As Patrick notes, if something goes awry, and the Warriors fall severely short in the playoffs, I wouldn’t put it past GM Bob Myers to at least think about making radical changes to the roster. Names like LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Kawhi Leonard could be thrown around in trade rumors. You can expect Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green to be on the team next year. But today we’re gonna talk a bit more about the outlook for the veterans.
Kevin Durant has a player option for next year, but Chris Haynes of ESPN has reported that he’ll decline it and seek a long-term deal with the Warriors. How Durant and the Warriors design the deal will have a large effect on the Warriors’ cap situation this year and beyond.
Could the Warriors move one of their veteran reserves?
The Warriors only have five other players under contract: Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Jordan Bell, Damian Jones, and Quinn Cook (who was recently signed to a multi-year deal). Entering the playoffs, it seemed that Iguodala could be moved: though his contract is large ($16 million per year), it only runs for two more years. However, if the Warriors’ first two playoff games are any indication, Playoff Iguodala is a thing — his value to the Warriors is more than probably any other team.
Shaun Livingston is probably a likelier candidate to be moved: if Cook continues his brilliant recent play, Livingston could become superfluous. He’s still a decent player, but he’s aging and doesn’t play a lot of minutes. He’s owed around $8 million for the next two years, but he’s only guaranteed $2 million in his final year. Thus, he probably wouldn’t be too difficult to trade if the Warriors wanted to move on from him.
David West may retire, but if not, he’s worth another roster spot for the minimum. The Warriors will likely want to move on from Zaza Pachulia, Nick Young, and JaVale McGee, who have little upside for the Warriors.
Relying on youth
The Warriors will have a late pick in the 2018 draft, so expect at least one rookie to be on the opening roster next year. Because the Warriors don’t have much salary cap room, it would be amazing for them to find more contributors on cheap, rookie-scale contracts.
Bob Myers will have a bunch of tough signing decisions this season, but luckily for the Warriors, there isn’t much money to go around. When the salary cap exploded in 2016, so much of the extra money was tied up in long-term contracts. Very few teams have cap space, so the Warriors likely won’t have to spend as much to bring in quality players.
The Warriors will likely want to bring back Patrick McCaw and Kevon Looney next year, and probably will be able to do so cheaply. McCaw is a restricted free agent, and given his lackluster sophomore season and back injury, won’t garner much attention. Because Looney is an unrestricted free agent, he may receive a few more suitors, but he’s a better fit in the Warriors’ system than most. Because the Warriors have Looney’s Bird Rights, he can be re-signed even though the Warriors are over the salary cap.
Finding budget options
The Warriors can use the taxpayer mid-level exception, which is about $5 million, to spend on free agents. Spending it on a scoring wing who can play decent defense (something Nick Young has not yet figured out how to do on the Warriors) would probably be smart. Otherwise, they could use it instead on a starting center. There are some decent names among the 2018 free agent class, and the Warriors could really take advantage of the lack of cap space league-wide.
Ultimately, the Warriors will likely rely on small, supporting-cast moves to prepare themselves for the 2019 season. After a lackluster bench performance and inconsistency at the starting center spot all year, the Warriors should really explore new options to give the team more depth and auxiliary scoring in 2019.