Steve Kerr On Free Agency: ‘If Draymond’s Not Back, We Aren’t A Championship Contender’

The Golden State Warriors are entering a fascinating offseason coming off of a disappointing end to their season, losing in the second round to the Lakers in six games. It was a series that showed some of the flaws of the Warriors roster, as well as raising questions once again about how they should proceed with their team-building strategy.

The two-timeline approach hasn’t worked as intended, with Jordan Poole taking a step back this postseason and Moses Moody being the only one of their three recent lottery picks to find himself in the playoff rotation. With Poole on a large, new extension, there’s plenty of pressure on him coming into next year and rumblings that Golden State could look to move him this summer — or at least will listen if teams come calling about the young guard.

On the other end of the spectrum are Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, two pillars of the franchise who are expecting to be paid handsomely this summer. Thompson is extension eligible, with one more year left on his current deal, while Green is a free agent. Draymond has made clear he wants to be back, but it’s a matter of whether Golden State will meet his asking price. On Tuesday during exit interviews, Kerr was asked about Green entering free agency and made his feelings on the matter very clear.

“If Draymond’s not back, we’re not a championship contender,” Kerr said “We know that, and he’s that important to winning and to who we are. So I absolutely want him back. He’s a competitor. He’s an incredible defensive player. … He knows that he had a great season this year from a basketball perspective, but he knows he also compromised things by what happened back in October. So part of him coming back next year has to be about rebuilding some of that trust and respect that he’s earned here for a long period of time.”

It’s an interesting quote because Kerr doesn’t shy away from the fact that Green punching Poole prior to the season fractured some trust in the locker room and it was something this group never fully recovered from. Still, he knows that on the court, there’s no one that can replace what Green does as both a defender and facilitator, and if the Warriors were to lose Green, it’d be a step back for what they can do as a team.

There will be plenty of pressure on the Warriors front office to re-sign Green and Thompson to extend this window for a few more years, even with the understanding that their upcoming contracts might run longer than their championship window is open. That’s a hard thing for a team spending this much to commit to, and we’ll learn exactly how committed they are in a month and a half. The goal of the two timelines was to have an easier bridge to the next era, with the idea that they’ll have young players who can step into those roles more easily. To this point, none of their young players have proven to be ready for that kind of spotlight to fill the gaps around Stephen Curry, and if they feel they need to appease his desire to win, there’s not really a way to do that and not sink big money into their longtime core — as Kerr made clear on Tuesday.