The Golden State Warriors ended the season with a full roster: 15 guaranteed roster spots, and a pair of two-way contracts.
Some of those 17 players will be back for the 2021-22 season, and some of them will not. But who fits into which category?
I took a stab at the likelihood of each player returning next year. Please bear in mind that this is just based on my viewpoint; I have minimal insight to the organization’s thinking, so turn to people like Anthony Slater, Connor Letourneau, and Marcus Thompson II for sourced info.
And then throw tomatoes at me.
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
Chance of return: 50%
After a slow start to the year, Bazemore found his groove in the second half of the season. He took over the starting 2-guard spot when Kelly Oubre Jr. was injured, and the team instantly improved, so much so that he kept the role when Oubre briefly returned.
Most impressive was his disruptive defense which, when paired with Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green, helped give Golden State some of the best perimeter defense in the league.
His offense was frustrating at times, as he seemed to be a big fan of driving into congested areas and forcing up bad shots. But he was selfless, made the right decision a lot of the time, and is close with Steph Curry.
The Warriors will almost surely want him back. The questions are A) did he play himself into a bigger contract than the Warriors can afford, and B) will there be other veteran options that the Dubs prefer?
Jordan Bell (two-way)
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent, ineligible for another two-way
Chance of return: 3%
Bell’s two-way contract on the final weekend of the regular season was for one reason and one reason only: he knew the system, which made him a better emergency option than someone who might have been a better fit.
That said, the Warriors let Bell walk after his rookie contract expired in large part because they were turned off by his immaturity and lack of professionalism. He won’t really have any suitors this offseason, so if the Warriors felt he had improved in those areas, he could get a camp invite. And we all know what can happen once you make it to camp.
Contract status: 1 year, $45.8 million remaining
Chance of return: 99.999%
The Warriors are hoping that their offseason move with Curry will be locking him up to an extension, and that seems likely to happen.
The only reason this isn’t 100% is that Curry has earned the right to demand a trade and have the Warriors honor it. That just ... isn’t going to happen.
Contract status: 3 years, $77.4 million remaining
Chance of return: 99.5%
It’s become bizarrely popular for Warriors fans to call for Green’s removal from the roster. The Warriors would be foolish to do that, and the Warriors are, generally, not foolish.
Here’s why Green isn’t going anywhere:
- He’s the second-best player on a team that just won 15 of their last 20 games to end the regular season.
- He’s well worth what the Warriors are paying him, for the Warriors.
- Despite that, he has limited trade value.
Green may not be flawless, but he’s not the problem with the Warriors. And unless some superstar becomes available in a trade, and the other team demands Green — which would be very odd — he’ll be here when the 2021-22 season kicks off.
Contract status: 1 year, $1.9 million remaining, partially guaranteed ($500K guarantees during the offseason)
Chance of returning: 55%
Lee is one of the harder ones on the roster to figure out. His game — pesky defense and solid shooting — figures to be a good fit on the Warriors. But the way he was used this year suggests that Steve Kerr isn’t quite as high on him as on others.
I get the feeling that the Warriors would love to move on from Lee and find a better fitting, more dynamic bench wing. But can they actually find one of those? Giving up a functional depth piece who knows the system if you don’t know that you can upgrade is a risky game. With his contract partially guaranteeing this summer, we’ll find out soon.
Contract status: 1 year, $5.2 million remaining (player option)
Chance of returning: 95%
I don’t see any way that Looney declines his option. James Wiseman’s injury and struggles paved the way for Looney to be a starter on a contending team. He does well in the Warriors system and gets along well with his teammates. And most importantly, I don’t think any team would offer more than what he’s due to make.
The Warriors could trade him, but it seems that would only happen if he’s a salary-matching add-on to a big trade. And sorry to burst everyone’s bubbles, but a big trade is unlikely to transpire.
Nico Mannion (two-way)
Contract status: Free agent, eligible for the qualifying offer
Chance of returning: /Shrug emoji ... 40%
We know two things that are relevant to Mannion’s spot on the team. The first is that Steve Kerr really likes him. The second is that the Warriors absolutely cannot afford to waste as many roster spots on project players next year as they did last year.
With James Wiseman likely still on the team (more on that later), and potentially two lottery picks in the draft, the Warriors may not have space for Mannion, who will likely still be a project next year.
So a lot depends on what happens with the draft. Do the Warriors get the Minnesota Timberwolves’ pick? Do they make a trade, swapping their draft picks for veteran players? I have no doubt that they’d like to keep Mannion, but that might not be enough.
Contract status: 1 year, $1.8 million remaining, non-guaranteed
Chance of returning: 25%
Two months ago I would have put Mulder’s chances at close to 0%. But between injuries and solid play, he became one of the players in the Warriors eight-player rotation, and he played quite well.
