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Is Mychal Mulder a two-way contract candidate?

Would the Warriors demote Mulder and, if so, would he accept?

2021 Play-In Tournament - Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s a bit of an odd question to ask. Mychal Mulder appeared in 60 games for the Golden State Warriors last year, and started six of them. He averaged 12.8 minutes per contest. He scored more points per game than Kevon Looney, and made more threes than Damion Lee and Kent Bazemore.

He was a key contributor, especially down the stretch as the Dubs caught fire in the final month of the season.

But could Golden State try to demote him to a two-way contract this season? And if they do, would he accept, or would he field a better offer elsewhere?

The Warriors are in their first week of training camp, and currently have two spots available: the 15th spot on the roster, as well as a second two-way contract next to point guard Chris Chiozza.

Five players are in camp fighting for the 15th spot. The favorites are Mulder, Gary Payton II, and Avery Bradley, with journeymen Langston Galloway and Jordan Bell also in the mix. Of those five, Mulder — who has just two years of NBA experience — is the only one eligible for a two-way contract, which is limited to players entering one of their first four years in the league.

That fact alone puts Mulder at a disadvantage for earning the final roster spot, unless Bob Myers and Co. think Mulder wouldn’t accept a two-way contract.

It’s not a coincidence that all of the camp invites are veteran players, rather than youngsters trying to find their footing in the NBA. With roster spots already allocated to James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, and Moses Moody, the Warriors are only interested in players who can contribute immediately for their final spots.

It’s why you see Mulder, Payton, Bradley, Galloway, and Bell, instead of a roster populated with players from Summer League. It’s why trusty Chiozza occupies a two-way spot, instead of a Chris Boucher or Marcus Derrickson, as in prior seasons.

As such, the player or players that the Warriors add — they have been open about potentially keeping the final roster spot unfilled to start the year — will be ones who the Dubs feel confident can contribute.

Halfway through the 2020-21 season, Mulder didn’t look like that player. But as injuries and trades mounted, and Mulder’s opportunity expanded, he quickly started to look like a player ready to contribute to a playoff team.

Now we find out how much the Warriors, and perhaps the rest of the league, value that.

If the Dubs opt for defense over offense — an understandable choice, given Jordan Poole’s emergence and Klay Thompson’s impending return — then Payton or Bradley will likely earn the spot. If that happens, Golden State will almost surely offer Mulder a two-way contract. And given that two-way contracts can now be active for 50 games, and travel with the team all year, that would allow Mulder to spend the season with Golden State, rather than bopping down to Santa Cruz.

Would he accept? It’s an interesting question. Two-way contracts no longer make a tiny fraction of an NBA salary — now it’s a flat rate of half the minimum. Any actual NBA contract will still tower over that sum (a little over $450,000), but Mulder is unlikely to receive anything other than a non-guaranteed or partially-guaranteed contract this late in the year. It could be that a two-way contract is the best offer he gets.

It would feel a little harsh after his strong 2020-21, but the NBA is a harsh world. Mulder on a two-way contract is an affordable way to add NBA-caliber shooting to a team that is facing a few months without Thompson, and perhaps 41 games without Andrew Wiggins.