Roster turnover a big priority for Warriors this offseason
Now that the champagne and Hennessy has stopped flowing — at least as copiously — the attention of the Warriors turns to the offseason and what needs to be done to plan another parade next season.
Just like last year, Golden State’s offseason is predicated on its own free agents with seven of 15 roster spots in flux.
Unlike last year, the roster turnover will be on the peripherals as aside from Kevin Durant the only other free agent to be the top seven in minutes played for the regular season was Nick Young. And really the only reason Young was in that position was because he was the only Warrior on the roster to play in 80 games.
Along with Young, general manager Bob Myers and the Warriors front office will have to weigh the value-cost of its plethora of bigs most heavily among other meaningful decisions
So here’s how those free agent decisions break down.
Durant has already said he’ll be back and unless Bob Fitzgerald succeeded in chasing the star out of town with his unrelenting awkward jokes at the parade, Durant will make good on his word.
The only question remains what kind of contract he’ll sign. His choices really come down to signing a two-year deal for more money now then waiting an extra year to sign his max contract, or going for a one-year deal for less money, but then locking into a five-year max deal in 2019.
He could also just sign a straight up four-year deal at his higher dollar and raise figure but that seems highly unlikely unless he really doesn’t care about making his max money.
Most Likely Returning
McCaw had a very good first year followed up by a very bad second year for the Warriors. He entirely lost his shot this season, which seemed like a confidence issue.
After shooting 43 percent from the field and 33 percent from deep his rookie year, he shot just 40 percent from the field and a miserable 23 percent from 3.
He had some moments but looked like a totally different player after his strong rookie season. The Warriors offense was a whole six points worse when he was on the court in the regular season, and that was before he took a scary fall at the end of March against the Kings.
McCaw dealt with a bunch of injuries this season, even before the fall, and missed enough games for the Warriors to gain no knowledge about what he is or can be on this team.
He looked primed for a steady dose of 20-plus minutes per game and maybe take over late game duties when Andre Iguodala moved on, instead the Warriors are left unsure of if he can even crack their rotation next year.
He’s a restricted free agent and after last season there was some worry that he might actually price himself out of the champ’s price range, but there’s not much stress about that now. There is a chance a struggling team saw his potential and will throw an offer sheet at the 22-year old, but it almost assuredly won’t break the bank for the Warriors to keep him.
It’s just a matter of if he gets, say, a three-year, $15 million offer sheet with the luxury tax payments that would push him up to over $16 million per year — all for a player who is probably 10th on the depth chart.
The Warriors would love to have him back, but it would have to be for the right price, and it likely will be.
The Warriors big man rotation gets all lumped together because the odds are that just one of these guys are back in Oakland next year. While each of them has carved out a role, and Steve Kerr continues to show his love of center by committee, there really isn’t room for all of them.
This offseason is a chance for the Warriors to finally bring some roster balance to this group. Seven centers littered the Warriors roster and that’s counting players who are listed as power forwards like Jordan Bell, because in the Warriors system everyone who’s not a wing is a center.
And we saw how much those centers cluttered the bench, especially when Stephen Curry and Iguodala went down with injuries. When one of those two were out along with McCaw in the playoffs, it left the Warriors with just Young and Shaun Livingston to eat up the minutes on the perimeter.
That forced them to either overextend their wings minutes-wise or play a two-big front with Draymond Green at power forward next to one of their centers. Both options are less than ideal and it underscored the need for more wings.
Kevon Looney was so far outside of the rotation to start the year that the Warriors declined his fourth-year player option. But he became a key piece late in the year and into the playoffs where he eventually started at center.
Since Looney’s option was declined though, his re-signing options are limited. The team can only offer just under $2.3 million in the first year of his next contract because that’s the amount his option was originally for.
Unless Looney really wants to stay in Oakland, that’s probably not enough as other teams are free to offer him whatever they want. And he showed his value and potential as a switch defender in the playoffs. Plus, at just 22, he’s still very young in his development — especially since this was the first healthy season in his career.
But the Warriors gave a glimpse of who they favor between Looney and Bell as it was the rookie who played down the stretch in the NBA Finals. Bell played 30 minutes combined in Games 3 and 4, while Looney played just three, all of which came in garbage time of Game 4. And not for nothing, but Chris Boucher is lurking as a real stretch-four on a two-way contract.
