There’s no doubting that the Warriors were one or two plays from another championship.
Now that the Finals are over, and the talent acquisition season is beginning to heat up, Golden State is entering what might be a critical phase for the duration of Stephen Curry‘s career. What the Warriors do over the next month not only affects the 2016-’17 season, it must stand to affect what happens in 2023 and even 2027.
Golden State’s draft successes since 2009 — when Curry was drafted seventh overall by the Warriors — has them in a ring of salary cap constraints and unflattering draft position, and that doesn’t seem likely to end soon.
Here’s the Warriors’ position this offseason: they must add a quality starter to fill the void soon to be left by Harrison Barnes, find a rotational asset in the draft, and either retain some of their bench depth or find veterans who are eager enough to win that they’ll sacrifice a few million to do it — all the while making sure they can lock up Stephen Curry with a max deal that won’t make it impossible to re-tool their bench in 2020 if needed.
Locking up Curry shouldn’t be problematic. The Warriors have his bird rights and he wants to remain in the Bay Area. It’s the residual effects that turn a 50 section puzzle into a 5,000 piece headache.
More than that, the 2016 free agent crop is weak, while 2017, for now, is stacked. Some of the prime players will sign extensions with their respective teams, but the class is strong even after that.
Golden State likely won’t be major players in that, but teams looking to clear cap space to make a move, will make the Warriors important side-pieces. The implications could be huge.
The Warriors have no draft picks in 2017, consequences from the Andre Iguodala sign and trade, while teams like the Boston Celtics have more picks than roster space.
That means that two players in particular could be turning into assets, Andrew Bogut and Iguodala. But that’s not going to be enough to keep the Dubs afloat.
Warriors general manager Bob Myers will need to weave the tapestry of his life for the Bay’s team to remain contenders over the next 10 seasons.
If the Warriors can get some draft picks as compensation for Harrison Barnes, a restricted free agent who Myers and co. have the right of first refusal to, that would be huge. But it’s also a whole lot easier said than done. One factor that Myers touched on Tuesday afternoon:
“We have to be careful as to how we move forward with things. … I’ve learned in free agency, everyone is trying to get better. So are we. I’m sure even Cleveland wants to get better. Because if you’re not getting better, you’re probably getting worse. So we’ll measure continuity against whatever other opportunities present themselves. And make the best determination we can.”
Myers discussed the unknowns this time of year, citing the addition of Iguodala, which Myers has repeatedly said that he didn’t expect until it happened, and also said that bringing back the same bench from the last few seasons isn’t out of the question.
Myers also seemingly lobbied Websters dictionary to add a new line under the word ‘aggressive’ — using last years offseason, in which the Warriors did almost nothing, as an example.
The Warriors will pursue superstar forward Kevin Durant this offseason, a certainty. Beyond that, though, the only definite reality is that the bench will be a focal point of their research.
The next five years will also be an absolute part of their thinking. Salary cap room for the 2019 offseason will be critical, when only Draymond Green is under contract for now, presumably joined by a Curry deal to be finalized before opening day.
Locking up Curry, Klay Thompson and Green for their careers should be the long-term goal of the Warriors, but their surrounding cast could be a relatively wavering group who are either on their final contracts or past their primes, or simply high level role players — the latter being the realistic ideal since only the perfect storm of adversity could send the Warriors back into the draft lottery without a major trade.
And with a max extension for Curry, a max contract for Durant, and the contracts of Green and Thompson, Golden State’s spending would be around $85 million with only four player on the roster, without any hard promises that the salary cap will increase much, if at all.
That’s where the Warriors are right now.
Balancing eggs on a highwire that stretches a distance that exceeds the visible and into the unknown, all the while stopping to make deliveries.
Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.