When the Golden State Warriors finished making their July moves, it seemed like the roster was fully set. They had 14 roster spots filled, and, thanks to being hard-capped after the D’Angelo Russell sign-and-trade, didn’t have the money necessary to add a 15th roster spot.
And, barring some very unlikely trades, they only had one path towards clearing a spot on the roster: waiving Alfonzo McKinnie, who is on a non-guaranteed contract.
It didn’t seem likely. After losing Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala, the Warriors are remarkably thin at small forward, at least until Klay Thompson returns from injury and presumably moves up a position. And McKinnie - while not being particularly good last year - was at least familiar with the system and the personnel, and has good chemistry in the locker room.
But. There’s always a but.
Training camp began with the news that center Willie Cauley-Stein had an injured foot, and would miss the start of the season. Kevon Looney followed that up with a (less severe) hamstring injury. And suddenly it became abundantly clear that the Warriors have limited depth at the center position.
Beyond Cauley-Stein and Looney, all they have is Alen Smailagic (who they weren’t counting on playing much this year), Omari Spellman (unproven, and really a power forward), and Draymond Green (who they hope to keep from the excessive wear and tear of playing center in the regular season).
The team signed Marquese Chriss to a training camp contract to add some center depth, and while Chriss has been rather disastrous in his NBA career thus far, he still brings some interesting elements. The Warriors certainly don’t have a player with that type of athleticism, and Chriss is still only 22, and three years removed from being a lottery pick.
He was impressive in the preseason opener on Saturday against the Los Angeles Lakers, scoring 8 points on 4-6 shooting, with 6 rebounds and 4 assists (though he did foul out in just 14 minutes of play).
It would seem he’s still a long shot to make the team, and there’s really only one way he does: If the team decides his presence is more valuable than McKinnie’s.
As Tom laid out on Tuesday afternoon, the Warriors are hoping they can find something of value from Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III. If they feel confident that they will, it makes McKinnie - who is a great rebounder, a moderate three-point shooter, and not much else - expendable.
He’s still likely to make the roster. But for the first time, it’s starting to seem possible that he doesn’t.