Ex-Warrior Patrick McCaw is about to become a footnote in NBA history. When he returns with the Toronto Raptors to face his old team, he will become just the third player in NBA history to go to back-to-back Finals for two different teams (interestingly, Golden State Warriors coach, Steve Kerr is one of the others to have done so with Chicago and San Antonio back in the ‘90’s.
But this situation took some wrangling.
McCaw, who was a restricted free agent coming into this season, bizarrely held himself out and demanded a trade rather than report to the defending champs. At the time, Warriors nation was perplexed - both internal team personnel and fans were wondering why he would not want to play for the best team in the league that appears poised for a three-peat.
At the time, McCaw gave a pithy, but nonsensical “betting on myself” quip as his rationale. Marc Spears got a deeper answer from McCaw, published at The Undefeated, but reading through this, I’m still at something of a loss to explain exactly why McCaw left.
“I could say it was playing time, but I think it was just me being emotional as a kid,” said McCaw, 23. “I just wanted more. Not necessarily more playing time, but more opportunity for myself. I’m not discrediting the Warriors and what they chose to do. I just think being a young kid, you see all the younger guys competing and doing their thing and you feel like, ‘OK, I’m just that kid, or I could be doing exactly what he’s doing.’ ”
The article tangentially mentions that McCaw said it was “definitely hard” (as he struggled for playing time behind All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and veteran guard Shaun Livingston) but that doesn’t explain much.
McCaw averaged 2.7 points and 13.2 minutes in 26 games with the Raptors during the season, compared to averages of 2.6 points over the course of 13.7 while with Golden State, as per basketball reference. So it’s not like his career has really taken off since leaving the franchise. And it’s not the money either. Though he initially signed a $3 million offer sheet with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he was quickly waived — he is currently working for the league-mandated minimum contract of around $700 thousand.
Not everything people do is 100% rational
Here’s where the impending Kevin Durant decision comes in. With an aging core and limited financial flexibility, the Warriors were poised to offer McCaw a chance to be their backup of the future. Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston are both openly discussing retirement. Nick Young, who McCaw was unable to outplay for a higher position on the depth chart, is out the of league. I don’t have the specifics, but it’s safe to assume the Warriors had offered something bigger than the current one year, minimum contract that McCaw finds himself playing under.
And it wasn’t for role — McCaw has managed to score just two points in the entire 2019 playoffs while mostly riding the bench for the Raptors. Are there regrets? Who’s to say - though I did find it interesting that Spears notes that McCaw and his agents at the time of his split from Golden State “no longer represents McCaw.” The intentionally vague passive voice used seems to make it intentionally unclear who did the leaving there — McCaw on another whim or representation getting frustrated at a client making bad choices.
And so it could conceivably go with Durant. The Warriors can offer him more money, a better chance at championships, and a core that believes in him and understands what makes him tick... And none of that may matter.
Like McCaw, maybe he just needs something different, even if it’s not an objectively better situation. Personally, I don’t think he’s going anywhere, but by all reliable accounts Durant’s decision hasn’t yet been made. In the end though, this is an intensely personal decision, and one that doesn’t always have to make sense.