What came first for the Warriors: the idea of landing Chris Paul or the desire to unload Jordan Poole?
That’s not the only question surrounding last week’s big trade that sent Poole, Patrick Baldwin Jr. and Ryan Rollins to the Wizards and redirected Paul to the Warriors on his way out of Phoenix. When a talented 24-year-old and two 20-year-olds are traded for a 38-year-old point guard on a team with no shortage of 30-year-olds, actuarial questions should definitely be raised.
But right now, I’m focused on the thought process and priority order of this trade, because if you can figure them out, you can understand almost everything the Warriors are thinking about themselves right now as the Mike Dunleavy Jr. era begins. You can identify how the Warriors are preparing for the future. You can see what might come next.
What is clear to me after a few days of inspection is that it all began when the Warriors decided that Poole was an irrelevant and ineffective member of their roster. That was the triggering problem. The Warriors wanted out of the $123 million deal they gave Poole just eight months earlier because his play last season didn’t measure up to that value, especially given their extreme luxury-tax burden. They knew he wanted a bigger role, and they knew it almost certainly wasn’t going to happen as long as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were on the team.
The Warriors didn’t want to give Poole away, but they were ready to move on if the right deal came along.
• One of the Warriors’ calls, I’m told, was to check with Toronto on a proposal centered on Poole for 25-year-old forward OG Anunoby. But the Raptors weren’t interested. According to Yahoo Sports’ Jake FischerThe Warriors also held talks with the Celtics and had interest from the Spurs, although it’s hard to come up with good trade deals for Poole on either team.
But it was now clear – the Warriors shopped Poole. Soon, the Warriors got in touch with the Wizards, and just like that, Paul, on a short-term deal, was on his way to the Warriors as a reliable alternative ball-handler behind and alongside Curry and a mature presence in the locker room.
The Warriors achieved their goal: They got rid of Poole’s long-term money without making themselves worse off (and arguably actually better off) in the short term.
• The Warriors aim to drop below the second payroll next July, which is when the most punitive aspects of the new CBA begin to hit. They want their taxpayer midlevel exception back (they used part of their MLE to sign Donte DiVincenzo last summer, but the new CBA has taken away their MLE, which is why they won’t be able to re-sign him now that DiVincenzo has declined his player option for the upcoming season). They don’t want to be prohibited from being able to collect salary in trades, and they don’t want their future first-round picks to be frozen. They simply don’t want to be stuck in Second Apron Hell without many of the tools they’ve used in the past to add talent.
And now the Warriors have two ways out next July. They can let Paul go after this season (his $30 million contract for 2024-2025 is non-guaranteed), they can let Klay go after this season, or they can re-sign one or both for much less money. If they let both Then the Warriors could even get out of the luxury tax entirely and reset their recurring tax count.
Steph Curry, Klay Thompson give their first thoughts on Chris Paul trade
• All of this assumes, of course, that Draymond signs a new multiyear deal with the Warriors in the next few days. But it seemed likely for weeks. And the Poole-Paul trade underscores the general understanding that all of the Warriors’ plans include Curry and Draymond together for several more years.
If they had acquired Anunoby, who theoretically could have taken Draymond’s spot in the starting lineup, things might have been different for the lineup and the ledger. But Anunoby could become a free agent after this season, which would have thrown some uncertainty into the entire process. And Toronto wouldn’t do the deal anyway.
• Now the Warriors can operate as if Paul has a one-year, $30.8 million prove-it deal. If he plays great and there is a parade in June, they might consider guaranteeing next season’s contract. Obviously, the Warriors would love to have to make that decision. Or they can talk about signing Paul for less money. Or they can sign and trade him. Or they can guarantee ’24-25 and put him on the trade market as an expiring contract.
Back in July 2019, Bob Myers convinced Kevin Durant to let the Warriors turn his departure to the Nets into a sign-and-trade that sent D’Angelo Russell back to the Warriors — not because Myers loved Russell as a player, but because it was the only way to add a marketable asset to that kind of salary range. This deal isn’t the same as that one, but Dunleavy was in the room when the Durant-Russell negotiations took place, I’ll put it that way.
• The Paul-Poole trade also clears up a few other things for the Warriors heading into Friday’s start of the free-agent period. First, I don’t think Dunleavy and Joe Lacob ever considered trading Klay this offseason, but now that door seems all but closed. The Warriors still want to compete for a title this season, and there’s just no Klay trade out there that would make them better. There’s no way they could sell it to Curry. There’s no way they could sell it to themselves, honestly.
And with Poole gone, there’s more future money available when the Warriors and Klay start talking about an extension.
• The Warriors have three or four available roster spots (depending on whether they use their 15th roster spot, which seems unlikely), only minimum salary cap space to offer and a need to add at least one big man, preferably one who can shoot 3s , and at least one guard. But this is a pretty bleak free trade market.
I was going to put Memphis’ Xavier Tillman at the top of a potential Warriors minimum-salary shopping list, but unsurprisingly, Memphis picked up his contract for next season. Beyond that … perhaps Oklahoma City’s Dario Šarić is the most interesting potential candidate, although I can see another team offering him more than the minimum. How about the Nets’ Yuta Watanabe? He’s not a center, but he made 44.4 percent of his 3s last season. and I can imagine Steve Kerr putting him in the corner as a second-unit outlet for the CP3-Jonathan Kuminga pick-and-roll game and then faking it in the defensive post.
Other big man options: Denver’s Thomas Bryant, Miami’s Kevin Love or Milwaukee’s Thanasis Antetokounmpo (and yes, I just put that last one in to see if you were paying attention to conspiracy theory signings).
Steve Kerr on Warriors’ big move – ‘We sensed we needed a change’
• In other positional categories, if the Warriors are looking for good chemistry and veteran savvy, how about the return of Juan Toscano-Anderson (last with Utah) or Damion Lee (Phoenix)? Or familiar foe and friend Rudy Gay (now with Atlanta)?
• Let’s wrap this up with a quick thought on Dunleavy’s first week as general manager. So far, he’s traded Poole a few days after declaring he hoped Poole would be a Warrior for many years, he’s added a future Hall of Famer/former fierce Warriors rival, he’s traded last year’s first and second round picks gone, he’s drafted Brandin Podziemski in the first round, maneuvered to land Trayce Jackson-Davis in the second, and he’s cut about $100 million in future salaries.
Dunleavy, like Myers before him, won’t get everything right. But Dunleavy, like Myers, appears to be in every appointment conversation and eager to start new ones. He acts like he’s been waiting a few years to do this and had about 400 pent up ideas ready to go. And Joe Lacob wouldn’t want his GM to have it any other way.
(Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)