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What will happen with Patrick McCaw?

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Retaining McCaw is likely the last step of the Warriors’ offseason. But after DeMarcus Cousins claimed his number, is the writing on the wall for a McCaw departure?

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

After drafting Jacob Evans and signing DeMarcus Cousins and Jonas Jerebko, the Warriors’ roster sits at thirteen.

Reportedly, the Warriors are likely to begin the season with only fourteen players on the roster instead of fifteen. I’d expect their two-way players to play decent minutes during the regular season, and the team to be active on the buyout market after the trade deadline in search of that last piece.

The roster crunch leaves one more offseason addition, and it’s likely to be Patrick McCaw.

The Warriors extended a $1.6 million qualifying offer to the restricted free agent earlier this offseason, about half a million more than what McCaw would make at a minimum salary. Because of a dry market and a disappointing sophomore season, McCaw doesn’t seem to have many options.

The Warriors traded for the rights to McCaw during the 2016 draft for cash considerations, just like they did for Jordan Bell in 2017. His rookie season was promising: filling in for the injured Kevin Durant, he performed well in both the regular season and playoffs. Looking forwards, he projected as a 3-and-D wing with good playmaking skills and smooth athleticism.

But his sophomore season was a disappointment. Many had high hopes for his continued development, but his numbers across the board were stagnant. Especially concerning was his three-point shooting, which dipped from 33% in his rookie year to 23% last year. Without that shot, he was never able to find a rhythm or presence on the court. Playing along tons of star talent, he simply became invisible far too often.

And of course, there was the scary injury near the end of the season, which looked like a serious back injury when it happened. McCaw thankfully escaped without major consequences, and was even able to return for a few minutes here and there late in the playoffs. Going forwards, he should be physically ready to contribute.

McCaw is still only 22 — he can definitely improve. He needs to get stronger, which will help him fulfill his potential as a rangy, long, and smart wing defender. Offensively, improving his outside shot and ball handling skills will go a long way. Someday, he will need to rely on an offensive skill when he feels that he is becoming invisible. If he cannot shoot or create his own shot with the ball in his hands, he might not be in the NBA much longer.

Very few teams have cap space this offseason anymore, and those that do are likely focused on more proven or high-upside free agents than McCaw. Since he’s unlikely to get an offer, he should sign his qualifying offer sometime this summer, and prove he can hold a consistent spot in the Warriors’ rotation this season. If he succeeds, he’ll get a multi-year contract in a cap-flush market during the 2019 offseason, whether it’s from the Warriors or another team.

There’s still a lot to like about McCaw: He’s fluid and long, and has shown competency in a lot of facets of the game. He needs to find his niche as a wing in the NBA: how will he be an asset to an NBA offense, and can he get to that next level defensively? He’ll have the playing time this season, and he’ll need to make good use of it.