With the regular season in the books, one thing is clear. The Golden State Warriors have not looked themselves this year. They’ve been tired, beaten up, and more than a little ragged. After seasons sporting 67, 73, and 67 wins, they couldn’t break the 60 mark this year.
There’s no shame in that, it’s mighty difficult to do. And a 58-win season is nothing to sneeze at in the grand scheme of things. But other teams, notably the Houston Rockets, look to have taken a leap and the Warriors all of a sudden don’t look quite so innovative.
As a result the holy trinity of Bob Myers, Steve Kerr and Joe Lacob have at various times in the season made noises that imply there will need to be some changing up in the off-season.
The core is likely set
Last year they brought back pretty much the same team centred around a core of current or past All-Stars Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala who had been to the Finals three straight years, alongside the newer acquisition Kevin Durant who had many deep runs of his own with the Thunder.
Add in Shaun Livingston who had also been to three straight finals with that core, and vets with plenty of mileage on their legs like David West and Zaza Pachulia, and you can see why the team has looked a bit run down this year.
In the offseason of 2016 they were far more aggressive. It wasn’t just about Durant, but that move also forced a big roster turnover after two straight finals runs.
With Durant already saying he’s coming back, the All-stars are all locked up for next year. So it’s pretty unlikely we’ll see any big move involving any of those guys this year. The bigger prizes they’re targeting aren’t likely to be available yet (though who the hell knows what’s going on with Kawhi Leonard) and the repeater tax isn’t kicking in for another year.
Looking to the future
There were some who wanted Jones or McCaw to be let go instead of Omri Casspi, but the Kevon Looney situation is a warning sign to giving up on young players too quickly. Bringing Looney back could be challenging due to the fact the Warriors are limited to the $2.2m option they declined, but in the tight free agent market there’s still a chance.
That chance got a boost recently when Looney told the Mercury News that if it comes down to it, his decision might not just be about the money.
“They always tell me if somebody comes and gives me a better offer, you should take it. But this is a team where it’s all about winning,” Looney said. “I’d love to be here and be a part of this. It’s something to think about, for sure.”
Jones has shown some flashes recently and remains under contract. And while McCaw has had a pretty miserable year, he has already shown that he can put in minutes when it really counts.
With another off-season to put in work on his game, and hopefully some time to put his recent misfortunes behind him mentally, there’s still hope for McCaw. The Warriors will have his early bird rights and will therefore be able to bring him back barring a now extremely unlikely cap-busting offer from another team.
The Warriors could quite happily give McCaw a long term deal on a relatively low contract, and hope that he bounces back and becomes a bargain. Alternatively if they don’t want to put any long-term money on the cap they could bring him back on a one year, make good, minimum deal, and then re-evaluate his long-term fit with another season under his belt next summer when they will hold his full bird rights.
As for Bell, since coming back from injury he hasn’t quite hit the heights of his preposterous start as a Warrior, but he has shown plenty of promise. Another summer of development under his belt could be huge.
Change is afoot
With the core set, and some promising youngsters on board, it’s round the edges where the Warriors will need to change it up. They will certainly have a few tools to make some moves. As I outlined recently, Quinn Cook’s two year deal opens up some options for change.
Along with the taxpayer mid-level exception and the potential to trade Livingston’s contract, they also own their own first round pick this year. Charlie Stanton’s Golden Choice series is a great primer of some of the options that may be available.
As it stands they have nine players under contract, and will likely try to retain Looney if they can (and probably McCaw as well). But beyond that it’s all up for grabs.
Ultimately the biggest determinant of what the Warriors will do is how well they fare in the playoffs. If they flip the switch and blitz through everyone, changes may be more minimal.
But if they find the going a bit tougher, then it may well be that the Warriors look to transform the pieces around the core to keep things fresh and the team competitive for next year.