For the last few years, there’s been a call from fans for the Golden State Warriors to sign a big man in free agency. We can question just how valid the concerns are — I’m always quick to point out that they, you know ... won a title a year ago with Kevon Looney as their only honest-to-goodness big — but it’s easy to understand why people have those concerns.
The Warriors haven’t really addressed that issue yet this offseason, though they took a step in that direction when they drafted Trayce Jackson-Davis, a player who might technically be shorter than the player he was traded for (Patrick Baldwin Jr.), but who, thanks to his muscle, size, and basketball skills, plays like a big man compared to Baldwin’s perimeter-oriented game.
But we know that we can’t count on a rookie to contribute, even a 23-year old four-year college player. So if the Warriors do want to address their lack of size, it will have to come through free agency or a trade.
Turns out that’s not the easiest thing to do. Basketball may be a tall person’s sport, but existence is not a really tall person’s sport. We can clamor for 7-footers all we want, but the reality is that the CDC estimates that there are fewer than 3,000 7-footers in the world. That’s a very small group to be pulling players from, before we consider that many of those are not at an NBA age. Or, you know ... don’t play basketball.
To wit: 679 players stepped on an NBA court last year. 34 of them were 7-footers, which equates to about one per team. Only 20 of them played in at least half of their team’s games, and only 10 of them started in at least half of their team’s games. That number expands to 106 if we include people 6’10” and above, but only 38 of those players had more minutes last year than Jonathan Kuminga.
The reality is that, in any given year, there are fewer than two players per team that are 6’10” or taller and good enough to deserve frequent playing time. The only ways to solve a size issue are to hope you nab a few of them, hope you nab one of the best of them, or find players who can play above their size ... like Looney and Draymond Green, for instance.
Still, the Warriors will look to compound Green and Looney’s existence by adding a big in free agency. They were reportedly close to signing sharpshooting big Dario Šarić, but his free agency is now on hold while the fate of Damian Lillard gets determined.
Šarić would be a fantastic addition to the Warriors, but there are directions for them to pivot if he ends up choosing a different team. Here are a handful of free agent big men for the Dubs to take a look at as they seek to fill out their roster in the pursuit of a fifth championship in 10 years.
The unrealistic dream: Christian Wood
Wood didn’t have his best season last year for the Dallas Mavericks, as he finished off his three-year, $41 million contract. But he was still pretty darn good, averaging 16.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game, despite playing just 25.9 minutes a night. He shot 37.6% from three-point range, which is actually below his career average.
He’s a bad defensive player, but as Steve Kerr has pointed out, the Warriors need improvements on the offensive side of things, not the defensive side. And that’s exactly what you get with a hyper-efficient 27-year old rim-runner with a silky smooth three-point shot.
It’s also why someone will offer Wood significantly more money and/or minutes than the Warriors can.
Honorable mentions: Paul Reed,
Reed is not nearly as good or as proven as Wood, but he’s a really good defensive player. He falls into this category because he’s a restricted free agent for a team (the Philadelphia 76ers) that wants to keep him. So there’s really no possible way for the Warriors to sign him.
Love would be a really good and fun fit, but the way he played for the Miami Heat last year almost surely played him out of Golden State’s price point. I completely missed that Love had already re-signed with the Heat.
The reclamation project: Montrezl Harrell
I wanted the Warriors to sign Harrell last offseason, but figured that even with his drug-related legal issues someone would give him considerably more than the Dubs could offer.
That didn’t actually end up being the case, as Harrell signed a two-year, veteran’s minimum with the 76ers. It included a player option for the second year, and Harrell exercised that option, entering unrestricted free agency.
Usually when a player opts out, it’s to chase more money, but for Harrell it’s probably more about finding a better situation. He only averaged 11.9 minutes per game last year, and completely fell out of the Sixers rotation by season’s end ... he got DNPs in 21 of their last 29 regular season games, and played less than seven minutes, total, in the playoffs.
Harrell probably won’t get a big deal in free agency, and the Warriors would be a great place for him to rebuild his value. In 2020-21 with the Los Angeles Lakers, Harrell was 95th percentile in scoring among roll men in the pick-and-roll. Imagine him doing that for 15 minutes a night with Chris Paul?
