Under Contract (13): Ky Bowman (non-guaranteed), Marquese Chriss ($800,000 guaranteed), Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Damion Lee ($600,000 guaranteed), Kevon Looney, Mychal Mulder (non-guaranteed), Eric Paschall, Alen Smailagic, Klay Thompson, Juan Toscano-Anderson (non-guaranteed), Andrew Wiggins
Free Agents (0): None
Projected Cap Space: None. $50.9 million over
Projected Exceptions: Taxpayer Mid-Level ($6.0 million), Andre Iguodala Trade Exception ($17.2 million, expires 10/23/20)
Projected First Round Draft Pick (pre-lottery): #1
Analysis: Golden State's first season in San Francisco to open up Chase Center didn't go according to plan. After five straight trips to the NBA Finals, the bottom abruptly fell out on the Dubs. Golden State knew that they would have their work cut out for them to get back to the Finals, but a playoff spot seemed relatively certain. Sure, Kevin Durant was gone, and Klay Thompson would likely miss most of the season, but Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and new addition D’Angelo Russell were a better trio than most teams had.
Instead, Curry broke his hand in the fourth game of the season and missed all but one game the rest of the season. With the playoffs out of reach, the Warriors chose to sit Thompson for the entire season. Green missed a third of the season and sleepwalked through several of the games he did play. Russell, the key offseason addition, scored a lot, but was inefficient and also missed time due to injuries.
In addition to the stars being out or ineffective, Golden State was sapped of all of their depth. Because they acquired Russell via a sign-and-trade, the Warriors were subject to the hard cap. With one of the highest payrolls in the league, that made adding quality depth an almost impossible task.
As the season went along, Golden State swapped out veteran free agent signings Willie Cauley-Stein, Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III for younger (re: cheaper) players with some upside. And at the trade deadline, Bob Myers gave up on Russell and shipped him to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Andrew Wiggins and a future first round pick.
It’s with Andrew Wiggins where the Warriors path to title contention likely starts and ends. With three years and $94.7 million left on his deal, Wiggins is either going to be a key contributor or he’s going to be a cap-clogging contract on Golden State’s books.
Wiggins has been an enigma for almost his entire NBA career. He’s not exactly a bad player, but not one would call a good one either. You could watch Wolves games and forget he was on the floor for entire nights. While playing on mostly bad teams in Minnesota, no one really cared.
Now, Wiggins is thrust into a prominent role on a team that hopes to be a title contender again. Wiggins will have less of a scoring/playmaking role than he’s had at any point in his career, but more pressure to perform at a high level in that lessened role. All the Warriors need Wiggins to do is make shots and defend, but that’s easier said than done.
As for the Warriors offseason, they’ve got four players (Curry, Green, Thompson and Wiggins) who make a combined $130 million. That means Golden State is almost assuredly paying the luxury tax next season. The depth issues from last year still remain, especially in the frontcourt. Fixing them will only add to that tax bill.
The differences between this offseason and last? A healthy Thompson from the jump, no hard cap to work around, and some real assets towards building out the roster around the four highly-paid players.
Those assets come in from of two main pieces. First, the Warriors bottomed out in a year where they own their own first round pick. That pick has a great shot at landing in the top-4, as the Warriors enter the lottery with the league’s worst record. The worst Golden State will draft is fifth overall.
It’s not the most talent-laden draft, but there are good players available. There isn’t a consensus number one pick in this draft, so projecting who Myers might select is more difficult than usual. One player consistently rumored to Golden State is center James Wiseman from Memphis. That makes sense, as center remains a position of need and Wiseman was once seen as the top player in his class.
And, of course, Golden State could always dangle that pick in trade to bring in win-now talent.
The Warriors other main roster-building piece is a trade exception worth nearly $17.2 million. While that exception can’t be added to any other outgoing salary to bring in a star, it’s still the largest exception in the NBA. Golden State can either use that exception to add one player that makes up to $17.2 million, or they could use it to acquire multiple players. Expect Myers to explore both avenues, as the Warriors are in “use it or lose it” territory with this exception.
One other option would be for the Warriors to use the trade exception to eat a bad salary in a trade. That player’s contract could then be packaged together with another player, or draft picks, down the line to acquire a star. The key is that Golden State has lots of options.
And lots of options is what’s necessary. The starting five is probably close to set for now. Curry, Thompson, Green and Wiggins will likely be joined by Marquese Chriss to open games. Chriss was a solid find, as Golden State worked some transaction magic around the hard cap to keep him in the fold. He became the Dubs starting center in late-January and turned in the best basketball of his career. His athletic style is a good fit alongside the shooting of Curry and Thompson, and the playmaking and defense of Green.
Around the starting five, the Warriors need to fill out their rotation. Eric Paschall was a surprise as a 2019 second-round pick. He turned in one of the better rookie seasons in the NBA last season. He’ll have a rotation spot as a backup forward. Damion Lee may be part of the rotation because of his shooting ability. The diamond-mining process also found some solid deeper options like Ky Bowman, Mychal Mulder and Juan Toscano-Anderson.
Look for Golden State to round out the roster with veterans. They’ll add a rotation player via the draft (or via trading that pick), they’ll add one or more using the Iguodala trade exception. They’ll also have the $6 million Taxpayer Mid-Level to use to bring in one or more players. That’s where the depth will come from. It’ll all add to a large tax bill, but large tax bills are nothing the team has shied away from in the past.
With better health and the right additions, the Warriors will be right back in title contention. They may not be the favorites to win the Finals, but they’ll have great odds to get back on top in short order.