It’s going to be a fascinating NBA summer, with fewer than 10 teams with real cap space, at least three bona fide stars potentially on the move and a number of desirable players likely not finding any team willing to pay their asking price. In a fun twist for a repeat champion, the Golden State Warriors have some moves to make themselves — moves that will likely have a direct bearing on next year’s ring chase.
This year’s W’s flirted with disaster, and they want to do better in free agency than they did last summer with Omri Casspi and Nick Young. They have said as much — noting a desire to get younger and hungrier — and they’ve got the taxpayer mid-level exception (about $5 million per year) and veteran minimum contracts to add to No. 28 draft pick Jacob Evans.
The Warriors need two things: a defensively-minded big who can rebound, protect the rim and help Jordan Bell and Damian Jones learn the NBA ropes; and an offensively-minded wing who can knock down some 3’s off the bench and provide some energy. There are enough of those players on the market that there’s simply no way all of them get significant long-term deals.
Without further ado, here are some Warriors’ free agent possibilities:
Guys Who Might Cost Too Much
JJ Redick presents obvious appeal. He’s the total package — knockdown shooter, ultimate competitor, solid defender, great locker room presence, excellent podcaster. Even in a flooded market, he will be able to earn more than the Warriors can offer. That said, he made $23 million last year and perhaps the offer of a likely championship could trump a better financial option.
Will Barton is a Tasmanian devil on defense, a grinder who regularly wreaks havoc against the Warriors and has consistently improved his shot to the point where he is a quality option if not a sharpshooter. Unfortunately, he turned down more than $10 million a year before the season, suggesting he won’t be affordable.
Tyreke Evans had fallen a long way from his Rookie of the Year season in Sacramento by the time he did his second tour with the Kings last year, but his 2018 resurrection was noteworthy — his best numbers since that rookie campaign, including 40% from three and better than 19/5/5. Whether that convinces someone to spend big on a historically inconsistent player will determine whether the Warriors have a chance at luring him back to the West.
Avery Bradley has a penchant for missing games and inconsistent offense that could play in the Warriors’ favor price-wise. Bradley is more defensively-focused, but has shot 39 percent or better from long range in three different seasons and might thrive with better players around him. He’s also 27 and a defensive star, so may still draw a bigger offer than Golden State can manage.
Thaddeus Young declining a near-$14 million option with Indiana probably means he’s looking for a big deal elsewhere, but if it means he’s looking to catch on with a title favorite then he could be great. He’s an aggressive rebounder who can put the ball in the basket around the rim, and would bring some veteran experience to the Warriors incredibly young front court.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is just 25 and coming off of a year where he posted career highs in shooting, rebounding and steals, which means he should earn more than the Warriors can give him, but he’s far enough down the list that the market might leave him behind. If he’s willing to sign his second straight one-year-and-prove-you’re-worth-more deal, Golden State would be a great place for him to show what he can do (though he does look an awful lot like Jacob Evans).
Guys Who Don’t Make You Younger But Sure Fit Well
Jamal Crawford is old, sure. Jamal Crawford is also my favorite player in the entire NBA, and those in the league love him too — he won Teammate of the Year at Monday’s NBA Awards. He has struggled statistically over the last few years, but has probably been asked to do too much. He’s not capable of defending or being a primary second-unit scorer anymore, but Jamal in the locker room would be a dream and Jamal knocking down corner threes seems very realistic.
Marco Belinelli, a Warriors draft pick who has thrived since leaving, showed what he can do with the 76ers down the stretch and in the playoffs. He’s not going to give you much defense, but is a shot-maker who isn’t afraid of big situations, and he should be affordable.
Brook Lopez has become somewhat of a forgotten man, playing for struggling franchises in Brooklyn and LA — that, combined with the direction of the league, could bring the one-time All-Star center into the Warriors’ range. He played less last year than ever before, but he has not lost much in the way of efficiency. He isn’t a great defender, but will block some shots and would be the best offensive big of the Steve Kerr era.
Guys Whose Upside Might Not Be Worth Their Downside
Lance Stephenson has only ever been good in Indiana and shot under 29 percent from three last season. He’s a tenacious defender and capable, when reigned in, of being a highly productive scorer and distributor. He’ll be just 28 when the season starts and has the ability to be a big-time contributor on a title team.
Dwight Howard has specifically said that he wants to help a team win a title, and he’s a perfect fit basketball-wise, but he’s also Dwight Howard. Neither fans nor teammates seem to enjoy his goofy clown act, but he’s a monstrous rebounder and still enough of a physical stud to get buckets around the rim. I’d take a flyer on D12 for the veteran minimum — if he turns into a pumpkin, they can just cut him.
Mario Hezonja is just 23 and was a top five draft pick, and the only reason he might be an option is that he was a horrible disappointment in Orlando.At times during the second half of this season, though, he showed some of the aggressive scoring prowess that led to his draft position — he is a super athlete who shows flashes of being a good shooter and can be impressive on defense when he’s locked in. If a soft market leaves him looking, he certainly fits the Warriors’ young-and-hungry specifications.
Nerlens Noel is another high draft pick who has fallen out of favor, reportedly because of his locker room behavior. He has barely played in Dallas due to differences with head coach Rick Carlisle, but he’s only 24 and has the physical tools to be a dominant dunk-and-D big man. If the Warriors trust him off the floor, he would be exciting on it.
Rodney Hood showed you good and bad in the playoffs — sometimes he looks like a capable scoring wing with good length on defense, other times he looks like a career G-leaguer — and apparently, he sometimes he refuses to play. He’s a restricted free agent, but given his rocky run in Cleveland they may not want him back. If his erratic play curbs his value, the Warriors might be able to get involved.
Guys Who Won’t Get You Out of Bed
All of these guys should be within the Warriors price range, and all have skills that fit the bill. They may not have the name recognition, but they could be sneaky-good signings.
Joe Harris seems a very likely candidate — he’s relatively young at 27, a brilliant shooter (42% from three, 49% overall) and at least a full-size two-guard at 6’6” if not a particularly good defender. He is essentially the better, if significantly more boring, version of Nick Young.
Seth Curry has obvious familial ties, and also is a career 43% three-point shooter. He might have a little too much in common with Quinn Cook to be a great option, but he brings a needed skill to the table.
Wayne Ellington is a poor man’s JJ Redick. A very poor man. But the Warriors have the spending power of a very poor man, relatively speaking, so Ellington might work.
Kyle Anderson is a do-everything wing with Spurs pedigree, and some room to grow as he’ll enter next season at 25. Not a great shooter, but a smart player who can rebound and pass and defend at least three positions.
Glenn Robinson III has become a very good three-point shooter and basically did everything well for the Pacers last year, he just didn’t play much because of an injury. If he’s healthy, he’s a young wing who probably has a higher ceiling as a bench contributor than many of the names in this group.
Jerami Grant is a young, athletic big who plays high quality defense and is a good finisher around the rim. He showed flashes in the Thunder’s playoff series this year that suggest he has more in the toolbar that we might previously have seen, and at 24 he’s one of the younger options available to the Warriors.
Matt Kolsky is a sports media professional (or something like that) and lives with an aging Shih Tzu/Schnauser mix in Berkeley. You can hear him on the Bay Area sports radio station 95.7 the Game, usually on weekends. You can listen to his podcast, The Toy Department, on iTunes or wherever else fine podcasts are free. You can find him on Twitter @thekolsky to share your personal feelings about this article or any other topic, he will respond to most tweets that do not contain racial slurs.