Warriors mailbag: Does Golden State need to sign a center?

Peninsula Premier Admin

As always, thanks to everyone who contributed questions for this week’s mailbag. You can submit questions for future mailbags by email or on Twitter.

Do you think the Warriors will add another big any time soon? — Tim Sheehan.

Probably not with Draymond Green and Juan Toscano-Anderson playing well in small-ball lineups. But I think they should, since they currently have two centers dealing with injuries (Alen Smailagic and Marquese Chriss) occupying valuable roster spots. To do so, they’ll have to clear a roster spot. Mychal Mulder is the only player with a non-guaranteed contract, but waiving him is not an option — he’s too valuable as a 3-point specialist off the bench.

But they should consider waiving Alen Smailagic, who has yet to play after undergoing knee surgery before the season. It’s clear Smailagic has potential — the Warriors like his athleticism, touch and aggression — but, in the words of Fran Fraschilla, he’s probably “two years away from being two years away.” If the Warriors cut him, he’ll almost-certainly clear waivers and they can re-sign him to their G League team in Santa Cruz, where he can develop at a more appropriate pace. Then they can use that spot to add an experienced big. League rules dictate any player the Warriors sign would have to register six straight days of negative coronavirus tests, so that player wouldn’t help them now, but he could be insurance in the case of future injuries this season.

Does the return of Klay Thompson (next season) make the Warriors instant contenders, or does the conditioning and number of injuries deter their chances? — Areebd Rasheed.

That’s the $38 million question, isn’t it? A team with Stephen Curry, Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Green, along with James Wiseman, Kevon Looney and Eric Paschall, seems on its face to be among the deepest and most talented teams in the league — a bona fide title contender. But that’s only if Thompson returns to something near his 2019 form. Remember, he’s lost two years of his prime because of back-to-back major lower-body injuries. His shooting should translate post-injury just fine, but of greater concern is his defense.

During their championship runs, the Warriors relied on Thompson to handle the top defensive responsibility, but an ACL and Achilles tear could rob him of his lateral quickness and strength. This is what made the acquisition of Wiggins so important. Should Thompson be unable to rediscover his pre-injury form, Wiggins could assume those responsibilities. Even still, Golden State will need Thompson to be a positive on the defensive end. All the Warriors can do now is wait and see.

Can you see any scenario in which Curry and the Warriors do not agree on an extension? — Jeremy Friedrichs.

There’s no reason for Curry or the Warriors not to agree on an extension. Curry is already making more than the maximum salary, so he can’t get more as an unrestricted free agent in 2022 unless the salary cap sees a large spike — which is highly unlikely after the economic fallout of the pandemic. From a team-building perspective, it doesn’t help the Warriors to delay Curry’s next contract, either. As long as Curry wants to be in Golden State, an extension will be signed later this year.

What’s the perception league-wide of Kelly Oubre Jr.’s trade value? Is he someone that the Warriors would have to attach a pick to to get rid of? Or is he viewed by other teams as someone who could be more productive on their team with a slower pace and less complex system? — RimRunningRagged.

I got a lot of comments in my Twitter mentions after Oubre’s 40-point game that the Warriors should “sell high” and trade Oubre right away. As if NBA front offices are that dumb. It’s amazing to me that fans think one game can be enough to hoodwink an opposing front office. News flash: They also have access to basketball-reference.com. The reality is it will take a much more sustained run to increase Oubre’s trade value. Still, Oubre is 25 years old, uber athletic and has potential on both offense and defense that a team with a less complex system could unlock. The belief around the league is that the Warriors would have to attach some sort of sweetener to move off Oubre, but it wouldn’t be impossible.

And because now I have trade ideas on my mind grapes… would the Warriors trade Oubre to the Knicks and take a flyer on Kevin Knox? Would the Heat be interested in swapping Andre Iguodala for the younger Oubre (and would the Warriors be interested in a reunion with the 37-year-old Iggy?) What about a deal to acquire Spencer Dinwiddie from Brooklyn? Dinwiddie is sidelined this season with an ACL injury, but he’s only 27, under contract for next season at a reasonable price and could add playmaking, scoring and sturdy defense off the bench.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – JANUARY 30: The Golden State Warriors’ Kelly Oubre, Jr. (12) acknowledges a teammate while playing the Detroit Pistons at Chase Center in San Francisco, Calif., Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

How important is it to Golden State to preserve Oubre’s salary slot (which originated as Iguodala) going into next season? Very important (meaning they ought to trade Oubre for someone they can more easily retain)? Not important (maybe there’s no appetite to pay that much tax again)? — @MidLvlException

I’d hedge and say relatively important. As I reported after the Oubre acquisition in November, the Warriors did not plan to use the trade exception prior to Thompson’s injury. Given that they were willing to let the exception (along with the salary slot) expire, it’s safe to say that Joe Lacob would be happy to shave some salary when Thompson returns next season. But, as always, Lacob could be willing to spend the money if it means adding a player who can meaningfully increase their chances at returning to the Finals. I’m just not sure that player is available right now.

Scale of 1-10: How nervous should I be about the Dubs not taking care of the close games to build a cushion in the standings? — Eric Culberson Jr.

The Warriors are 4-2 in games that are within five points with two minutes remaining and 5-2 when leading in close games with five minutes to go. Both marks are among the best in the league. They execute well late in games, tend to space the floor with knock-down shooters and are willing to adapt defensively. Don’t be too concerned, Eric.

Inquiring minds want to know, what’s the deal with Brad Wanamaker? He’s having as rough a season as Oubre and is still getting a ton of crucial minutes. What’s his future with the team? — Kinefresh.

It’s not been covered as much as Oubre’s shooting slump, but Wanamaker (35.4%) is actually shooting a worse percentage than Oubre (39.4%) this season and has made just nine of his 37 3-point attempts — a worse clip than Wiseman and Paschall. In his first two seasons with the Celtics, Wanamaker shot 37.6% from 3-point range but, because it came on such a small sample (141 total attempts) it’s hard to gauge whether or not he’s a good 3-point shooter. (He’s also getting to the rim less than he did his first two seasons.)

Still, Steve Kerr says he trusts Wanamaker. He doesn’t turn the ball over much, has a high steal rate and is a sound defender. The Warriors are already short on healthy bodies and, with Jordan Poole and Nico Mannion participating in the G League bubble, Wanamaker will continue to see meaningful minutes.

Contributed by local news sources

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