NBA Offseason Guide 2022 – How the Golden State Warriors should approach the offseason

NBA Offseason Guide 2022 – How the Golden State Warriors should approach the offseason post thumbnail image

The dynasty continues.

After a two-year hiatus from the Finals, the Warriors are champions for the fourth time in eight seasons and have rebounded from the 15-50 season in 2019-20 and LeBron James‘ season-ending buzzer beater in the 2021 play-in game.

The core players return, but the offseason will focus around their two key free agents, Kevon Looney and Gary Payton II and the development of their former lottery picks, including James Wiseman.


Roster status: Championship, but record-breaking expensive

State of the team

The cost of building a championship through the draft is high, but in the Warriors’ case, it’s record-breaking.

The Warriors are penalized financially for drafting well. Eight of the players on this year’s roster are homegrown draft picks.

After spending a league-record $350 million in salary (including the luxury tax), the team’s payroll project to eclipse more than $400 million in 2022-23 and 2023-24.

For comparison sake, the Warriors paid more in salary and luxury tax than Memphis, Orlando and Oklahoma City combined this season.

“You don’t need me to tell you what our payroll is. It’s pretty high,” Warriors GM Bob Myers told Yahoo Sports. “So he (controlling owner Joe Lacob) just wants to win. And we’ve spent a lot and we’ve kept all the players we want to keep, so I don’t see that changing.”

In five out of the past seven seasons, Lacob and his ownership group have paid $338 million in luxury tax penalties, the most by any team in that stretch.

The next two offseasons could be even more expensive.

The Warriors have $173.6 million in salary committed, $24.6 million over the tax threshold before free agency begins and although Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole and Draymond Green are all under contract, there are key free agents to address, including Gary Payton II, Kevon Looney, Otto Porter Jr and Nemanja Bjelica.

If Payton II and Looney return on a $6 million per year salary and the remaining roster is filled out with their first-round pick and players signed to the veteran minimum, Golden State is projected to spend $390 million in salary and tax penalties.

That number increases to $430 million if they use their $6.4 million tax midlevel exception on a player like Porter Jr. The Warriors bypassed on using the tax midlevel last year and filled out the roster with players signed to the veteran minimum.

The less expensive option (roughly $90 million less) is to rely on a healthy James Wiseman to replace Looney and last year’s lottery picks, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody to play more of a role.

However, as Myers mentioned, there are no indications that ownership is going to put away the checkbook for a chance to win a championship.


Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole

Trading for Wiggins in 2020 and developing Jordan Poole have been instrumental for the Warriors.

“The Wiggins trade allowed us to start to rebuild that wing defense,” coach Steve Kerr said. “I don’t know where we’d be without him defensively with his work on Luka and every other top wing that we have to face. He’s just been brilliant. I think that move was kind of the key move that Bob and the front office made to get us back to having a playoff-ready roster.”

Wiggins ranked in the top-5 in defensive half court matchups vs. 2022 All-Stars this season per Second Spectrum. His defense on Luka Doncic in the Conference Finals played a big part in the Warriors’ Finals run. For the season, he held opponents to 41.7% when he was the closest defender and under 50% effective field goal percentage as the closest defender for the first time in his career.

Offensively, he scored a playoff high 27-points in a Game 3 win versus Dallas and backed that up with 26-points in a Game 5 against Boston. Wiggins finished the regular season with the third highest field goal percentage on cut layups/dunks (89.8%) of any player since 2013-14, per Second Spectrum.

Wiggins is entering the final year of the five-year $147 million rookie max extension he signed back in 2017 with Minnesota.

Golden State can tack on an additional four seasons, and while he should not receive a pay increase off his current $33.6 million salary, his body of work on both sides of the court deserve strong consideration for a new contract.

A three-year $81 million extension that starts at $25 million has Wiggins ranked No. 7 among all starting small forward’s salaries in 2022-23. The length in years would align with Steph Curry’s contract.

There is no deadline during the offseason to reach a deal.

It was two years ago that Poole was unfairly placed in the category as another failed Warriors’ late first-round pick (joining Jacob Evans and Omari Spellman).

He averaged 8.8 points in 22.4 minutes on 33.3% shooting from the field, including 27.9% from beyond the 3-point line, as a rookie. His struggles were magnified by the Warriors 15-50 record.

“Everything they were saying — he takes bad shots or he can’t pass, he can’t dribble — I wasn’t worried about that,” Poole told ESPN’s Kendra Andrews. “Because I knew what I was capable of. It would just be a matter of how I would be able to incorporate my game into the team’s. It will take some time, and I knew that.”

