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Early returns on the Warriors offseason

Checking in on the moves and non-moves.

Steve Kerr coaching Brandin Podziemski. Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors are 18 games into the 2023-24 NBA season, which isn’t enough for us to determine much. But what we can determine is that the Warriors have been fairly disappointing in those 18 games, having lost 10 of them while sporting a mildly below-average net rating.

I recognize that I’m in the minority here among Warriors fans, who have, admittedly, been screaming about the sky falling for the last decade even as ... you know ... all those trophies and parades happened ... but feel quite optimistic about the team’s prospects. They’ve shown flashes of playing at an elite level — such as in the first half of Tuesday’s heartbreaking loss to the Sacramento Kings — and have been very good when Draymond Green has been available. Their bench has been good enough that if the starters can even be a shell of what they were the last few years, the Dubs might be the best team in the NBA. The losses are painfully frustrating and often inexcusable, but the vibes and chemistry do seem to be on a different plane entirely than they were a year ago.

So what got them here, to a point where the Warriors have primarily disappointed, while still giving me hope? Among other things, a series of offseason moves. As we near the quarter mark of the season, it’s a good time to check in on the moves made in the offseason, and see how they’re holding up. I’ll give each offseason move a thumbs up, a thumbs down, or Larry David-esque “ehh.”

Let’s make this quick. No one wants to think about this team more than is necessary right now.

Drafting Brandin Podziemski

Podziemski was a first-round pick that elicited a lot of different opinions, especially since Cam Whitmore was shockingly still on the board when Golden State picked No. 19. Newly-minted GM Mike Dunleavy Jr. revealed that Podz was on their big board top-10, which left many fans rolling their eyes since Podziemski wasn’t on many draft radars prior to the combine. I liked the pick, and I’m a full-on believer now. I expected the young southpaw to be a longer-term project, but he’s already a player who has been a vital part of the rotation at times, and that will be doubly true now that Gary Payton II is injured. In the short-term it’s a great pick ... in the long-term, it’s looking like it will also be a great pick.

Verdict: Thumbs up

Drafting Trayce Jackson-Davis

One does not expect No. 57 picks to contribute, either immediately or down the road. Yet TJD has already down that at times, and while he’s out of the rotation at the moment, it’s abundantly clear that the Warriors players and coaches already trust him. He was a first-round pick on many big boards and mock drafts, and he looks it already.

Verdict: Thumbs up

Trading Jordan Poole for Chris Paul

There’s certainly time for this to backfire long term. Poole is only 24 years old, and dripping with talent. But Paul has been the Warriors second-best player this year, and anchored a second-unit that has been the complete opposite of last year’s bench. Poole, meanwhile, is looking more like he did in his final year with the Warriors than during the championship run, averaging 17.3 points, 3.6 assists, and 2.9 turnovers per game, while shooting just 39.7% from the field and 28.0% from three. I’m rooting for him, but right now there is zero trader’s remorse in Dubland.

Verdict: Thumbs up

Trading Ryan Rollins and Patrick Baldwin Jr.

I’m separating Rollins from the CP3/Poole trade, and Baldwin from the TJD acquisition, because both of those moves could have been made in other ways. Rollins and Baldwin were traded less because the Washington Wizards really wanted them, and more because the Warriors wanted to be off their contracts. I still think Baldwin can be a quite good player eventually, but neither player has earned an opportunity in DC. Rollins has played sparingly, while Baldwin — whom many Warriors fans were upset to see play just 226 minutes as a rookie last year — has only hit the court for 11 minutes for the Wizards, who have the second-worst record in the NBA.

Verdict: Thumbs up

Signing Dario Šarić

The hope for many was that Šarić could recreate what Nemanja Bjelica or Otto Porter Jr. did during the championship run. Instead, he’s been the best of both players, rolled into one. Šarić has been one of the team’s best players, and has basically split center minutes with Kevon Looney. Enjoy him while he lasts: he’s playing his way into a much bigger contract.

Verdict: Thumbs up

Signing Cory Joseph

Warriors fans do not like this signing, and understandably: Joseph is not a player you particularly want to see on the court. Thankfully, he doesn’t spend much time on the court. He’s a back of the bench option who really only plays when Paul or Steph Curry is unavailable. I think it was a good if unexciting move, but I’m not sure how well one can grade a player who you hope to not have to watch.

Verdict: Ehh

Signing the two-way contracts

The team’s two-way contracts — Usman Garuba, Jerome Robinson, and Lester Quiñones — have been a breath of fresh air. Not because of anything they’ve done, but because we’ve barely seen them, a year after Ty Jerome and Anthony Lamb were rotation staples all year long. I like all three signings, but it’s hard to judge any of them this early on. Right now they’re all some variation of a stashed project and the emergency options for the emergency options.

Verdict: Ehh

Not signing Rudy Gay and Dwight Howard

It’s funny to think of how the team once seemed poised to sign Howard. And it sure felt like Gay was an inevitability. Neither player has caught on with any other NBA team this year, and I haven’t spent a single minute wishing they were on the Warriors’ court, bench, or locker room. Plus, not signing them allowed the team to add Gui Santos.

Verdict: Thumbs up

Not extending Klay Thompson

For a while it was presumed that the Warriors and Klay would reach an agreement on an extension before the season started. Even though the team made it clear that they expect to retain Thompson beyond this season — and until his retirement — not finding a middle ground on an extension sent a clear message: Klay wanted to bet on himself, and the Warriors weren’t confident he’d win that bet. I very badly hope that Klay wins that bet by the end of the year, meaning he has a great season and cashes in. But right now it’s certainly looking like the Dubs will save a lot of money by extending him after this year’s performance, instead of before it.

Verdict: Thumbs up

Not trading Jonathan Kuminga

There never was much of a whisper of a Kuminga trade, but given how the last season ended, it was certainly something that was discussed among fans, writers, and analysts. After his preseason performance, there was no denying that putting faith in Kuminga looked like it would pay off. I still think it will, but if we’re just basing things on the 18 games this year, it’s pretty iffy. I think it’s safe to say that Kuminga has less trade value than he did at the end of last year.

Verdict: Ehh

Not extending Steve Kerr

The Warriors fanbase continues to amuse me with their insistence that Kerr is a bad coach who should be fired. I don’t think that Kerr entering the final year of his contract without an extension signals that the team is even remotely reconsidering his future. It could be that Kerr is, though that seems unlikely too, given that he committed to coaching the Olympics next year. The most likely story is that the team was focused on Klay, and no one on either side is concerned about handling Kerr’s contract when the time comes. This is kind of a non-story in my eyes.

Verdict: Ehh

Re-signing Draymond Green

This still has the potential to backfire. $100 million for four years is a lot of money to commit to a player in his 30s, and if the team keeps struggling like this then they’ll want to be rid of large long-term contracts. I still think it was a good move though. I think Green would have gotten more on the open market, I think the Warriors have been a very good team when he’s been available, and I still see no path towards competing for a championship that doesn’t involve Green. The early returns have been below expectations, but Golden State is still in a much better position than they’d be in if they subtracted Green and gave their owners a few more million dollars.

Verdict: Thumbs up

Signing Mike Dunleavy Jr.

Might as well save this one for last, since he’s the man responsible for most of the above. Dunleavy was in many ways a safe pick when the Warriors needed to replace Bob Myers. He had been Myers’ right-hand man, and Myers publicly vouched for the former Dubs’ lottery pick. Like the man who hired him, Joe Lacob, Dunleavy started his tenure with a big and controversial move that risked angering the fanbase. And, like that Lacob move of shipping off Monta Ellis, Dunleavy’s big splash has paid off so far. He’s been fearless in his first year at the helm, had a very good draft, has made no large mistakes, and seems to be toeing the line between being a good teammate and playing hardball when negotiating.

Verdict: Thumbs up

It’s kind of hard to reconcile that the bulk of the Warriors moves have been, in my eyes, very good. And there haven’t been any clear swings-and-misses. And yet they still have a losing record.

Perhaps that doesn’t make sense, or perhaps it means that the issues right now are primarily the struggles of Thompson and Andrew Wiggins, the complacency and carelessness that they’ll hopefully figure out, and thinks just not quite clicking yet.

But we’ll see.

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