The Golden State Warriors are now officially a dynasty after winning the 2018 NBA Finals, their third championship in four years. The rest of the league is trying to catch up to the Warriors, who have formed a team that is not only comprised of some of the best players in the game, they also have a coach and a system that are the envy of the rest of the NBA.
But as unstoppable as Golden State is right now, the Warriors organization isn’t the type to rest on its laurels and squeeze the most out of what they have.
Just as they relentlessly pursued Kevin Durant, the 2018 Finals Most Valuable Player, in free agency two years ago, expect them to work the salary cap and retool their roster to keep other teams at bay.
How could they possibly improve their already formidable roster?
The only untradeable players in their lineup right now are Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. They can make a case for Andre Iguodala, but if the right offer comes along, the Dubs won’t hesitate to deal him, as he is already getting a bit older. Everyone else is expendable and this is where they can move some parts — and improve their suddenly shallow bench that was exposed in the playoffs.
They have a number of free agents on their roster this summer. Namely, the following players: Durant (player option), Patrick McCaw (RFA), Nick Young (UFA), David West (UFA), JaVale McGee (UFA), Kevon Looney (UFA), Zaza Pachulia (UFA)
The only player who is guaranteed to stay for sure from this group is Durant, who has shown for the second straight year that he is not afraid of the bright lights of the Finals.
McCaw was injured prior to the playoffs, but could be a player they can keep unless another team offers a contract that the Warriors would not dare match. He’s a restricted free agent and missed out on a chance to prove his worth on the team in the playoffs.
Young was an inconsistent scorer off the bench throughout the year and he didn’t do much more in the postseason. Young will not likely return even if he takes a pay cut. The team can find a cheaper but more reliable alternative to the 10-year veteran.
If West can stay on for the veteran’s minimum he can continue to serve a purpose against particular teams, though, he is not as dependable as he used to be. If he demands more than that, it is better for the Warriors to part ways with the former All-Star.
McGee was a revelation in the Finals, giving them a presence in the middle who was active and didn’t take bad shots. He took advantage of the opportunities given to him. If the price is right, McGee could be a good player to keep.
Looney had his moments when he was on the floor in the Finals but if the Warriors want to keep a couple of big men, it would be McGee and Jordan Bell.
Finally, Pachulia doesn’t fit into the Warriors’ plans anymore so it’s best for them to part ways.
Possible Trade Piece
Shaun Livingston is like Old Faithful for the Warriors. The Finals showed that he has a lot more to give to the team than many may realize. The only problem is his contract which is $8.3 million next season. If the Warriors can find a player at that price who can contribute right away, they’ll go ahead and trade for that player, especially if it’s a younger one who can stay with the team for a few more years and help keep this dynasty going.
Potential Free Agent Pick-Ups for Warriors
Tyreke Evans – Evans should have been traded by the Memphis Grizzlies to another team before the February trade deadline, but no one took him. Now that he’s an unrestricted free agent, the former Rookie of the Year can be snatched up by anyone and that could be the Warriors who need a player of his talents to bolster their bench scoring.
Wayne Ellington – After nine years in the league, Ellington may want to play for a winner and the Warriors should look to try and make him an offer. He would be an excellent replacement for Livingston’s salary cap slot should they trade their backup point guard.
Jerami Grant – Grant has potential to grow and become a better player in Golden State’s system. Entering his sixth year, he could find the NBA game much easier with a system that will highlight his strengths and perhaps improve his 3-point marksmanship.
Signing all four of these players would be a major coup for Warriors GM Bob Myers, who will have to continue being aggressive in overhauling their roster if they don’t want the other teams to sneak up on them.
Their main concern that could derail any offseason moves would be the status of Thompson’s contract. Sports Illustrated’s Ben Ladner wrote about the complicated nature of the Warriors’ situation with the All-Star guard.
“Thompson is under contract through the 2019 season, but is currently eligible for a four-year extension (in addition to the remaining year on his current deal). The most Thompson could sign for is $102 million over those four years. If he turns down the extension and chooses to wait until free agency next summer, Thompson could sign a five-year, $188 million contract, and if he makes an All-NBA team in 2019, he would qualify for the five-year, $219 million deal. The Warriors, however, might not be willing or able to make that sort of offer with Curry and Durant both on max (or close to max) deals and Green extension-eligible in 2019.”
Despite the uncertainty of Thompson’s asking price, the Warriors should carefully consider how important he is to their championship runs. His skills as a shooter and defender have been the least appreciated during the past four years, as many consider him the most expendable of their four stars. But make no mistake, Thompson is a vital part of the Warriors as a two-way player who doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective.
Last year, he said that he is willing to take a pay cut to keep the core of the team intact.
“We’re talking like 24 months away,” Thompson told The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson II in a podcast. “But it’s something that definitely crossed my mind, especially when you see guys like Kevin (Durant) doing it.”
“We all make a ton of money,” the former Washington State star added later. “But you want to look back on your career and leave a legacy, especially as a winner and impacting your community,” Thompson said. “I don’t want to be known as a basketball player. I want to be known as a champion and who did great things in the Bay Area.”
Speaking of Durant, the former league MVP already took a pay cut (as Thompson mentioned) previously to join the Warriors but, he will more than likely ask the front office for a max deal this summer. He is expected to opt out of his contract to get the best deal he can.
According to an interview with Durant by Tim Kawakami and Marcus Thompson of the Warriors Plus/Minus Podcast, he wants to stay as a Warrior given the right circumstances.
“I don’t know. To be honest — I know a lot of guys say that and it’s BS — but I haven’t thought about it once,” Durant said. “I know I want to be here and I want to continue to keep growing as a player … we’ll see what happens this summer as far as the options that I have … money has never been the sole reason why I made any decision.
“I just try to make a good basketball decision. Hopefully, the organization does right by me as well. That stuff always has to align … we’ll talk about the details later.”
If Durant and the Warriors agree to a deal this offseason, they will have taken care of their core players and should be stronger when next season arrives.
The Improved Warriors
In this hypothetical lineup, the starting five will remain the same except for the center spot, which will now be manned by JaVale McGee. On the flip side, the bench will be much improved. The Warriors will have Quinn Cook, Evans, Harris, Ellington, Grant, Andre Iguodala, West (if he stays for the minimum) and Bell.
If Golden State wants to win a fourth championship, they will have to be smart and decisive about the players they recruit this summer. Should they land most, if not all, of the players mentioned previously, then the Warriors should be capable of defending their title next June.