As the hours tick down towards the start of free agency, the Golden State Warriors have work to do. They owe Stephen Curry more. Heading into next season Curry will have his sidekick Klay Thompson back at whatever capacity. Along with Draymond Green, the full gang will be back together again, ready to re-climb the mountain. Now, they need a supporting cast that makes them viable in the West. They need a team that can stand up to seven games against the Suns, the Lakers, and whoever ends up coming out of the East.
The Warriors Free Agency Preview & Draft Recap
Thanks to a little lottery luck, the Warriors were handed the No. 7 and No. 14 picks in the 2021 NBA draft. They were presented with an opportunity, and their next step was crucial in maximizing Curry’s prime. The expectation was that the Warriors would use their collection of picks to execute a trade for an additional star or, at the very least, a collection of role players that could contribute to a title run next season.
They had the assets in hand, and as we edged ever closer to draft night, the Warriors were heavily linked with a handful of different players. Trades for All-Star players such as Pascal Siakam, Damian Lillard, and most commonly, Bradley Beal were all thrown around as possibilities. Marc Stein even reported that the Warriors had “signaled a willingness” to trade both the No. 7 and No.14 picks in hopes of landing a star player.
However, as draft night came and went, the Warriors instead opted to draft two 18-year-old long-term projects, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. The Warriors are neither committing to an all-out rebuild or an all-out pursuit of a championship; instead, they are attempting to toe the fine line in between. To do pull this off, they must strike gold in free agency.
Free Agent Options
The Warriors have been heavily linked with former Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Miami Heat are declining the $15 million team option on Iguodala’s contract for next season, making him a free agent. Whilst there may be questions about how much Iguodala has left to give at age 37, bringing home the beloved fan-favorite would be a shrewd move for Golden State if they can acquire him on the veteran minimum. Iguodala is familiar with the system, has playoff experience, and is trusted by the existing core. Also, Kuminga and Moody could both use a veteran mentor like Iguodala, who plays their position.
Another name that has been turning the rumor mill is Los Angeles Clippers forward Nicolas Batum. It has been reported that the Warriors and Batum have “mutual interest” in free agency, and it would take the $5.9 million taxpayer mid-level exception to land him. The Frenchman would fit seamlessly in the Warriors’ system, and already has an existing relationship with new assistant Kenny Atkinson, who coached him last season with the Clippers.
Curry and Green have both expressed a desire to get more veterans on the team for the next season. If they’re able to land Batum, Iguodala, and perhaps another veteran ball-handler, they’ll have a much more balanced and competitive team heading into the next season.
The momentum behind an Andre Iguodala return to Golden State is bubbling strong already after Miami declined Iguodala's 2021-22 team option.
As Warriors owner Joe Lacob told @anthonyVslater: "Now we add a few veterans. We’re going to do that. You’ll see in the next few days."
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) August 1, 2021
James Wiseman Rookie season is a tale of caution
The Warriors chose to double down, back their development process, and elect for a more long-term vision by taking their chances with the draft. If the Warriors were rebuilding, I would give the Warriors an A+ Grade for their draft haul. However, they’re not.
With James Wiseman already on the team, the Warriors decided to add two more rookies to what their leaders believe is a win-now situation. Wiseman’s underwhelming rookie season is a tale of caution. Wiseman, though undeniably gifted, looked like a fish out of water for much of the season. Forced to adapt on the fly to Steve Kerr’s motion offense system, Wiseman was often lost on offense and a total liability on defense.
Kuminga, similarly to Wiseman, enters the NBA with impressive physical tools but is still very raw as a player. The 6-foot, 8-inch, 220-pound forward has an NBA-ready body. His combination of size, athleticism, and quickness provide him with the tools to defend both guards and wings in the NBA. However, the consensus amongst scouts is that Kuminga needs to be afforded time and patience to develop into an impactful NBA player.
Both Kuminga and Moody possess tremendous upside. Wiseman is only 20 years old and may one day turn into an All-Star caliber player, but that’s my point. Based on last season, Wiseman still looks two years away from being a reliable contributor to a championship team. By then, Curry, Thompson, and Green will be well into their thirties, and that championship window may be firmly shut. They can’t have two more players who aren’t able to ride with the Warriors’ leaders in pursuit of a title; they must hit the ground running.
The Warriors owe Stephen Curry more
Despite the greatness that Curry showcased this season, his individual brilliance wasn’t enough to propel the Warriors into the playoffs. Through the final month of the season, Curry averaged 37.1 points while shooting 43.7% from 3-point range; but it wasn’t enough.
That is simply an indictment on the Warriors front office. Not only did the team constructed around Curry fail to maximize his strengths, but they were also incapable of helping him.
The Warriors have taken Curry’s otherworldly shooting ability for granted. The moves they made prioritized their philosophy and have never seemed to be about maximizing Curry. As a result, they finished the season going seven deep with their star having to face the kind of defenses no one else in the NBA sees. Even Lillard during his 55-point playoff explosion against Denver was seeing primarily single coverage. Opponents were free to triple-team Curry with reckless abandon. Teams loaded up on Curry because opposing defenses didn’t respect anyone else on the floor.
The Warriors don’t need to have the most stacked roster ever. They just need one that makes sure teams get emphatically punished for triple-teaming Curry. One that wouldn’t be the worst offense in the Kerr era when he takes a seat on the bench. One he can have a real shot with. After this season, they owe him that. It’s time to maximize Stephen Curry’s prime before it’s too late, and re-establish a dynasty.
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