If Looney wanted to turn down bigger offers to stay in the only system he’s known, he’d gladly be accepted back. Larger contracts and perhaps larger roles also could await the big man and he hasn’t made his money yet, it’s just a matter of what he wants.
Zaza Pachulia started 57 games last season, which is actually the fourth-most starts in his career. It’s hard to remember though as he was basically evaporated from the rotation down the stretch and through the playoffs.
He’s proven that he can eat up minutes at the center spot and that’s all the Warriors really need as they just want to keep the minutes off of Green and bide their time to use that small-ball lineup.
He’s an easy target for criticism as he doesn’t score or block shots and sidelines superstars — both on the opposing teams and on his own. But he might be the Warriors’ soundest defender at the center spot and took up the Andrew Bogut mantle for setting the best screens on the team.
Plus, he’s proven he’s a great locker room guy as he didn’t complain when his role and minutes disappeared. And most importantly he’s Klay Thompson’s best friend. So if he would accept a minimum deal, he could very well be the guy out of this group who returns.
But it’s also just as likely he goes somewhere else or even just retires.
David West was at one point in the season, not just the Warriors best big man, but their best bench player in general. He knocked down every midrange look, defender decently and created shots for the guards with his passing.
But then he went down with an arm cyst, and when he came back he didn’t look the same. By the time the playoffs rolled around, West looked all sorts of washed and was unplayable in any important game — though that didn’t stop Kerr from calling his number.
West had said before the season that this was going to be his last and he would retire at the end of the year, but it’s tough to leave in the midst of this Warriors run.
He’s a valuable locker room presence and is one of the most respected players on this team. But Kerr has said constantly that the team needs to and will get younger, so that could signal the end for West.
West is the most versatile of the big men currently on the roster as he can stretch the floor with his shot, and the Warriors would hate to lose his leadership, so if he wants to come back for the minimum instead of retire the Warriors may go in that direction. He also wants to get into coaching though, so maybe he just ends up on Kerr’s staff at some point.
While the Warriors would be alright with any of these guys back, it would almost assuredly be just one of them. The guess right now would be Pachulia, while West retires and Looney moves on for more money.
JaVale McGee, Nick Young
Aside from Jordan Bell, Young and McGee looked like they had the best time at the championship parade, and that’s good because that’s probably the last memory we’ll have of them as Warriors.
McGee flirted with leaving last offseason, but couldn’t find any takers for his service so he returned on a minimum contract. The biggest reason he wanted to test the waters was he wanted a chance to start after putting up per-36 minute averages of 23 points, 11.9 rebounds and 3.3 blocks.
He played just under 10 minutes per game last year, though he appeared in 77 games and started 10 times. Those numbers actually went down this year as he played in just 65 games and totaled 100 fewer minutes during the regular season.
He did start in the Finals and was actually a difference maker in at least one game, but he’s never going to be more than a situational player on the Warriors, who at most would play 10 minutes a game.
Although the starting center spot looks like it might be open, if the Warriors re-sign Pachulia or Looney, they would be ahead of McGee, not to mention Bell and whoever they sign to round out the roster.
The players love McGee though. He’s one of the most liked players in the locker room and whenever he’s on the court with the starters they delight in putting the ball in his hands every chance they get.
The team also has a lot invested in Damian Jones who fills exactly the same role McGee does, and it’s time for the Warriors to see exactly what they have in Jones before making a decision on his fourth-year team option.
When the Warriors signed Young it looked like a good fit in a vacuum. They needed shooters and scorers on the wing and Young was coming off a career resurgence under old friend Luke Walton, shooting over 40 percent on seven 3’s a game.
This wasn’t a vacuum however, and Young never truly fit into the Warriors system. He was like a puzzle piece that you’re positive fits so you continue to jam in into place, only to realize the colors are a little off.
He was easily the Warriors worst defender and still didn’t know the plays by the end of the playoffs. It was a regular sight to see Young run to a spot only to be met with exasperated points to the other side of the court.
He may have fallen out of the rotation completely if it weren’t for McCaw’s awful and injury-plagued season. Young also took a discount and signed for the mid-level exception last year for close to $5.2 million, so with all the luxury tax payments it’s pretty clear the Warriors want no part in a reunion.
But Young got a ring and a new nickname out of this season so all’s well that ends well.