The Golden State Warriors are in a financial pickle. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. We’ve only been talking about it a few times a day for the last five months.
After executing an unlikely sign-and-trade for D’Angelo Russell, the Warriors find themselves hard capped, meaning the league has put a limit on how much money Golden State can spend on salaries. That hard cap has kept the team from adding the 15th player that they would otherwise be allowed to have.
It also keeps them from converting Ky Bowman or Damion Lee from two-way contracts to guaranteed contracts - at least for now. With just a few hundred thousand dollars available, the Warriors will have to wait until March to convert one of those contracts, or add a waived player.
Bowman’s 45 days of service time are due to run out in early-med January. Lee - temporarily sidelined by an injury - will follow suite in late January or early February. If the Warriors roster is anywhere near as banged up then as it is now, that will be a problem.
But they’re not without options. Golden State can get rid of one of their current players, in order to make financial space for someone else - be it Bowman, Lee, or a player on the market.
Golden State currently has 16 players - 14 on the roster, and that pair on two-ways. In all likelihood, at least one of those players will be somewhere else when the season ends. Let’s sort them into categories, from most likely to least likely to be gone.
The prime candidates
The easiest path to adding another player is to cut Marquese Chriss. Chriss is the lone player on a non-guaranteed contract, which means the Warriors can waive him anytime before early January without owing him additional money.
Golden State is intrigued by Chriss, who has shown glimpses and is still only 22. But on the whole, he hasn’t been particularly good, and the team probably likes their chances of shoring up their frontcourt depth next year for cheap.
Of the Warriors offseason free agent and trade acquisitions, no one has played better than Alec Burks. Averaging 14.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game, Burks has played well in the Shaun Livingston/Leandro Barbosa role.
But this team isn’t good enough to need that. The question for the Warriors is whether or not they can use Burks next year. If he keeps playing this well, the answer is definitely yes - but he may play himself out of their price range in the process.
Don’t be surprised if the Warriors dangle Burks to playoff teams in a few months.
Glenn Robinson III
Glenn Robinson III fits most of what was just said about Burks, just a little less so. He hasn’t been as good as Burks, which means the team is less likely to want him around for next year; but it also means he’s more likely to be available.
Robinson has a player option for next year, so if the Warriors have an indication that he’ll accept it, they’ll likely want to keep him around for cheap and bring him off the bench in 2020-21. But if not . . . . he could return something small on the market.
Willie Cauley-Stein was the biggest free agent signing by the Warriors, but so far has been a bit of a disappointment. In his defense (which is something he should consider playing), part of the allure of signing him was to put him on the court with Steph Curry or D’Angelo Russell, and let him be a rim-roller in the pick and roll.
He’s spent just four minutes on the court with Curry, and a mere 137 with Russell. So he hasn’t been put in the best situation.
But he also just hasn’t been very good. If the Warriors feel comfortable with the health of Kevon Looney and Alen Smailagic, as well as the play of Chriss, they could look to move Cauley-Stein.
Very outside shots
Jacob Evans III
The Warriors were impressed by Jacob Evans III in preseason, and in the season opener. Then he suffered an injury.
It seems unlikely they’d trade him, since he probably doesn’t have any value on the market - Golden State might have to attach a draft pick to him in order to get another team to bite. But if their internal evaluations suggest that he’ll never develop into a rotation player, they could look for ways to dump him.
Omari Spellman has been huge for the Warriors. Absolutely huge. He’s been a beast rebounding the ball, and his weight loss has proven that his work ethic is strong. He’s shooting 38.7% on threes, giving the Warriors a floor-spacing big man reminiscent of Mo Speights.
The Warriors surely want to keep him. But he also may be developing some trade value. If the market seems good enough - and their rookie bigs feel strong enough - Golden State may cash in.
I’m of the belief that D’Angelo Russell will not finish his current contract with the Warriors. I think eventually Bob Myers will pick up the phone and make the call that sends the young All-Star to his fourth NBA team.
But I doubt that happens during this season. In all likelihood, the Warriors would have to get blown away with an offer.
The extremely, extremely, extremely unlikelies
It seems wild to say this about a player drafted 41st overall just a few months ago, but Paschall might be the Warrior with the single most trade value right now. He’s good, and already showing signs of rapid improvement. And perhaps most importantly, Paschall did something very rare for a second-round pick: He signed a three-year deal.
Having Paschall for essentially the league minimum in 2020-21 and 2021-22 is enormously important for the hard-capped Warriors. But it’s also important for their competition.
It’s really, really, really hard to imagine the Warriors trading him. But if any player on the team is likely to command a trade package of a surprising size, it could be Paschall.
Teams don’t draft first-rounders just to trade them, and Jordan Poole has struggled too much to have notable value on the market.
He’s not untouchable, but he sure is safe.
Ky Bowman and Damion Lee
This article may be built around the idea of getting Bowman or Lee on the roster, but that doesn’t mean they’re entirely safe.
Since Bowman and Lee are on two-way contracts, the Warriors can waive them at any time without any financial repercussions. Which means if either player suffers a season-ending injury, or simply stops playing well, Golden State could cut them loose, and replace them with another two-way player who would then have 45 days of service time.
Highly unlikely. But far from impossible.
Come on. Does this one require explanation?
Looney is too good, too cheap, too young, and plays a position of far too much need. His only path to leaving the team is if someone give the Warriors a monster offer, and since no one did that to Looney in free agency - when he was fully available - it’s safe to say that won’t happen.
The Warriors went through the trouble of hiding Smailagic in the G League last year, just so they could draft him this year. They’re far more interested in him than any other team is, so a trade is off the table.
It’s hard to envision a scenario in which the Warriors trade Draymond Green, yet he’s not entirely untouchable. Trading him isn’t something that’s at all on the team’s radar, but things can always change.
What if Paschall keeps developing? What if Green gets into some riffs with the younger players, or with Russell, or with Steve Kerr? What if a pseudo-contending team is convinced Green is the missing piece and is willing to throw the kitchen sink at the Warriors?
It probably takes all of those things happening for Myers to even consider a trade, let alone pull the trigger.
I’d bet my salary on Green ending the year with the Warriors. But I wouldn’t bet my life.
He’s the face of the franchise, and, when healthy, arguably the best player on the planet. The team fully intends on competing for a championship in 2020-21, and no player is half as important to that mission as Wardell Stephen Curry II.
What distinguishes Thompson from Green, as far as putting the former in the untouchable category, and the latter just in the highly unlikely category?
A few things. Chief among them is contract size. Both players have four years remaining on their contracts (after this year). Green’s is for $100 million. Thompson’s is for $157 million. Add in the fact that Thompson may not play this year (and may never fully return to form following his ACL injury), and there’s simply no chance of a team being willing to risk it all on a trade for him.
It is also completely out of character for the Warriors to trade an injured star who so badly wants to stay.