SAN FRANCISCO — The Warriors intended to run it back next season to defend their 2022 NBA title.
But with nine players in the market for new deals and some financial constraints, general manager Bob Myers and the rest of Golden State’s front office recognized the challenge they faced with trying to keep a championship team intact while also trying to stay within a budget.
Three days into free agency, the Warriors find themselves in an interesting situation. They lost five players, including two valuable pieces of last season’s championship team, in free agency, but retained Kevon Looney, Golden State’s top free agent target, and added Donte DiVincenzo.
The biggest blow was the departure of Gary Payton II, who will reportedly sign a three-year, $25 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers. Losing Otto Porter Jr., who revived his career last season with the Warriors, also hurt. That’s two of the Warriors’ eight rotational players in the NBA Finals that won’t be part of Golden State’s title defense next season.
The Warriors will also be without Nemanja Bjelica, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damion Lee next season. Bjelica is reportedly leaving to play overseas in Turkey. Toscano-Anderson is heading to the Los Angeles Lakers, and Lee is reportedly signing with the Phoenix Suns.
Payton was the second-most important free agent for Golden State behind Looney. He became a vital defensive weapon for the Warriors, leading the team in deflections (180) and steals (96). Knocking down timely corner 3s and dunking at 6-foot-3 were added bonuses within his versatile skillset.
The Warriors, who had a record-setting payroll last season and are already deep in the luxury tax and repeater tax zone, ultimately let Payton walk because they were unwilling to match his costly deal with the Trail Blazers, a decision that “stung” several within the organization, according to The Athletic.
Meanwhile, Porter, who’s reportedly signing with the Toronto Raptors, turned out to be a perfect fit for the Warriors after injuries derailed his career. He provided a jolt off the bench with his shooting, rebounding and ability to defend multiple positions.
The Warriors are looking to fill the voids left by Payton and Porter with DiVincenzo, a combo guard who’s expected to sign a two-year, $9.3 million deal with the Warriors once contracts can officially be signed Wednesday, according to league sources. Golden State also has two internal candidates to help: Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.
Both lottery picks in last year’s draft, Kuminga and Moody were expected to have expanded roles next season. Both are expected to compete in Summer League this month, though Moody didn’t play in the Warriors’ California Classic opener Saturday as part of a scheduled rest day.
Kuminga and Moody had said they’re looking at this summer to be huge in terms of their development. Kuminga wants to focus on improving his rim protection and shooting, while Moody listed a laundry list of areas he hopes to shore up this offseason.
“I obviously want to put focus on getting better and getting prepared for next year, and what better way is there to get better than to be in live games with real reps and real fans,” Moody said.
The Warriors could sign up to three more players in free agency and will be looking for high-level role players to round out their roster.
Last season, they hit big with Porter and Bjelica, who joined the team on veteran minimum deals. Golden State could use a veteran two-way wing, who can help space the floor and guard multiple positions. And though the Warriors have made their brand of basketball by playing small, Golden State is thin at center, especially with James Wiseman’s status still up in the air, so they could use another veteran big man to help relieve Looney and Green.
Also, it’s still unclear whether Andre Iguodala, an unrestricted free agent, plans to retire or possibly return to the Warriors for one last run. The 38-year-old missed most of last season and the playoffs due to a myriad of injuries, but he’s a well-respected veteran who has the ear of the Warriors big three. He’s also an invaluable mentor to Golden State’s younger players.
The Warriors are still in a position to contend for a title next season, but they’re still a few pieces away from being complete.
Here’s a look at the Warriors’ depth at each position as of Saturday afternoon:
Point guards:- Stephen Curry- Jordan Poole- Ryan Rollins (2022 second-round pick)
Shooting guards:- Klay Thompson- Donte DiVincenzo
Small forwards:- Andrew Wiggins- Moses Moody
Power forwards:- Draymond Green- Jonathan Kuminga- Patrick Baldwin Jr. (2022 first-round pick)
Centers:- Kevon Looney- James Wiseman
Contributed by local news sources