Anthony SlaterandShams Charania
May 13, 2023
LOS ANGELES – As playoff exits go, thisWarriors’flameout wasn’t exceedingly meager. They held off the upstartKingsin the first round and fell in six games to a surgingLakersteam in the second round, presenting as a team that remains at least on the edge of realistic contention if the right roster tweaks are made.
As the franchise’s lead decision makers reconvene in the coming weeks to plot out the path forward, that matters. They’re facing a rocketing luxury tax bill, increased penalties from the new Collective Bargaining Agreement for living in that financial ballpark and, because of it, challenging choices about how much and who to pay.
But in discussions with those who pull the organizational levers in recent weeks, this much has been made clear: There’s still internal belief that this established, aging core can compete for titles becauseStephen Curryremains a top-five player in theNBAandDraymond GreenandKlay Thompsonshow no signs of a steep decline. Green made the All-Defensive team again this season and Thompson, despite a brutal shooting series against the Lakers (34.3 percent) that included shooting just 3-of-19 in the elimination game, led the NBA in made 3s this season. Curry’s ability to keep these Warriors a contender year after year gives the franchise every motivation to maximize his peak years — even as the 2022 NBA Finals MVP turned 35 in March.
Controlling owner Joe Lacob must green light all financial choices. He has shown to be uneasy in the past about letting the total salary and tax bill sky past $400 million. If everyone is retained, including Green, who has a $27.6 million player option, it’ll stretch significantly beyond that.
But Lacob has a thirst for titles and the front office has again been reminded this season of Green’s indispensable value in that quest. Lose Green and likely lose any realistic path to that ultimate goal.
It’s why the Warriors intend to discuss a new multi-year contract with Green, either via an opt in and extend or an entirely new deal after an opt out, sources briefed on the matter tellThe Athletic. Green has leverage: He is expected to have multiple playoff-contending teams in pursuit if he enters the open market. But Green and the Warriors appear intent on discussing an extension to their partnership, if the price is right. He just finished his 11th season with the franchise.
“I want to be a Warrior for the rest of my life,” Green said after Game 6. “I want to ride out with the same dudes I rode in with.”
(Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images)
The larger question is whether president of basketball operations Bob Myers will be the one having the conversation with Green and his representatives. As the entire league keeps a watchful eye, Myers is expected to take time in the coming weeks to decide on his future. His contract is up on June 30, but clarity would presumably be needed sooner. The draft is on June 22. Offseason and free agency planning is already cranking up.
Lacob has stated publicly and privately his hope to retain Myers as the face of the Warriors’ front office and has offered him a new deal. Those within the front office – under and around Myers – echo that sentiment, a collective desire to keep the established structure in place. But there’s also an acknowledgement that Myers may walk out the door, even if Lacob does reach the necessary number in contract negotiations.GO DEEPERWhy the Warriors are in danger of losing Bob Myers
If Myers departs, the wide expectation is an internal promotion instead of an outside search. The Warriors have a strong belief in the front office leadership ladder below Myers. Mike Dunleavy Jr. has been pegged by many as the natural successor. His visibility and responsibility have grown the last two seasons. After the Game 1 loss to the Lakers, Dunleavy was spotted with Myers in the weight room having an extended debrief conversation with Curry and Green, the latest outward signal that he’s being groomed for the position.
Kirk Lacob and Kent Lacob hold high-level positions within the franchise. Kirk’s power stretches throughout the basketball and business operations. He profiles more as an owner-in-waiting than future general manager. Kent is a rising voice on the basketball side, having gained esteem through persistent international and G-League scouting.
Shaun Livingston is a trusted voice with a bright future in the executive world, should he choose to stay down that path. Nick U’Ren, Jonnie West, Ryan Atkinson, Larry Harris, Pabail Sidhu (analytics) and Onsi Saleh (cap expert) are other established members of a built out front office structure.
But nobody has the equity or established relationships with the players quite like Myers. If he’s gone, nobody can replicate the delicate but powerful chord he can strike with Curry, Green and Thompson, a vital quality when the dialogue turns to negotiations about contracts and roster choices and value for a lucrative franchise brand the players mostly built.
Thompson is extension eligible this summer. He’s making $43.2 million on the final year of his deal next season. If he’s to extend with the Warriors this summer, the expectation is he’d have to accept a paycut, asAndrew Wigginsdid last summer. That request and explanation lands softer from Myers rather than a Lacob-led front office.
(Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
There’s been an unspoken two-timeline tug-of-war the last few years, as the roster beneath the Curry core has been overloaded with youth with an eye toward the future. It reached a tipping point this season and theJames WisemanforGary Payton IItrade was viewed as a necessary concession, reprioritizing the present.
But some tension persists.Jonathan Kumingahad an encouraging second season, emerging into the type of individual defender and slashing wing who should carve out a long career in the NBA. He was great down the stretch of the regular season, helping the Warriors get into the playoffs while Andrew Wiggins was away from the team for a couple months. Kuminga averaged 13.2 points in 24.2 minutes in the 21 games after the All-Star break.
But Wiggins returned, Payton entered the lineup and Kuminga was pulled from the playoff rotation, generating frustration for a young player trying to get his career off the ground and a front office that doesn’t view him as a failed draft pick.
There’s an acknowledgement from the Warriors’ decision makers that some amount of rotation retooling is needed this summer. That could put Kuminga’s future in question. It’s been difficult to fit him into lineup combinations with both Green andKevon Looney– two non-shooters – and that frontcourt logjam ahead of him is expected to remain in place.
The Warriors and Kuminga’s representatives are expected to discuss his future this offseason, league sources say. Golden State will need to decide whether Kuminga will receive a full-time role moving forward, and, if not, league sources say the No. 7 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft will want to be somewhere he can play more.
But it’sJordan Poole’s future that is of greater question. His contract extension kicks in next season at $27.4 million. That spike, along with retaining Green, would put the Warriors in a luxury tax tier that could be a non-starter for Lacob. It also now contains other roster-building restrictions, including the loss of the midlevel exception, which allowed them to getDonte DiVincenzothis past summer.
If cost-cutting is required, he profiles as the likeliest candidate. Poole had a turbulent fourth season, beginning when he took the infamous preseason punch from Green during a training camp practice. Poole kept it professional in the aftermath and tensions cooled enough for the two to work together. But the relationship was never fully repaired and Poole’s struggles didn’t help the mood, culminating in a challenging playoffs that saw his efficiency plummet and minutes get reduced.
There’s still hesitancy to move him. Poole averaged 20.4 points this season and has potent offensive capability that is lacking on the roster below Curry and will be needed as the core ages further. Is it wise to move off of that when his value is at its lowest in 12 months? Will the money crunch dictate it?
Steve Kerr is also in the final season of his deal. But Kerr has only expressed a desire to remain as the team’s coach and an invigoration for the profession — he will be the Team USA coach the next couple of summers. So all indications are he will return, though it’s too early to tell whether extension talks will commence.
That’s one of the simpler topics in what will otherwise be a complicated offseason around the Warriors while they await official word whether Myers will be the one pulling the string on these substantial decisions.
“Draymond. Klay. Steph. Our core guys, they have plenty left to offer,” Kerr said following the Game 6 loss. “It’s not like this is the end of the road. The organization has some decisions to make. We’ll eventually get to that point.”
Kawakami: Warriors aren’t breaking up the core, but Jordan Poole isn’t part of it
(Top photo of Stephen Curry: Harry How/Getty Images)