Whether Klay Thompson plays one more season, ten more seasons, or retires tomorrow, he will go down in history as one of the greatest players to ever wear a Golden State Warriors uniform.

He's a five-time All-Star, a two-time All-NBA player, a one-time all-defensive team member, and a four-time NBA Champion who will forever have his number 11 jersey hanging in the rafters of the Chase Center alongside Steph Curry and Draymond Green.

And yet, despite his pedigree, the decision to let him walk in free agency was 100 percent the right call, as was the decision to replace his minutes with not one, not two, but three top-tier free agent additions in De'Anthony Milton, Buddy Hield, and Kyle Anderson.

After averaging 20-plus points per game on incredibly efficient shooting numbers in every season he played in since 2014-15, Thompson had a down year across the board for the Warriors last season, struggling to find his spot in a diminished role while having to come off of the bench for the first time since his rookie season. While Thompson still had his moments where he looked like his old self, as the season went on, the rumbling about his unhappiness grew louder and louder by the month, with some genuinely wondering if the team would trade him mid-season to a team like the Philadelphia 76ers who had expiring contracts.

Fortunately, Thompson was able to close out the season with the Warriors, but by moving on from him when they did and replacing his spot on the roster with a 3-and-D guard like Melton, an elite sharpshooter in Hield, and a playmaking forward who can play solid defense in Anderson – a deceptive need after watching Chris Paul sign with San Antonio – the Warriors can add depth to their bench, spread out minutes across more players and save the best of Curry and Green for the playoffs should the team return to the postseason. Will it work? Only time will tell, but giving Thompson the same deal Dallas did or worse, the contract the Los Angeles Lakers offered up would have only set things up for further heartbreak down the line.

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) sits on the bench during action against the Sacramento Kings in the fourth quarter during a play-in game of the 2024 NBA playoffs at the Golden 1 Center.
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Dunleavy Jr. doesn't want to sacrifice the Warriors' youth

Speaking with reporters ahead of free agency, Mike Dunleavy Jr. addressed the Warriors' current roster construction and how they planned to build things out into the future.

Despite being linked to players like Lauri Markkanan at the time, who could still theoretically end up in San Francisco, in Dunleavy's opinion, moving off of the team's young player when they are still getting better just for the sake of veteran help would be a grave mistake.

“I’m always a big player development guy. I think our younger players have a really good chance to get better — Podz, JK, Trayce, Moses. And then even our guys that we’ve had here for a while can get better. I think that’s got to be the main thing, and then from there you see what else is out there — can you make a move or a couple moves, do some stuff that enhances your team? That’s the one thing we’re hinging everything on,” Mike Dunleavy Jr. said via The Mercury News.

“We really value those guys. We drafted them, we’ve grown them. They’ve played really well. We’re excited about them. A scenario to move them would take a lot. It’s important for us to be good now and also be good in the future. But the main thing is, we think those guys can contribute and help our group now. If that was not the case, we’d be more open to stuff. But it is, and we’re excited for those guys’ growth this year. I expect them to be with us.”

Are the Warriors being a bit too precious with their young players? Would keeping, say, Moses Moody in a mid-bench role where he once against can't reach his true potential really benefit anyone, or do the Warriors actually have to make a decision on their future one way or another? In 2024, the Warriors can probably keep with the current plan and hope that a player like Moody can step up and become a top-tier contributor like Jonathan Kuminga before him. But heading into the future, when Curry and Green are either gone or further diminished, Golden State will need to settle on a new franchise cornerstone, be that Markkanan, Kuminga, or a player who isn't even in the NBA yet like Cooper Flagg or a high schooler hoping to pass chemistry before he worries about which college team to play for down the line.