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Mailbag: Centers, Smiley, Oubre and more

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We answer all your Warriors questions.

Golden State Warriors v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors have a game tonight against the San Antonio Spurs. But before we get to that, let’s answer some mailbag questions.

None of note. The reality is, in any given year, any center worth getting minutes on an NBA roster will ... well ... be on an NBA roster. There simply aren’t quality bigs just sitting around waiting to be signed.

And even if they were, a player would have to wait nearly a week in COVID-19 protocol before they could join the team. On top of that, the Warriors would need to waive a player to make roster space.

Long story short, there’s a reason the Dubs haven’t signed a big man yet, and a reason they almost surely won’t.

This is a great question, and it’s hard to really blame it all on any one thing. But if we had to pinpoint one reason why Kelly Oubre Jr. is struggling, it’s the uniqueness of the Warriors scheme and personnel, and how poorly that uniqueness meshes with Oubre’s skillset.

Golden State’s offense is built around two very non-traditional elements: their leading facilitator is a power forward/center, and their offensive focal point — perhaps the best offensive player in the game — is arguably more dangerous when the ball isn’t in his hands.

Oubre has spent his career standing at the three-point line, catching passes, and either driving to the hoop or shooting. Most NBA guards aren’t used to setting off ball screens, or hunting their opponents to get them the ball at the right moment; Oubre struggles with both of those things, but they’re mandatory in the Dubs system.

As for the last part of your question — is Kerr doing everything he can — I think the answer is complicated. Have the Warriors prioritized getting Oubre comfortable and playing to his game? Absolutely not. But I do think they’ve prioritized their system, and the things they need to do to be great long-term, and now they’re waiting to see if Oubre can work within that.

Let’s take these one at a time.

First, Justinian Jessup. It certainly seems like the coaching staff really likes Jessup, and there’s no denying that he has a skillset that would work beautifully with Golden State’s style, if his game is able to translate to the NBA level.

But I don’t think there’s any intention of bringing him over. The roster is already full, he should be benefitting from getting consistent minutes in the NBL, and The Athletic’s Ethan Strauss recently reported that Jessup had not been approached by the Dubs about coming over this season.

Second, Oubre trade talks. I’ve not heard anything since those brief New Orleans Pelicans rumors, which Kerr insisted was merely New Orleans calling Golden State (not that he’d say anything else publicly). If the Dubs have already decided that they won’t re-sign Oubre, then I’m sure they’re at least exploring options, as they’d want to keep the financial flexibility of another contract on the roster long-term.

That said, Oubre is on an expiring contract and isn’t playing well. It’s hard to find a trade package that’s compelling for two teams.

Third, changing the offense. No, I don’t think Kerr will change things to fit the personnel. The Warriors championship hopes for the next few years start with Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson, who all excel in the system. Kerr would rather help others work through their lumps in the system so they can contribute next year than change things.

Alen Smailagić is currently rehabbing, and it’s unclear what shape he’s in. He’s supposed to be headed to the G League bubble, and I would assume it will stay that way even with the lack of centers on the roster.

No. Jordan Poole already had his third-year option picked up, so I think the plan is to keep him around. He’s shown some great flashes with his playmaking and defense, and his stint in the G League will probably go a long way towards determining his future.

I don’t think Golden State would hesitate to include him in a trade package, but I don’t think they’re trying to get rid of him, either.

As for Smiley ... well, things don’t look great. Last we saw him, he was a long ways away from being NBA ready, and the Warriors aren’t in a position to slowly nurture and develop players. He has a team option for next season, and I would expect the Dubs to decline it. Don’t be surprised if he stays in the system and spends next season with Santa Cruz, though.

That said, it’s a long season. If he looks good in the G League bubble, he could factor into the team’s plans again.

Yes, the Warriors still have money. The have Klay Thompson’s disabled player exception, which is more than $9 million, and can still use veteran minimums. The problem is, the team has no open roster spots, so they would need to cut a player to make a signing.

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions!