The Golden State Warriors made a bold move last offseason, which many people questioned. The team entered the offseason with only two centers under contract: veteran Kevon Looney, and James Wiseman, who was coming off an injury-riddled rookie season.
While many fans clamored for the Dubs to add center depth in case Wiseman wasn’t healthy or ready to contribute, the team stood pat, opting instead to fill out the roster with wings.
Did it work out? It kind of depends on your view.
The team won their fourth championship in eight years, so it’s hard to say that anything didn’t work. And they were strong from the center position.
But Wiseman didn’t play a single game all year. The Dubs became reliant on Looney (who has a few injuries in his past), and he rewarded them by having a career year, and by playing in all 104 of the team’s games. The team filled in the rest of the minutes by playing small ball, and rotating Draymond Green, Otto Porter Jr., and Nemanja Bjelica into the center position.
Will they take the same approach this year? Wiseman is healthier now than he was this time last year, and he’s been playing in the Summer League. But Bob Myers, Steve Kerr and Co. might be fairly dubious about a plan that banks on Looney’s reliability again, especially with Porter and Bjelica no longer on the roster (and no one yet signed to play that role of wing-masquerading-as-a-big).
With at least three spots still open on the roster, the Dubs might turn to a veteran center to pick up minutes in the event that Looney gets injured, or Wiseman proves not ready (or healthy). So let’s examine seven players who are currently free agents, will possibly be available for the veteran’s minimum, and might be on the team’s radar.
For the purpose of this article I’m only considering honest-to-goodness centers and old school power forwards, rather than players who could fit the Bjelica role — so you won’t see Carmelo Anthony (whom I already made the case for) or Juancho Hernangomez (who I will shortly) on this list.
Note: League-average true-shooting percentage (TS) was 56.6% this year.
2021-22 stats (Lakers): 16.2 minutes, 6.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 0.6 blocks per game, 65.7% TS
Why the Warriors will consider him: While Howard is no longer the superstar that he once was, or even anything approximating it, he still does many of the same things well. He gobbles up rebounds at an outrageous pace (his rebound rate was comfortably better than anyone on the Warriors last year), and scores with amazing efficiency.
He’s not the defensive force that he once was, but he can still comfortably hold his own on that end of the court, and his pick and roll offense would likely be unlocked around the gravity of Steph Curry in a way that it wasn’t while with the spatially-challenged Lakers.
Why the Warriors will have concerns: He’s still Dwight Howard, and he carries a certain reputation with him. He hasn’t always been known for being a great teammate, or for taking things super seriously, which is perhaps the primary reason why he hasn’t played consecutive seasons on the same team since spending 2013 through 2016 on the Houston Rockets.
Are the Warriors confident that he’ll be focused enough for a championship-or-bust team, and maintain a good attitude even if getting DNP-CDs? If not, then he’s off their radar.
2021-22 stats (Nuggets): 13.9 minutes, 8.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game, 56.5% TS
Why the Warriors will consider him: The Dubs already had one run with Boogie, back in the 2018-19 season when he was returning from injury. I don’t think I’d say that it went well, but there were moments when it certainly did. While a deeply flawed player, Cousins offers bursts of offensive brilliance, an at-times decent three-point shot, and splendid playmaking. If the Warriors liked what they saw, both on the court and off it, he could be back.
Why the Warriors will have concerns: Again, that run with the Dubs didn’t go all that well. Boogie has a reputation as a combustible player, and there’s probably a reason why they weren’t linked to him the following offseason.
2021-22 stats (Jazz): 17.9 minutes, 8.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game, 66.2% TS
Why the Warriors will consider him: Whiteside has overcome valid criticisms of his game to become a quality center. He rebounds at a truly absurd rate — he’s only a few years removed from leading the league in rebounding rate — and blocks shots like it’s going out of style. He sets mammoth screens, and uses his incredible length — 7’0 height, 7’7 wingspan — to get easy looks at the rim.
In many ways, Whiteside is what the Warriors hope Wiseman will be (minus Wiseman’s three-point shot). It’s pretty easy to see him filling 10-20 bench minutes, grabbing seven to 10 rebounds, and finishing three lobs each game.
Why the Warriors will have concerns: Like the first two names I mentioned, Whiteside has some reputation concerns. He’s not known as a very serious player or hard worker, and we know that won’t play on the Warriors. Perhaps those concerns are no longer valid, but if they are, there’s no chance he ends up in the Bay.
2021-22 stats (Kings/Pacers/Bulls): 15.7 minutes, 6.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 0.4 blocks per game, 54.1% TS
Why the Warriors will consider him: Thompson is an experienced veteran who offers a big body. He’s unlikely to have many suitors this offseason, so the Warriors probably don’t need to worry about him accepting a low-minutes role.
Why the Warriors will have concerns: He’s not good anymore, so he’s firmly a back-of-the-bench player, and the Dubs would probably rather go a cheaper option for that. There’s also the whole punched Draymond thing.
2021-22 stats (Wizards/Hornets): 23.1 minutes, 13.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game, 67.2% TS
Why the Warriors will consider him: The Dubs bench would instantly take leaps and bounds forward with Harrell in the fold. Not only is he one of the best bench scorers in the league, but he’s one of the best pick and roll scorers in the NBA, period.
The Dubs defense is much better than their offense, so a no-defense, great-offense addition could help. Imagine Harrell running pick and rolls with Curry, Green, or Jordan Poole? One can dream...
Why the Warriors will have concerns: Well, there’s a bit to unpack here. Most notably, Harrell is currently facing felony drug charges after being pulled over with about three pounds of marijuana in his possession. If that doesn’t scare away the Warriors then it likely won’t scare away other teams, in which case Harrell will likely get the type of contract that the Warriors have no way of matching.
Finally, Harrell is the only player on this list who is good enough that he needs to play, which means he could block Wiseman’s path. Champagne problems, but ones the Dubs would certainly be thinking about.
2021-22 stats (Nets): 17.1 minutes, 6.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game, 51.8% TS
Why the Warriors will consider him: The Dubs aren’t exactly their baseball neighbors down the street, but they do love a good reclamation project. And there’s no doubt that Griffin, while far removed from stardom, still has many of the skills that made him an All-Star in each of his first five NBA seasons.
A lot of those skills would fit with the Warriors system, and they might see the potential to untap some of the star that BG used to be. He also gracefully handled being benched by the Nets last year, which would alleviate some of the playing time concerns.
Why the Warriors will have concerns: Simply put, Griffin was a bad player last year. He was a wildly inefficient scorer, especially when you consider his position. He shot way more threes than a shooter of his caliber should. He was a sieve on defense, and a shell of his former self athletically. The Warriors aren’t exactly looking for struggling players.
2021-22 stats (Nets/Sixers/Sixers): 11.4 minutes, 3.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 0.4 blocks per game, 45.8% TS
Why the Warriors will consider him: It wasn’t long ago that Millsap fit everything the Warriors were looking for. He was a selfless player who could score at the rim and make threes. He was an excellent defender and a solid rebounder.
If the Warriors think he still has that player in him, he’s worth a flyer. He’s also an excellent locker room guy, and played poorly enough last year that he’ll probably be available on a non or partially-guaranteed contract. That could be quite beneficial to the Warriors, who don’t want to spend any money that doesn’t give them a quality return.
Why the Warriors will have concerns: If Millsap looks anything like the player he was last year, then he shouldn’t be anywhere near an NBA roster, let alone the roster of a team competing for a title.
So what do you think, Dub Nation?
Which veteran center should the Warriors sign?
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