BOSTON – The Golden State Warriors’ biggest deadline deal came during Bob Myers tenure three seasons ago. They turned on D’Angelo Russell in favor of Andrew Wiggins and the pick that became Jonathan Kuminga, getting rid of the luxury tax in the process.
But that deal was executed when the Warriors had a 12-40 record, long out of contention status. It was basically an early start to their season associated with some financial cost saving exercise. Most other years, while competitive, they stayed quiet at the NBA trade deadline, only occasionally nibbling on the sidelines.
Last season, they didn’t touch their roster at all. The same fifteen players who filled out the opening night roster were still there the night they won the title in Boston. You could have argued for more urgency in the deadline. They were 41-15 but began to fall behind with Draymond Green out, leaving the theoretical need for frontcourt insurance behind a tired Kevon Looney. They looked like they needed a real-life threat jolt for a title.
Myers stood up. They won the title anyway.
The best doppelgänger of the current Warriors season is actually two years ago. The Warriors hovered around . 500 during the middle months. On the day of the 2021 trade deadline, they were 22-22, which is exactly their current record. During the 2020-21 season, they elected not to transfer Kelly Oubre Jr. – their most chip available – and instead made two minor moves at the deadline: paying Charlotte to take Brad Wanamaker and San Antonio to take over Marquis Chris.
This cleared two spots on the list and saved me a huge chunk of money. If players are transferred from the roster, their entire salary will no longer be calculated from the luxury tax. The Warriors, on a relatively cheap contract in the final week of the season, switched two-way player Juan Toscano Anderson to one of those empty spots and tested some options for the other, eventually landing Gary Payton II, beginning a partnership that paid off a season later.
Sources with knowledge of the thinking of warriors, who were given anonymity so they could speak freely, point to this type of strategy profile as the most likely path for these current warriors. Those in the know don’t expect a loud trading deadline with major roster shuffling, and instead expect some nibbling on the sidelines, if anything. Below is a more detailed summary of the situation.
• A backup center such as Jakob Poeltl or Kelly Olynyk would be a useful upgrade to the rotation. The Warriors already have a set starting lineup, a highly-used, effective sixth man (Jordan Poole) and a couple of other bench players (Donte DiVincenzo and Jonathan Kuminga) who have solidified themselves. That’s eight. Full force rotation is unstable after that.
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JaMychal Green and James Wiseman are currently out. Green is closer to a comeback than Wiseman. He still had some time to make a claim in the ninth, but JaMychal Green struggled before his season was completely derailed by a leg injury that briefly took him to the hospital. His absence opened the door for Wiseman, who caught a peek but then sprained his ankle in a scrimmage and missed six straight games.
Poeltl or Olynyk would be obvious upgrades over either. Poeltl made $9.4 million in the final season of his contract with San Antonio. Olynyk makes $12.8 million this season at Utah, and has a $3 million partial guarantee on his $12.2 million salary next season. In theory, the short financial commitment is an appeal for the Warriors. They are facing a well-documented tax crisis and are not interested in adding committed salaries after this season, eliminating many other business options for the league.
This problem does not exist with Poeltl or Olynyk. But it creates another problem that is difficult for them to overcome. Poeltl and Olynyk, for the warriors, will be considered rents. There are teams that will be more willing to keep Olenek on the roster at $12.2 million next season or extend Poeltl’s market price in the summer, perhaps into the mid-teens toward $20 million a season. But owner Joe Lacob and the Warriors don’t have an appetite for what this will do with their future tax bill, which has already been projected beyond their comfort limit.
You were really talking about three months of a backup position that wouldn’t start or lock games behind Looney and Draymond Green and then disappear in the offseason. Is it worth mortgaging his recruiting choices, plus, possibly, Wiseman and his matching salary? It is possible to answer it. Otto Porter Jr. averaged just 19.5 minutes in 19 playoff games last season, but he’s been a key part of his title run. The ninth can be important.
But the warriors protect their future. Lacob has been clear in his desire to thread the needle and manage assets with this franchise in a window of relevance that never ends. These are the negative aspects. By their very nature, commercial deadline rents negatively affect the long term in order to cause immediate spikes. Warriors are not desperately moving to maximize the present.
• This is also why Kuminga, Wiseman and Moody remain with the Warriors past the deadline. They’re not actively shopping the last three lottery picks, according to those sources familiar with the Warriors’ thinking. This does not mean that they are Not possible In the right deal, but the opposing team hoping to get it will look for Moody or Wiseman in a deal, and the Warriors aren’t in a low-sell position.
Kuminga’s situation is a bit different. He has shown more and can achieve more, but he also deserves more for the Warriors. Given his brilliance as a single point attacking fullback – something the rest of this list lacks – there is an inner belief that he would be a necessary contributor in the up-and-comer role.
• The Warriors have more interest in adding a versatile multi-position winger than they do with an extra big man, according to those sources. Assuming health, either Draymond Green, Looney, or both will be on the ground almost every minute. So the priority will be to add an adaptive rotation option that can scale up and down depending on who else is using Steve Kerr at any given time.
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Porter was that. There are smaller wingers that fit this description, such as Jalen McDaniels, Darius Bazley, Rui Hachimura, and Obi Toppin, all of which come in varying levels. But, again, the price is likely to be too high when bidding against teams more interested in signing this kind of long-term restricted free agent.
• For these reasons, the Warriors are more of a buying team than a trading team. This is a market with no strings attached or unused assets, adding a seasoned veteran at a relative bargain. Last season, they didn’t have a roster or rotational place to field acquisition candidates. This season, they should have both.
Can Utah’s Rudy Gay fit that description? If he passes the deadline without a new home, is there any way the Rockets can buy Eric Gordon?
• Anthony Lamb is important in this debate. He’s currently a regular part of the Warriors’ rotation, averaging 25.9 minutes per game this month and 42 percent of his 3s on the season. He’s on a two-way contract and has already used 36 of his 50 qualifying games, getting deep into the front court for a team that needed it.
Lamb is expected to eventually be converted to the 15-man roster. They have an open space, and that void is going to be filled by someone in the playoffs, those sources say. It makes no sense to fill it in. Even if you wait until the last week – as they did two seasons ago with Toscano Anderson – the salary is prorated, which limits the tax. So there will be number 15.
If that’s Lamb and if another player is being added either via trade, free agent signing, or in the buy market, you’ll need to clear another spot on the roster. The wiser financial way to do this is by deadline, as the warriors did with Wanamaker and Chriss two years ago, forking out the tax. If JaMychal Green does not return and takes a more stable spot in the rotation before the deadline, he will be the most obvious candidate.
(Photo by Jonathan Cuminga: Bill Streicher/USA Today)