This season, Poole would go on to average 18.5 points, 44.8% from the field and 36.4% from three.

With Klay Thompson out of the lineup for half of the regular season and the Steph Curry injury late in the year, Poole went on to start 51 games, averaging 20.8 points. He had 18 25-plus point games this season, including a career-high 38 points in a late March loss to Phoenix.

Although half of his 13.9 field goal attempts this year were on three’s, Poole has shown to be most effective driving to the basket. Per Second Spectrum tracking, the Warriors averaged 1.13 points per chance on Poole drives. That ranked 3rd-best among 68 players to record 500+ drives, trailing Giannis Antetokounmpo and DeMar DeRozan.

While his offense has evolved, Poole is a far-from-finished product on defense.

Golden State has allowed 1.26 points per direct pick when Poole is the screener defender this season, including regular season and playoffs per Second Spectrum. That is the worst efficiency allowed among players to defend 150+ on-ball picks as the screener defender.

Poole is rookie-extension-eligible, and both sides have until October 17 to negotiate a new contract. Otherwise he will become a restricted free agent next offseason.

What that next contract projects to be is dependent on Poole and the Warriors reaching a compromise, which is common for a non-max player who is looking to secure financial security a year early. According to ProFitX, a Poole extension projects to start at $20.3 million in the first year and put him in the top-10 of salaries among all shooting guards in 2023-24.

Poole has no leverage right now, but that could change next offseason if the guard has another strong season and the market of teams that have cap space expands.

Keep in mind also that Golden State has a $149 million salary committed in 2023-24, and allowing both players to walk leaves them without a viable replacement unless there is a comfort level that Moody and Kuminga can start or play a significant role off the bench.


Draymond Green

Green was the head of the Golden State defense that ranked No. 2 in efficiency this season. He is now eligible to sign an extension this offseason.

Green has two years left on the four-year $100 million extension he signed in 2019 and can sign a new pact for up to an additional three or four seasons.

His impact on the court cannot be measured in the box score alone.

For example, in the first-round win versus Denver he held back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic to 45% (compared to 67% when he did not defend Jokic) from the field as the primary defender. Another example came with the Game 5 win versus Boston when Green held Celtics players to 1-10 from the field as the contesting defender.

There was also a stretch of games from January 6 to March 12 when Green was injured, and the Warriors defense ranked No. 9 in efficiency (107.3) and allowed 110.1 points per possession. Before the injury, Golden State ranked No. 2 in defensive efficiency with Green on the floor.

Green is only the third player (Andrei Kirilenko and Scottie Pippen) to play fewer than 46-games and earn All-Defensive per ESPN Stats & Information. Green, however, does not see that as a well-earned reward but a slight.

“For me, it’s a slight,” Green said in regards to being named to the All-Defensive Second Team. “I think when I look at the First Team, I’m not sure I can pinpoint definitely not five guys that had a better defensive season than me, and there are no game requirements.”

Green will never be an offensive scoring threat, but this past year the Warriors averaged 1.24 points per play when Green sets an off-ball screen, per Second Spectrum tracking. That is the highest efficiency of any player to set 350+ off-ball screens this season.

Green is owed $25.8 and $27.6 million in the next two years, with the last year a player option.

The rules of the CBA do not allow a player to decline the option year and sign for less in the first season. That means if the Warriors and Green entertain talks on a new contract, the first year salary in 2023-24 has to be at a minimum $27.6 million if the player option is removed.

The logical decision for Green would be to opt-in to his contract and then sign an extension starting in 2024-25 but for less money. He would be 34 years old at the time the new contract begins.

There are no restrictions relating to declining salary in the first year of an extension.


The offseason roster resources

An additional $50 million tax penalty to keep free agents Kevon Looney and Gary Payton II could be deemed as a luxury especially when the Warriors could potentially rely on three players, James Wiseman, Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga, that are on inexpensive rookie contracts.

As the regular season and playoffs confirmed, Looney and Payton II are more than an expensive insurance policy.

Looney is one of five players to play 82-games this season, and 80 came as the starting center. He had 19-games of 10-plus rebounds and 12-games of 5-plus offensive rebounds. In the playoffs, he led all players in offensive rebounds, ranking in the top-10 in offensive rebounds per game.

After a 21-point and 12-rebound performance in Game 2 of the Conference Finals, head coach Steve Kerr was quick to praise the center.

