his hands. They have an option that exceeded expectations last season, too.
Jerome wants to be a Warrior, and Kerr applauded him throughout the season for being a presence he can trust. Over 18.1 minutes a night, Jerome averaged 3.0 assists and only 0.7 turnovers per game. He had 135 total assists and 35 turnovers, giving him a 4.5 assist to turnover ratio. Jerome also brings shooting, too, making 38.9 percent of his 3-pointers last season.
Kerr, Dunleavy and the rest of the Warriors’ front office and coaching staff want high IQ players they can trust. The game got out of control far too often last season, and untimely mistakes cost down the stretch multiple times. The Warriors now have two of the greatest point guards ever, and still could use another player to take charge of the offense for stretches.
Free-agent options: Jerome, Austin Rivers, Dennis Smith Jr.