Our Longest Summer series will look at the eight teams whose seasons are now officially over, and will have to wait until mid-October to make decisions on what’s next and how to proceed after falling short of the cut-off for a continued 2019-20 campaign.
The 2019-20 season was always going to be a little strange for the Golden State Warriors. After the 2019 NBA Finals, Kevin Durant exited to Brooklyn and, with Klay Thompson suffering a long-term injury in the early summer, the Warriors simply couldn’t afford any additional injuries. Almost on cue, Stephen Curry missed the (vast) majority of the campaign and the offseason acquisition of D’Angelo Russell couldn’t stop the bleeding.
When the NBA’s hiatus arrived, the Warriors owned the league’s worst record and, while that does mean favorable odds in the draft lottery, no one saw this coming for Steve Kerr’s bunch. With that in mind, Golden State arrives at an interesting offseason with a number of balls in the air and avenues to pursue as they will have hopes of going from worst to first in 2021.
2020 Free Agents
None, though the Warriors do have several non-guaranteed contracts
2020 Projected salary cap space (assuming $115 million salary cap)
More than $44 million over the cap and $20 million over the luxury tax, per Early Bird Rights
Areas of Strength
This is pretty easy. Despite having the worst record in the league, the Warriors still employ an uber-elite player in Stephen Curry and two more All-Stars in Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Golden State’s depth has certainly taken a hit with defections but, if Andrew Wiggins makes the strides that many believe he can in a supporting role, that would unlock quite a bit for the Warriors. Finally, Golden State has an intriguing chess piece with a first-round pick guaranteed to land in the top five and, beyond that, the Warriors also own a valuable 2021 first-round selection from Minnesota.
Areas of Need
As noted previously, this isn’t a team with a ton of depth all the sudden, especially if Kevon Looney’s injury issues don’t improve. The Warriors did unearth a gem in Eric Paschall but, overall, Golden State is going to need to add a couple of rotation-quality players to pair with their star power. Of course, that all assumes health (Thompson) and high-end performance (Green) from their supporting stars, which is probably more important than anything short of Curry’s own availability.
As you can see above, the Warriors are way over the salary cap and luxury tax. Usually, teams in that situation don’t have much flexibility, but that isn’t necessarily true of Golden State. In addition to this year’s draft pick and Minnesota’s 2021 selection, the Warriors have the benefit of a $17.2 million trade exception created in the Andre Iguodala trade. In short, that means that the team can acquire another substantial salary, at least if ownership is willing to dig even deeper into the tax. As for the draft pick, it might make sense for Golden State to cash in the uncertainty (especially in a bad draft) for a player, but they might have salary-matching issues if that player doesn’t fit snugly into the Iguodala exception.
Overall Offseason Focus
The Warriors aren’t getting any younger, with all three stars now in their 30’s. The franchise’s window for title contention remains open given the genuinely special talent on the roster but, to put it bluntly, Golden State needs to get healthy and push even more of their chips into the middle to sincerely contend in 2020-21. Cashing in the Iguodala exception (and maybe setting up a run for a big-time trade piece using Wiggins’ contract) is a good start but, with Curry now up for an extension in his own right, this is a wildly expensive team and the results have to match that after a one-year blip. If they don’t, the entire enterprise could evaporate in a hurry. The good news is, they’re the non-bubble league team in the best position to take advantage of the quick turnaround that’s in store for teams that make a deep postseason run this season and will only have a month or so of a real offseason.