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Postmortem mailbag, Part 1

Answering your questions after a disappointing end to the season.

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Klay Thompson holding his hands over his eyes like goggles Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The dust has settled a little from the Golden State Warriors frustrating end to the season, which came when the Los Angeles Lakers eliminated them in six games in the Western Conference Semifinals.

It seemed like a good time to do a postmortem mailbag, and turns out y’all had a lot of questions to ask! So many questions that I got 1,600 words deep and was only about halfway through, so ... it’s a two-parter! Let’s dive in.

Steve Kerr actually answered this question pretty well after Game 6. Here’s what he told The Athletic regarding Kuminga’s reported frustration about playing time:

This is kind of how life works. I don’t mind frustration at all. I want them to be frustrated, and I want them to compete and work and get better for next year. And their time’s coming. You could see it with Moses. Moses had a breakthrough. I felt it in the last few weeks of the season watching him in practice every day. You could see it in the playoffs. He was the first guy to the offensive glass, the first guy to loose balls, rotating early. All the things that we preach, he finally started doing consistently. And that’s why he played in the playoffs. But those things don’t happen overnight. And they’re all hugely key.

It’s what the coaches see on tape every day. But it’s what the average fan isn’t really going to decipher. But this is what we do. Young players just take time. I have no doubt the way they all work and how much they care, they’re all going to get better and they’re going to grow. But it wasn’t time yet.

Moses Moody didn’t get much playing time during the regular season because he wasn’t showing in practice that he was good enough at the things that the Warriors need him to be good at. It was similar for Jonathan Kuminga for much of the year, but when Andrew Wiggins’ extended absence coincided with Gary Payton II’s injury, Kerr was forced to play Kuminga and his decent on-ball defense.

I don’t think there’s anything to read into, as far as how the Warriors value them. Golden State’s front office and coaching staff — and truthfully most NBA analysts — view Kuminga and Moody as long-term prospects. Moody himself said he came to the NBA before being ready because he wanted to develop in the pros instead of in college. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor described Kuminga before the 2021 NBA Draft as a “Tantalizing athlete who has raw skills that need years of seasoning, but has every tool a patient team would look for.”

The Warriors are being patient with Kuminga and Moody, and want to see behind the scenes that those players are ready before they force them into game action, where they might cost the team wins and hurt their own development in the process.

I would be very surprised if Jonathan Kuminga is gone and moderately surprised if Jordan Poole is.

Well it’s hard for me to answer the question because I fundamentally disagree with the premise. I don’t think Green had lackluster intensity at all. In fact, I thought he was one of the most intense players in the series, breathing life into a Warriors team that at times looked willing to hit the snooze button and go back to sleep.

Dray was pushing the effort on defense and leading the transition breaks. If intensity and fire were the issue with the Warriors in the playoffs, Green is probably the last person to blame.

As for his relationship with LeBron James ... even if Green had been low energy and low intensity, I would not blame it on the relationship. Professional athletes are competitive at levels that most of us can’t comprehend ... borderline psychopathic levels.

With the Warriors eliminated, there’s no one that Green would rather see win a championship than James. But before the Warriors were eliminated? There’s no one Green would rather beat than James.

It’s like sibling rivalry turned up to the max. You love each other, you want to see each other succeed, and there’s no one you want to beat more than each other.

It’s hard to imagine them shedding salary in any form other than trading Jordan Poole. Steph Curry isn’t going anywhere, for obvious reasons. Klay Thompson isn’t going anywhere, despite the calls from some fans. And if Draymond Green opts in, he’s not going anywhere.

That leaves Poole and Andrew Wiggins. Between Wiggins’ playoff performance in 2022, and Poole’s performance this year, it’s hard to see the Warriors facing that decision and choosing to trade Wiggins.

So the most likely — by far, in my eyes — is to ship Poole to a lottery team that has the salary space to absorb his contract.

