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Offseason doldrums mailbag

Who earns the 15th roster spot? What will James Wiseman’s role be? All that and more.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

We’re in the deepest part of the offseason. The Golden State Warriors have made most, if not all of their offseason moves. The trade rumors have died down. Yet we’re still over a month away from even preseason games.

What better time than to answer the pressing questions?

Thanks to everyone for tossing these out on Twitter.

Yeah, there is absolutely a chance that Mychal Mulder gets waived; his spot is in peril.

The Warriors have 13 of their 15 roster spots filled, and The Athletic’s Anthony Slater recently reported that the front office has already penciled Damion Lee into the 14th spot.

That means there’s one roster spot left for Mulder, Gary Payton II, and anyone who gets invited to camp to fight over.

Payton looked great at Summer League, but there’s probably a reason the Warriors had him on the roster and not Mulder, who is both younger and has played fewer NBA games. So there’s reason to think maybe Mulder has the inside position.

At the same time, with the additions of Moses Moody, Otto Porter Jr., and Nemanja Bjelica, the return of Klay Thompson, and the emergence of Jordan Poole, Mulder — who’s only plus skill is shooting — may seem a bit redundant on the roster.

It is worth noting that Mulder is still eligible to sign a two-way contract.

I don’t think there’s any chance that James Wiseman is the starting center, at least at the start of the season. There’s always a chance that he earns the role later in the year, but he won’t be gifted it.

Steve Kerr has already said that the team won’t throw their young players into the deep end of the pool this year like they did a year ago. They’re gunning for a top seed, and development will take a backseat to winning. If Wiseman wants to start, he has to prove he’s better than Kevon Looney, and he’s a long ways away from that.

A trade would not surprise me in the slightest, though I don’t expect it to come soon. The Warriors are not averse to trading Wiseman, but they won’t do it unless it’s for a star.

Let’s take all these Marquese Chriss questions together. First, the logistics: the Warriors parted ways with Chriss during last season, when they sent him to the San Antonio Spurs in a move solely to save money.

They liked him then and still like him now, and he remains unsigned. On paper, the Warriors sure could use another center: Looney and Wiseman are both injury-prone, and the Dubs don’t trust the latter.

At the same time, Golden State seems very comfortable using both Draymond Green and Juan Toscano-Anderson at the 5, and it would follow that Bjelica can fit that description as well.

Chriss (or yes, Paul Millsap) would be great if they intend on staying semi-traditional, but perhaps they’re finally embracing small ball a little more.

This year? It would be a shock if it’s anyone other than Poole. Wiseman, Moody, and Jonathan Kuminga will begin the season glued to the bench, and have to earn every non-garbage time minute they play. They may all spend significant time in Santa Cruz.

Poole’s play in the second half of last year solidified his role on the team. Kerr has already said this offseason that Poole has earned a big role for this year, and has stated that he’ll likely be the starting shooting guard until Thompson returns.

He’ll be a key contributor all year, and I don’t expect any of the other three to be.

Long term? I’d put my money on Kuminga.

Even with the exciting Summer League performances, I still think the Warriors would strongly consider trading Kuminga, Moody, Wiseman, and Andrew Wiggins for Ben Simmons. Or perhaps Wiseman, Wiggins, and future picks. Certainly not all of the above though.

As for including Dray instead? Not gonna happen. Green is untradeable, in the sense that the only players the Warriors would trade him for are not available, and certainly not available with him as the primary outgoing piece.

If the Warriors underperform this year, maybe they start looking at shaking things up next offseason. But until then, the core of Green, Thompson, and Steph Curry isn’t going to be messed with.

On the Warriors? It’s Kuminga. I think Moody is more likely to play a role this year, but Kuminga is dripping with superstar potential, and I’m looking forward to every moment that he makes me irrationally optimistic.

For the NBA at large, it’s no secret that I’m an enormous fan of Alperen Şengün. Summer League also sold me on Jalen Green, so it’s safe to say I’m going to be watching way more Houston Rockets games than is good for one’s health.

Truthfully I haven’t heard very much about Wiseman’s progress. But even though the surgery was in April, the Warriors announced then that they wouldn’t update his health until September. The logical conclusion based on that is that Wiseman could miss camp again, and perhaps the beginning of the season.

You’re correct about the pool, though.

Because he’s a high-quality center who is exceptional defensively, understands the system well, is part of many of the Warriors best lineups, and is owed just over $5 million for this season. The Warriors don’t have $5 million to spend, and even if they did they wouldn’t be able to find a center nearly as good as Looney.

The Warriors don’t need to win a championship this year, but if they want a successful season, it needs to end in the fanbase feeling like they can win a championship with this core.

I dubbed last season a failure for the Warriors because I felt they had problems that Klay could not fix by himself. That’s the barometer for this year. If the season ends and you find yourself saying, “well, if they get better injury luck next year, they might win it all,” or “they’re a few pretty easy moves away from being strong contenders” then that’s a successful season. If you find yourself believing that the core’s only path to a fourth ring is if Nikola Jokić demands out of Denver, well, that’s a failure.

Of course, ending the year with a raised trophy is always a nice sign.

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