The Golden State Warriors built a dynasty behind a core of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala, and then welcomed Kevin Durant into that fold. But at every stop of their historic run, they welcomed in season veterans who either took pay cuts to wear a Dubs jersey, or opted for Golden State over other promising offers.
Some of it was a desire to join the Warriors culture. Some of it was opportunity. Some of it was the prospect of sharing a court with Curry.
But the underlying theme was an chance to win the championship that has eluded most players who have suited up in the NBA.
David West, Zaza Pachulia, Shaun Livingston, Andrew Bogut (the second time around), Matt Barnes, and DeMarcus Cousins all could have signed with other contenders, possibly for more money. Even the players with disappointing campaigns, like Omri Casspi and Nick Young, chose the Warriors over other offers that would have put them in contention or fattened their wallets.
That was absent last season, when the Warriors tried to rebuild a contender in the offseason, and ended up with the prize signings of ... umm ... Kent Bazemore and Brad Wanamaker.
It wasn’t for lack of compelling options, or interest on the Dubs’ behalf. There were plenty of rumors that the Warriors had their eyes on Nicolas Batum and Marc Gasol, but those two never got close to signing before opting for teams in Southern California.
There were other names. Lots of other names, in fact. But the 2020 offseason was 17 years ago, and 17 years ago I was busy being in high school and doing useless things and overanalyzing every relationship I had and every word I said. So I don’t remember all those names.
The point is this: the Warriors weren’t exactly a premier location for free agents last year. Some of that was due to Klay Thompson’s torn Achilles, but truthfully, the trend started even before the injury. With Durant gone, Thompson’s ability to recover from an ACL injury unknown, and questions as to whether Curry would still be a superstar as he creeped into his mid-30s, the Warriors ceded the title of “most desirable location” to the LA teams, the Brooklyn Nets, the Philadelphia 76ers, and perhaps a few other organizations.
I’m not here to say bad things about the players who opted elsewhere. They look smart, in hindsight. The Warriors missed the playoffs, and even if one or two of those free agents did join the Dubs, their ceiling was still going to be a competitive but early playoff exit.
I’m just here to wonder if this year will be any different.
On the one hand, the Warriors missed the playoffs, and Thompson’s status for the upcoming season is no sure thing.
On the other hand, Curry reaffirmed his status as one of, if not the best player in the NBA, and the basketball fraternity has surely taken note.
There’s a plethora of high-quality, low-cost veterans on the market this summer — including Batum and, yes, possibly Iguodala — and the Dubs will surely be interested in many of them.
It’s not yet clear how many roster spots the Warriors will have. The upcoming draft will play a role, and it’s easy to see any of Bazemore, Mychal Mulder, Damion Lee, Nico Mannion, Alen Smailagić, and Eric Paschall not being back next year.
Whatever spots are available, Bob Myers will hope to fill in with the types of veterans who supplied the glue during five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.
Curry’s popularity should give the Warriors a decent chance of cashing in. But in a season where about 10 teams will have legitimate title aspirations, the Batums of the world will have their pick of the litter.
An offseason trade to strengthen the roster before chasing the free agents could certainly lead to a more enticing pitch. One can dream ...