If the Warriors want to keep their six core players together, they could still shed a little bit of salary (and a whole lot of tax money) by trading Jonathan Kuminga and their upcoming No. 19 pick, and filling those spots with veteran minimums.

Well, let’s start with the logistical element. The Warriors can’t do this deal, legally. They have way too much money in salary commitments to be allowed to receive a sign and trade. So this can’t happen due to the CBA.

But let’s pretend it could, hypothetically. I don’t see why the Warriors would have any interest in this. DeMar DeRozan is a good player who would be an awful fit on the Warriors. He doesn’t shoot threes, so he can’t space the floor. He needs the ball in his hands to be successful, and is isolation heavy. He’s not a very good defensive player. The idea of DeRozan would be great if it were a bench scorer who played 15 minutes a night, but that’s not who DeRozan is.

DeRozan is better than Andrew Wiggins in a vacuum, but I’m not convinced that he’s better for the Warriors. Wiggins has grown beautifully into his role, and the Warriors really need his defense and floor-spacing.

As for Nikola Vučević ... he’d be an intriguing addition, no doubt. The Warriors with a floor-spacing five would be awesome. But Vooch is a shell of his former, All-Star self. He’s a bad defensive player, and even with his three-point shooting his true-shooting percentage was just 102% as good as league average last year ... and just the third time in his 12-year NBA career that he’d scored with better than average efficiency.

He’s not as good (or as good of a fit) as Kevon Looney, and paying big money for a backup center when you still want to have lots of time for Draymond Green to play center isn’t really the move. I’d rather have Wiggins than DeRozan, and I’d rather have Jordan Poole and Jonathan Kuminga than Vučević.

No. There’s a possibility of Draymond Green being gone, but if he leaves it will be of his own volition (he can opt out of his contract and become a free agent).

But the Warriors trading Green or Klay Thompson won’t happen. Golden State is still very committed to each player, with The Athletic reporting that the team not only wants to keep them for the 2023-24 season, but wants to hammer out extensions with each.

The Warriors wouldn’t consider a trade for three reasons.

First, this is still a championship core. The Warriors won a title 11 months ago, and even if they came up short this year, losing in the semifinals is nothing to sneeze at. Steve Kerr has already stated that the Warriors cannot contend without Green, and he’s not wrong. Despite Klay’s ugly postseason, if you’re looking at the reasons the Warriors championship defense came up short, the core three is pretty low on the list.

Second, Steph Curry has reportedly made it very clear that he sees those three as a packaged deal. Any move to get rid of them will undoubtedly come with numerous angry public comments from Curry. It could even result in a trade request, and certainly might mean that he won’t re-sign when his contract is up. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Warriors losing Curry would cost ownership billions of dollars between revenue and valuation. That’s more money than whatever their tax bill will be.

And third, there’s no way to trade Thompson and Green without making the team substantially worse. How much would a team give up for one year of Klay at $43.2 million, with no guarantee he’d stick around? How much would a team give up for one year of Dray at $27.6 million, with no guarantee he’d stick around? The answer is: very little.

People like to point to how well the Los Angeles Lakers did in offloading Russell Westbrook’s contract, but let’s not forget that they had to attach a first-round pick (as well as some depth pieces) and take on D’Angelo Russell’s contract, which was widely viewed as being a very bad contract. Really, the Lakers swapped bad contracts, and then traded a first-rounder for Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley.

It worked for LA, and good for them. But it only worked because they took on another big contract (which the Warriors would not be doing in this cost-saving scenario), and because they were getting addition by subtraction in getting rid of a player who was actively hurting them (which Green and Thompson are not doing).

Long story short: a starting lineup of Curry, Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga, and Kevon Looney, with sixth man Moses Moody, and a few Malik Beasley-esque pieces, is a great way to get eliminated in the play-in tournament, piss off the face of your franchise, and hemorrhage money in revenue and valuation.

So yeah. Those guys aren’t going anywhere, unless they want to.

Thanks for the questions, everyone! Part 2 will be tomorrow!

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