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The 1 key move Warriors must still make in 2022 NBA offseason

Jordan Poole, Warriors

Summer isn’t over, but the Golden State Warriors’ offseason might as well be.

The defending champions lost Gary Payton II and Otto Porter in free agency, loathe to increase another massive luxury tax bill to bring back aging bench players. Impactful and effective as they were last season, though, Golden State doesn’t stand to lose much from the departures of Payton and Porter after replacing them with Donte DiVincenzo and JaMychal Green on the cheap.

Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga are ready to step into bigger roles as sophomores, while James Wiseman will enter 2022-23 with a clean bill of health, fighting for rotation minutes behind Kevon Looney. There’s even still a chance Andre Iguodala returns for one more season, providing the Warriors leadership and proven depth on the wing only he can afford.

The offseason has been good to Golden State, basically, ensuring Stephen Curry and company remain title favorites as training camp fast approaches. But just because the Warriors are well positioned to win an incredible fifth championship in nine seasons doesn’t mean their work this summer is finished.

1 key move Warriors must still make in 2022 NBA offseason

Jordan Poole famously popped bottles to a forthcoming payday while celebrating his team’s most recent coronation, but his contract status remains unchanged as July winds down—even as similar players have gotten the “bag” Poole knows he deserves.

There’s no rush on the Warriors reaching an extension with Andrew Wiggins. He’s eligible for an updated contract through the upcoming season. Poole, by contrast, only has until the day before tipoff of 2022-23 to reach an extension with Golden State. He’ll otherwise be a restricted free agent next summer.

Both Joe Lacob and Bob Myers have publicly alluded to imminent extension discussions with Poole, and Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle reported earlier this week the sides will “soon” meet to discuss the parameters of a new contract.

There’s been no concrete reporting of late on Poole’s expectations in extension talks, but the market for a player of his ilk and caliber has already been set. Jalen Brunson got a four-year, $104 million contract from the New York Knicks in unrestricted free agency that includes a player option, while restricted free agent Anfernee Simons re-upped with the Portland Trail Blazers on a four-year, $100 million deal.

Team context and the whims of personal preference are the easiest separators between Poole, Brunson and Simons right now, but there’s an argument to be made the former deserves the priciest second contract among them.

Poole put up a scorching 64.5 true shooting percentage in his first playoff appearance, netting 62.7% of his twos and 39.1% of his threes on nearly six attempts per game. That ridiculous efficiency barely nudged when Curry was off the floor, either, just further evidence of Poole raising his game along with the quality of competition he and the Warriors faced.

The defensive concerns about Poole are real. He was absolutely roasted by Ja Morant in the second round before the Memphis Grizzlies’ star succumbed to a Game 3 knee injury, and was a similarly extreme liability in the first couple games of the NBA Finals, mercilessly targeted by Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics.

Poole got better on that end as the Finals continued, and is a long way from his physical prime at a late-blooming 23 years old. Considering his solid positional length and key place in Golden State’s ecosystem, it would hardly be surprising if Poole eventually develops into an average all-around defender with a couple extra years of strength and high-leverage experience under his belt.

The truth is that terms of his next contract likely won’t change either way. Deals for Brunson and Simons set the market for explosive, offense-first guards, and Poole’s performance over the 82-game grind and under the playoff microscope last season is more impressive than anything on his peers’ existing resumés.

That fact alone should be reason enough for Golden State to begin extension negotiations with Poole at approximately $26 million per year. Holding out hopes of re-signing him for a discount next summer—when tens of teams will be flush with cap space—risks Poole building on his stellar 2021-22 campaign and signing a max-level offer sheet with a competitor.

Lacob proved by letting Payton walk in free agency that he wants to save money when the opportunity presents itself without ripping negative recourse. Poole’s starting salary in 2023-24 on a maximum contract would be just over $33 million, at least several million dollars more than what the Warriors could realistically get him to sign for this summer.

Is that tens of millions in potential luxury-tax savings enough for Lacob to cut another big check before mid-October? It should be, but Poole may be confident betting on himself regardless.

Primed to play a pivotal role again as Golden State chases back-to-back titles, don’t be shocked if Poole balks at anything less than the max in extension talks, cinching his foray into restricted free agency a year from now.