If it weren’t for Koby Altman’s multiple power moves in the dying moments of the NBA trade window, the long-anticipated trade deadline would have passed in a somewhat anticlimactic manner. The Cleveland Cavaliers completely refurbished their roster in a flurry of unexpected moves, but the vast majority of teams stood pat, avoiding major alterations to their roster before the final stretch of the season. Golden State Warriors were, predictably, among that group of teams.
The Warriors roster is straight uploaded in all areas, especially at the top, their chemistry is flawless, and there weren’t any glaring needs that had to be addressed. Besides that, none of their touchable assets would have netted them anything worthwhile, other than maybe Patrick McCaw, who had been featured in some trade discussions. The Warriors have thus assumed the role of a quiet spectator, but some noise is definitely expected as the end of February draws near.
With the direction the league has been going, the buyout market will replace the trade market as the point of focus for teams looking to fortify their rosters, especially for the contending teams with salary cap restrictions that have crystallized by now.
That puts the Warriors in an excellent position to lure certain players from a never-better pool of free agents because they are, realistically, still the main favorites to win the title, making them the most attractive landing spot for players that got waived for one reason or another.
Even though they nominally still sport the strongest roster in the world, they haven’t been immune to their own strain of mid-season struggles. In fact, the Warriors are on pace for their worst record in the Steve Kerr era, signaling they could definitely use some fresh faces eager for playoff success. Let’s take a look at some players who might be willing to sacrifice getting the label of a ring-chaser in order to enter a mutually beneficial with the Warriors and make a strong push at adding the most valuable piece of jewelry to their collection.
4. Marco Belinelli
Belinelli and Tyreke Evans became the pioneers of the new NBA trend – sitting out players just prior to the trade deadline. The Hawks obviously failed to get anything valuable in return that could aid them in their rebuilding process, so there was no point in keeping the 31-year-old Italian native on a quest towards reaching the most favorable draft lottery position
Hawks didn’t even take time to mull their decision, proving that parting ways with Belinelli was always on the cards. The sharpshooter now holds his fate in his own hands, and there will be multiple teams seeking to add his skill set to the roster.
Not many people are aware, but Belinelli has solid ties with the Warriors organization; he was taken by them as the 18th overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft and spent his rookie and sophomore years honing his skills alongside Stephen Jackson and Monta Ellis.
It was evident from the get-go what he brings to the table, reliable three-point shooting and not much else (both of those Warriors teams were dead last in allowed points per game).
Despite his limited capabilities, especially at the defensive end, his three-point shooting is exactly what the Warriors need right now. Their bench has been converting abysmal one-in-three shots from beyond the arc so far (good for 24th in the league), so another, less-streaky three three-point threat could do wonders for their second unit. Expect the Warriors to thoroughly consider Belinelli’s spark-off-the-bench potential, and Belinelli to put a reunion with his original team at the top of his list of priorities.
3. Tony Allen
A polar opposite to Belinelli, Allen is another who got bought out immediately after the trade deadline, making him another interesting player the Warriors might claim off the waivers.
Allen has been dealing with a nagging fibula fracture for the majority of the season, participating in only 22 games thus far, so his fitness level might be a big concern. However, he has long been known as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, a claim substantiated by six consecutive All-Defensive Team honors, so his grit-and-grind mentality and veteran presence could only have a positive effect on the Warriors squad, both on and off the court.
At 36 years of age, the Grindfather might not be ready to give the Warriors many quality minutes considering their uptempo style of play, but they could easily use him as a player with one specific duty – killing the will to live in the best opposing perimeter player. The Warriors have already been pretty good at that, allowing the fifth lowest amount of points to opponent backcourts, but Allen would undoubtedly give another dimension to Steve Kerr’s defensive schemes.
His fierce competitive spirit, coupled with the fact that he’s slowly reaching the twilight of his career, might easily nudge Allen towards the decision to don the Warriors jersey and take a shot at becoming one of the rare players to win the NBA championship with two different teams.