Honorable mention: Justise Winslow
Winslow still has all kinds of potential, though he’s much more of a defensive force than offensive weapon at this stage in his career. It would be fun to see what he could do learning from Green and Looney, and catching passes from Paul and Steph Curry.
The replacement: Meyers Leonard
Signing a player who used an antisemitic slur with his whole chest on a Twitch stream isn’t my idea of a good time, but if the Warriors are looking to replace Šarić’s skillset, Leonard is the best option. He’s a tough 7-footer who is a career 39% shooter from three-point range. Those pick-and-pops are great to think about.
Honorable mention: Gorgui Dieng
Dieng is more of a traditional big who can shoot well, rather than a stretch five, but still. If what they want from free agency is a big man who can shoot, a 6’10”, 250-pounder with a career 35.5% line from deep is a good place to turn.
The old friend: Willie Cauley-Stein
I contend that Cauley-Stein is one of the least-appreciated Warriors in recent memory. I thought he played quite well during his stint in the 2019-20 season, and it got lost by the fact that the Warriors were arguably the worst team in the NBA. He shot 56% from the field with the Warriors, and did a ton of damage in the pick-and-roll. His teammates seemed to like him. He spent last year trying to get back in the NBA, and the Warriors could be a good place for him to do exactly that.
Honorable mentions: Dewayne Dedmon, Bismack Biyombo
Dedmon started his career with the Dubs when he played four games for them in the 2013-14 season. He’s not particularly good anymore, but ... he’s big!
Biyombo has never played for the Warriors, but I’m putting him in this group because he spent the last two years playing with Paul for the Phoenix Suns. They have some chemistry and familiarity, and Biyombo is a good defensive player. I’m guessing the Warriors have already asked Paul about him.
The player with Warriors roots: Bol Bol
The son of former Warrior Manute Bol, Bol Bol is a free agent after getting waived by the Orlando Magic. The younger Bol doesn’t have his father’s height (7’7”) or wingspan (8’6”), as he’s “just” 7’2” with a 7’8” wingspan. Just 23, Bol hasn’t been good during his four years in the NBA, but he’s certainly intriguing ... he’s one of the tallest players in the league, and has a silky jump shot.
Honorable mentions: Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Udoka Azubuike
Neither of these players are actually related to former Warriors. But Antetokounmpo is the brother of future Warriors superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Azubuike would get asked “are you Kelenna’s brother?” at least 17 times a day if he played for the Dubs.
The funny option: Blake Griffin
Paul and Griffin were supposed to form a superteam when they paired up with the Los Angeles Clippers. We all know how that went. It would be hilarious if they reunited, though I don’t think Paul agrees with me.
Honorable mentions: Boban Marjanović, Tristan Thompson
Marjanović isn’t good, and has hung around the league for eight seasons despite barely ever playing. But who doesn’t want a 7’3” player who is as sweet as a cupcake, absolutely hilarious, and moonlights as a villain in John Wick?
And TT? Well, long before Draymond punched Jordan Poole, he got into an altercation with Thompson in the NBA Finals, only to later get punched by Khloé Kardashian’s serial-cheating on-again, off-again boyfriend at a club in Hollywood. They’re reportedly friends now, as LeBron James remains the great mediator, but it would still be funny to see them as teammates.
The trusty vet: Markieff Morris
Morris wouldn’t be a great get, but let’s be real: we’re talking about veteran minimums here. There’s only so much you’re going to get unless a ring chaser hops on board, and vet-min ring chasers aren’t really a thing.
Morris probably isn’t the player people dream of when they demand that the Warriors sign a big, as he’s “only” 6’9”. But he’s tough as nails, he defends, rebounds, and screens larger than his size, and he shot 39.4% on threes last year.
Is he good? No, not really. But he does many things well, could fit with a handful of different lineups, and is a veteran who’s been around long enough to not make silly mistakes.
Honorable mentions: Taj Gibson, Frank Kaminsky
Gibson and Kaminsky are more traditional bigs than Morris, though they can both shoot a little bit (Kaminsky in particular). Neither would project to be a force off the bench, but they would provide veteran stability and leadership.
Now we wait and see what happens.