I don’t think he’ll make the roster. The Warriors are surely aware that they need to make some mega upgrades, and it’s hard to find room for a player who only does one thing well. But his performance surely earned him the chance to stick around until training camp.
Kelly Oubre Jr.
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent (Warriors have Bird rights)
Chance of returning: 20%
At the start of the year, the questions were whether the Warriors would get priced out, and whether Oubre would be willing to re-sign to come off the bench.
I’m no longer fully convinced the first question is relevant. Oubre took a step backwards despite finally playing for a functional organization, which probably has turned other teams off of him. His best move now is probably to sign a modest one-year deal to try and rebuild his value before entering free agency next year.
But is he willing to do that on a team where he’ll come off the bench, after his comments about being able to offer more? And, just as importantly, are the Warriors actually interested in taking on a heap of tax payments when they looked substantially better replacing him with Bazemore?
Keeping Oubre is their only way to maintain that additional financial flexibility, which we know they prioritize. I just don’t think it’s enough.
Contract status: 1 year, $1.8 million remaining
Chance of returning: 25%
I’ve angered readers of this site a few times for this viewpoint, so apologies in advance: I don’t think Paschall has a future on the Warriors, and I don’t think he’s a player that can provide value to the Warriors.
Paschall is limited: he doesn’t have a position defensively, can’t shoot threes, and is a bit of a ball-stopper on offense. His lone quality skill is downhill scoring, but he doesn’t do it well enough to make up for his other deficiencies. His playing time this year, prior to his injury, suggests that Kerr feels similarly.
Were Paschall a free agent, I would say there is no chance he remains. But he’s owed money, and the Warriors are not going to cut a player with money on the books. I’m guessing Paschall still has some trade value, so look for him to get traded — either to a bad team that’s happy to swap a veteran for a young player, or for a second-round pick.
Gary Payton II
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
Chance of returning: <1%
The Warriors had a top-5 defense and a below-average offense this year. So as much as they liked Payton, it’s pretty hard to find a spot for him going forward, seeing as how he’s diminishing returns on one end of the court, and a liability on the other.
I could see him in training camp, or signing a 10-day contract at some point in the season if the team ends up shorthanded, but he won’t be on the roster.
Contract status: 1 year, $3.9 million remaining
Chance of returning: 97%
Oh what a difference a year makes. Many people criticized the Warriors for picking up Poole’s third year option back at the beginning of the season. Now he’s a vital part of their core and might be the first player off their bench next season.
The only way Poole isn’t on the roster is if the Warriors are involved with a trade for a star, and have no way to make it work without including Poole.
Contract status: 2 years, $3.7 million remaining, non-guaranteed
Chance of returning: 1%
This number gets a little bit larger if we include “on a two-way contract” as a caveat for the chance of returning. Smailagić impressed in Santa Cruz before the Warriors drafted him, and we know how much Kerr likes having players who know the system available in emergencies. So if no quality options emerge, maybe the Warriors re-sign Smiley to a two-way contract.
That said, it seems unlikely that any other team would sign him, so the Warriors could probably just sign him to a G League contract.
Anyway, the 1% odds might seem high, but never underestimate the power of an owner’s name. Smailagić was Kirk Lacob’s pet project, and he has some influence.
Contract status: 3 years, $121.2 million remaining
Chance of returning: 100%
After the blitz they had to end the season, the Warriors are surely stoked about welcoming Thompson back into the fold. And with the size of his deal, and the two lower body injuries, he probably has an untradable contract even if the Warriors didn’t want him back.
But they do. Badly.
Contract status: 1 year, $1.7 million remaining
Chance of returning: 99%
JTA went from a player on the fringe of the roster to being a core part of next year’s team, and he did it quickly. Logistically I would highly doubt that he ends up as an add-on for a large trade, but that’s the only way he ends up wearing a different jersey next year.
Contract status: 2 years, $65.2 million remaining
Chance of returning: 92%
All those words from the Warriors brass and coaching staff about being impressed with Wiggins and liking the value he adds to the team? That’s not empty praise. They do feel that way.
That said, he’s a role player on a star player’s contract. If a star becomes available, Wiggins is the logical starting point to match salaries, and I don’t think the Warriors would hesitate to make an upgrade.
Contract status: 3 years, $30.9 million remaining (team options in 2022 and 2023 — 1 year, $9.2 million guaranteed)
Chance of returning: 85%
Wiseman’s rookie year did not go very well. The Warriors were much better when he was off the court, and an injury ended his season early.
The Warriors remain high on him, but they surely realize that he can’t be counted on next year. I don’t think they’re against trading him, but they’re definitely not looking to get rid of him. If the right deal emerges, I’m guessing they take it. But that doesn’t seem very likely.