“Loon [Looney] was just brilliant, again. He’s had a fantastic playoff run. He’s incredibly underrated by everybody. He switches on the guards. He rebounds. He sets screens. In a series like this that’s so spread out, he’s able to score some buckets in the paint as well.”

Looney has established Bird rights, and despite the Warriors financial restrictions, his next contract can exceed the salary cap with a significant financial penalty. A contract that starts at $7 million would cost the Warriors an additional $36 million toward the luxury tax.

The inexpensive option is turning to former No. 2 pick James Wiseman to fill the role as the starting center.

The 21-year old missed the regular season recovering from right knee surgery and has played in a total of 39 games in two seasons.

The days of signing non-guaranteed and 10-day contracts (in total 11 different contracts since 2016 were signed) for Gary Payton II are over.

Payton II averaged a career high 7.0 points per game this season, but it was his impact on the defensive end that stood out.

He averaged 2.8 steals per 36 minutes this season (2nd-best behind only Jose Alvarado) and held opponents to 40.4% shooting as the closest defender. That ranked in the top-10 among more than 300 players to defend 300 shots per ESPN Stats & Information.

Payton II was waived after training camp, but because he did not sign with another team after clearing waivers established early Bird rights.

Golden State can pay him a salary up to $10.9 million and does not have to dip into their $6.4 million tax midlevel. But the contract has to be a minimum of two seasons, not including a player or team option.

As for their other key free agents, Otto Porter Jr., Nemanja Bjelica and Andre Iguodala have non-bird rights.

The maximum allowed in their next salary is 120% of their minimum salary for 2022-23 or up to the $6.4 million tax midlevel. For example, the Warriors can offer Porter Jr. a starting salary of $2.8 million if they use non-bird rights.

The question that will linger again this offseason is that despite a record payroll and a championship, should the Warriors target the next disgruntled All-Star that asks out of their contract?

That question was dismissed by controlling owner Joe Lacob recently and once again should be a non-starter this offseason.

“Some people criticized Bob and I, ‘Well, you didn’t go all out and bring Steph another star,” Lacob says. “We think that’s a completely false narrative and people just don’t understand. … Every single dollar that we could possibly spend, we did. “I don’t want to trade all my young assets for some over-30-year-old who all of a sudden is broken down. That to me, is not smart.”


Offseason cap breakdown

Guaranteed Salary: $173.6M Free Agent Hold $24.3M

Total Salaries: Tax $173.6M

Tax Level: $149M

Tax Room: $-24,608,142


Depth chart


Team needs

  • A starting center

  • A healthy Wiseman

  • Bench depth

Resources to build the roster

  • The draft: A first and two seconds

  • Own free agents: Looney and Payton

  • The young core: Poole, Kuminga, Moody and Wiseman

  • Exception: $6.4M tax midlevel

  • Cash: $6.3M to send or receive in a trade


Dates to watch


Restrictions

  • The Warriors owe Memphis a top-4 protected first in 2024. It is top-1 protected in 2025 and unprotected in 2026. They are allowed to trade their own first in June but cannot move a future first until two years after the pick to Memphis has been conveyed. The earliest is in 2026.

  • Steph Curry has a 15% trade bonus in his contract that is voided because it exceeds the maximum salary allowed.

  • Klay Thompson and Draymond Green each have a 15% trade bonus. The bonus for Thompson is $4.1M and Green $3.9M. In the unlikely event that either player is traded, the Warriors are responsible for the bonus, and the amount would then be applied evenly over the remaining salary (excluding if a player has an option).


Extension eligible

  • Despite missing the past two seasons recovering from multiple injuries, Thompson is eligible for extension. The guard has reached the third year anniversary of the contract he signed in 2019 and can add another two years to his contract. The deadline on an extension is Oct. 17.


The draft assets

The Warriors have three selections in the June draft, their own first and two seconds (their own and the Raptors).

Here’s how ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has Golden State selecting in July:

No. 28 (own): Jake LaRavia, PF, Wake Forest

The Warriors could be in the market for a versatile wing-forward who can play off others, make shots from the perimeter and defend multiple positions. LaRavia, who shot 38% from 3 last season and 78% at the free throw line, brings a strong feel for the game and intriguing playmaking ability defensively. The fact that he’s only 20 years old gives him some additional upside he can still tap into as he continues to improve his frame, maximize his athleticism and become a more assertive perimeter shooter.

No. 51 (via TOR): Michael Foster, PF, G League Ignite

No. 55 (own): Ron Harper Jr., SF/PF, Rutgers



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