2. Joakim Noah
Joakim Noah is probably the least feasible free agent Warriors could add to their roster, as he is strongly opposed to a buyout and leaving money on the table despite the recent fallout with coach Jeff Hornacek. Not logging any minutes while reportedly being at full health could, however, force Noah to seek an exit from the current situation, especially since he is still 32 years old and his days in the NBA are far from over. Should a buyout eventually occur, the Warriors will likely be among the first teams to pick up their phone.
The fact that Noah hasn’t consistently played at the top level for two and a half seasons might deflect potential suitors from rolling the dice on him, but he just might be the player with the ability to fix one of the Warriors’ rare deficiencies. There are currently some growing concerns with Zaza Pachulia’s fit with the starting lineup; he is seemingly inept to do the only things required from him – defend and protect the rim.
The opposing centers have been feasting on the Warriors this whole season: they are currently allowing 23.3 points to centers, good for second worst in the league, and getting to the paint has by far been the best option of scoring on the reigning champs (47.4 points on 62 percent shooting allowed in the paint, fifth and eighth worst in the league respectively).
Noah, on the other hand, has the reputation of a strong and agile rim protector, so providing even glimpses of that well-known defensive prowess would be extremely beneficial for the Warriors.
Noah is just three years removed from winning the Defensive Player of the Year award and ending up fourth in MVP voting, and that fact alone makes him worth bringing in on a cheap deal despite the injuries and lack of playing time that certainly took a toll on him. No one would be surprised if he decides to spite the Knicks and reject a buyout just for the sake of it (and a lot of money of course), but forfeiting his contract and joining the Warriors could instantly rejuvenate his career. One thing is for sure though, whatever he chooses, he sure as hell won’t agree to a buyout to join the Cavs.
1. Brook Lopez
Adding Brook Lopez to the already stacked Warriors roster would likely make an average NBA fan throw his hands up claiming that the NBA is rigged, but with the recent developments in the City of Angels, that has actually become a viable possibility.
With the Lakers reportedly preparing for one of the two upcoming free agent classes, they will inevitably be more focused on developing their young talent in hopes of making their future the most alluring factor in their pitch to superstar players.
Lopez has already fallen out of grace under the new circumstances, sitting out fourth quarters and gradually seeing less time on the court, which he admitted to being a source of frustration. He quickly shut down any talks of a potential buyout, but if the trend of him rotting on the bench continues throughout February, expect him to rethink his future plans.
Lopez was a reliable 20-point scorer every game just a season prior, but ever since he joined the Lakers, his stock value has been on a steady decline. Given the fact that he’s headed towards free agency this summer, he should definitely look into increasing his value over the remainder of the season and put himself in a position to secure probably the last substantial contract of his underappreciated career.
And why not get a ring in that process? Among all the mentioned players, Lopez would definitely be the most impactful acquisition for the Warriors, one that could even warrant a change to the starting lineup. He is, by all means, a perfect complement to the Warriors Big Four; a modern NBA big that shoots threes (34% on five attempts over the last two seasons) who is, contrary to the popular belief, actually a solid rim protector according to advanced metrics.
Similar to the Warriors, whatever Lopez lacks athletically he makes up for with high basketball IQ. He might not be as agile or versatile on defense, but just having him stand under the rim with his arms up at the right moment would do, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson would take care of the rest.
The recent slump Warriors have been going through, coupled with the subpar performance of their second unit, will force Joe Lacob and Bob Myers to delve into the free agent market and secure even more complementary firepower before the postseason.
Lucky for them, that market is saturated with quality players more than ever, and they are in charge of the best team in the league, traditionally making the Warriors the biggest magnet for players who have or will be bought out in the near future.
Whether they go for perimeter offense/defense in Marco Belinelli or Tony Allen, or reach for a big man that can conceal their most glaring flaw in Joakim Noah or Brook Lopez, the Warriors front office will make their team even more of a powerhouse heading into the playoffs. With the competition breathing down their neck that is, after all, the only logical course of action.