What’s next for the Warriors?
That question was supposed to be at least semi-answered after Wednesday night’s draft, but instead has grown deeper.
The news that Klay Thompson had sustained a lower leg injury came just hours before Golden State picked James Wiseman, their new center of the future and present.
And now that Thompson’s injury is reported as a devastating, season-ending Achilles, this seemingly endless offseason, which has spanned 254 days and counting for the Warriors, feels like there’s no end in sight.
And yet there is. Free agency starts in a day, and in just four days the Warriors traded player exception expires. That’s not a lot of time to re-plan now that Thompson is out for all of next season.
They have decent options, though nothing feels like a good one. Here’s what they can do to try and replace one of their most irreplaceable stars.
Use the $17.2 million traded player exception on a starting caliber wing
The TPE was always earmarked for an impact player, but now it could be used to grab someone who could step in for Thompson instead of complimenting him. It can be used to absorb someone making up to $17.2 million the next season.
The name that has come up the most is Kelly Oubre, who just got sent to the Thunder and is making $14.3 million this upcoming year.
The 24-year old has shown flashes of the classic 3-and-D skillset, while also being able to create his own shot off the dribble. He’s athletic and would immediately step into Thompson’s starting spot.
The problem is the Thunder don’t need to trade Oubre without getting value, they aren’t competing for titles and Oubre is young enough that he could even stick around with them after this season.
But with Thompson possibly out a long time, coupled with a condensed schedule and the Warriors coming off the worst season in a long time, would they be willing to give up their own future draft pick? Is one protected first-rounder even enough for Oklahoma City?
Bob Myers either knows that answer or is about to find out.
Some other players that could fit into the TPE that the Warriors could look at are Evan Fournier on the Magic, Rudy Gay of the Spurs, or even taking back Andre Iguodala into the trade exception he created.
They could even do something crazy like take on Eric Gordon and his 4-year, $75 million dollar contract and pick up some draft capital from the Rockets.
Apply the disabled player exception
This would create a $9.2 million exception that doesn’t count against the salary cap that the Warriors could use to sign a free agent to a one-year deal, trade for someone making up to that amount plus $100k and be in the last year of their contract, or claim someone on waivers.
It does however add to their luxury tax so that would be a concern. Even if they use to TPE on Oubre, this could be a move made in conjunction with that to bring in some depth.
That could mean someone like Wayne Ellington or Reggie Bullock on the Knicks. It could also be more attractive than their taxpayer mid-level to some free agents and if nothing materializes, they could just let it expire without using it.
Scour the trade market
This is the least likely scenario as the logistics are hard to get around. The problem with this one is that the Warriors really have nothing to trade for what they need.
Aside from the big contracts they really have no middle-sized contracts, the next lowest contract after Green’s $22 million is Kevon Looney all the way at $4 million so it will be hard to match salaries with anyone they’re remotely interested in obtaining.
And if recent trades have shown, the market rate for good wing pieces is extraordinarily high with Jrue Holiday costing three first round picks and two swaps, and Robert Covington costing two first-rounders.
There’s no easy choice here. And whatever the Warriors do, it’s obvious Thompson’s absence has already dulled any optimism about the season.
The only hope here is that he’ll be back at some point — whenever that may be.