I want to take a brief detour back to last offseason. The end of last offseason, really. Well, preseason, if we’re being technical.
The Golden State Warriors had a roster spot to fill. The 15th and final spot.
The favorite was Avery Bradley, a respected veteran for whom Steph Curry and Draymond Green were reportedly stumping. He had a bad season last year.
After the final game I ranked Mychal Mulder as most likely to win the job. He had a bad season last year.
Gary Payton II ended up winning the spot. He had the type of year that made Warriors fans freak out when he signed elsewhere.
The Warriors are likely headed for a similar situation. Perhaps an even more drastic one. And that’s OK!
Golden State only has 11 players on their roster, though that will likely turn to 12 if they sign second-round pick Ryan Rollins to a guaranteed contract, as Bob Myers suggested they would on draft night.
They have their starters signed: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, and Kevon Looney.
They have their first two players off the bench signed: Jordan Poole and Donte DiVincenzo.
And they have their youngsters who they’re hoping to get a few good contributions from signed: James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, and Patrick Baldwin Jr.
They might re-sign Andre Iguodala. They might add a veteran center.
And they might do nothing at all.
The Dubs will have to do something eventually — even if they sign Rollins, they’ll only be at 12 players, and the minimum that you can carry is 13 players (save for a few weeks at a time when you can dip below that).
But that doesn’t mean they’ll sign one of the top free agents remaining, or make a big splash. It might by Rollins and Iguodala. It might be Rollins and converting Quinndary Weatherspoon to a roster spot.
That will be frustrating for Warriors fans, especially after Payton left for a contract that the Warriors could have matched — albeit with a massive tax hit.
But it’s also OK. First off, the Warriors don’t need 15 players on their roster. They survived just fine with 13 a year ago, when Wiseman and Thompson were injured for the first few months of the season. They even survived Green and Iguodala going down during that time as well.
The Warriors can depend on good health, and if their bet doesn’t pay off, they can adjust on the fly — they certainly have the expendable trade assets to make some in-season moves, and there are usually a few quality NBA players that enter the season unsigned.
Is it as fun, exciting, or ultimately fruitful as if they had re-signed Payton, or added Danilo Gallinari, or welcomed T.J. Warren into the fold?
Absolutely not. But this time last year, no one saw Payton being the game-changer that he ended up being. This time last year, no one expected Poole to play at a near All-Star level for much of the year.
We’ll always want more. But what we’ve got is pretty damn good.
They’re still the defending champs. And they’re still returning the bulk of their roster.