For the past few years, there has been a call from fans for the Golden State Warriors to sign a big man in free agency. We can question how valid the concerns are – I’m always quick to point out that they, you know… won a title a year ago with Kevon Looney as their only honest-to-goodness big — but that’s easy to understand Why people have those concerns.
The Warriors haven’t really addressed that issue yet this offseason, though they did take a step in that direction when they drafted Trayce Jackson-Davis, a player who might technically be shorter than the player he was traded for (Patrick Baldwin Jr.), but who, thanks to his muscle, size and basketball skills, plays like a big man compared to Baldwin’s perimeter-oriented game.
But we know we can’t count on a rookie to contribute, not even a 23-year-old four-year college player. So if the Warriors want to address their lack of size, it will have to come through free agency or a trade.
It turns out not to be the easiest thing to do. Basketball may be a tall person’s sport, but existence is not one really tall person’s sport. We can clamor for 7-footers all we want, but the reality is that the CDC estimates there are fewer than 3,000 7-footers in the world. It’s a very small group to subtract players from before we consider that many of them are not of NBA age. Or, you know… not playing basketball.
FYI: 679 players stepped on an NBA court last year. 34 of them were 7-footers, which equates to about one per team. Only 20 of them played in at least half of their team’s matches, and only 10 of them started in at least half of their team’s games. That number expands to 106 if we include people 6’10” and taller, but only 38 of those players had more minutes last year than Jonathan Kuminga.
The reality is that in any given year there are fewer than two players per teams that are 6’10” or taller and good enough to earn frequent playing time. The only way to solve a size problem is to hope you catch a few of them, hope you catch one of the best of them, or find players who can play above their size…like Looney and Draymond Green, for example.
Still, the Warriors will try to compound Green and Looney’s existence by adding a big free agency. They were reportedly close to signing sharpshooting big Dario Šarić, but his free agency is now on hold while Damian Lillard’s fate is determined.
Šarić would be a great addition for the Warriors, but there are directions for them to pivot if he ends up choosing another team. Here are a handful of free agent big men for the Dubs to look to as they look to fill out their roster in pursuit of a fifth championship in 10 years.
The Unrealistic Dream: Christian Wood
Wood didn’t have his best season last year Dallas Mavericks, when he completed his three-year, $41 million contract. But he was still pretty good, averaging 16.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game, despite playing just 25.9 minutes a night. He shot 37.6% from three-point range, which is actually below his career average.
He’s a poor defensive player, but as Steve Kerr has pointed out, the Warriors need improvement on the offensive side of things, not the defensive side. And that’s exactly what you get with a hyper-efficient 27-year-old rim runner with a silky smooth three-point shot.
It’s also why someone will offer Wood significantly more money and/or minutes than the Warriors can.
Honorable Mentions: Paul Reed, Kevin Love
Reed is not nearly as good or as proven as Wood, but he is a very good defensive player. He falls into this category because he is a restricted free agent for a team (the Philadelphia 76ers), who will keep him. So there really is no way for the Warriors to sign him.
Love would be a really good and fun fit, but the way he played for the Miami Heat last year almost certainly played him out of Golden State’s price bracket.
The recycling project: Montrezl Harrell
I wanted the Warriors to sign Harrell last season, but figured that even with his drug-related legal issues, someone would give him significantly more than the Dubs could offer.
That didn’t actually end up being the case, as Harrell signed a two-year veteran minimum with the 76ers. It included a player option for the second year, and Harrell took advantage of that option and entered unrestricted free agency.
Usually when a player opts out it’s to chase more money, but for Harrell it’s probably more about finding a better situation. He only averaged 11.9 minutes per game. game last year, and fell completely out of the Sixers rotation at the end of the season … he had DNPs in 21 of their final 29 regular season games and played less than seven total minutes in the playoffs.
Harrell likely won’t get a big offer in free agency, and the Warriors would be a good place for him to rebuild his value. In 2020-21 incl Los Angeles Lakers, Harrell was 95th percentile in scoring among roll men in the pick-and-roll. Imagine him doing that for 15 minutes a night with Chris Paul?
Honorable Mention: Justise Winslow
Winslow still has all kinds of potential, though he’s much more of a defensive force than an offensive weapon at this point in his career. It would be fun to see what he could learn from Green and Looney and get passes from Paul and Steph Curry.
The replacement: Meyers Leonard
Signing a player who used a full-chest anti-Semitic veil on a Twitch stream isn’t my idea of a good time, but if the Warriors are looking to replace Šarić’s skill set, Leonard is the best option. He is a tough 7-footer who is a career 39% shooter from three-point range. These pick-and-pops are good to think about.
Honorable Mention: Gorgui Dieng
Dieng is more of a traditional big who can shoot well rather than a stretch five, but still. If what they want in free agency is a big man who can shoot, a 6’10”, 250-pounder with a career 35.5% line from deep is a good place to go.
The old friend: Willie Cauley-Stein
I would argue that Cauley-Stein is one of the most underrated Warriors in recent memory. I thought he played pretty well during his stint in the 2019-20 season, and that was lost on the fact that the Warriors were arguably the worst team in the NBA. He shot 56% from the field with the Warriors, and did a lot of damage in the pick-and-roll. His teammates seemed to like him. He spent last year trying to get back into the NBA, and the Warriors could be a good place for him to do just that.
Honorable Mentions: Dewayne Dedmon, Bismack Biyombo
Dedmon started his career with the Dubs, playing four games for them in the 2013-14 season. He’s not very good anymore, but…he’s great!
Biyombo never played for the Warriors, but I put him in this group because he spent the last two years playing with Paul for Phoenix Suns. They have some chemistry and familiarity, and Biyombo is a good defender. I guess the Warriors have already asked Paul about him.
The player with Warriors roots: Bol Bol
Son of former Warrior Manute Bol, Bol Bol is a free agent after being waived by Orlando Magic. The younger Bol does not have his father’s height (7’7″) or wingspan (8’6″) as he is “just” 7’2″ with a 7’8″ wingspan. Bol is only 23 years old and hasn’t been great in his four years in the NBA, but he’s certainly exciting … he’s one of the tallest players in the league and has a silky smooth jump shot.
Honorable mentions: Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Udoka Azubuike
None of these players are actually related to former Warriors. But Antetokounmpo is the brother of future Warriors superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Azubuike would be asked “are you Kelenna’s brother?” at least 17 times a day if he played for the Dubs.
The Fun Option: Blake Griffin
Paul and Griffin were supposed to form a super team when they paired up with the Los Angeles Clippers. We all know how that went. It would be fun if they reunited, although I don’t think Paul would agree with me.
Honorable Mentions: Boban Marjanović, Tristan Thompson
Marjanović is not good and has hung around the league for eight seasons despite hardly ever playing. But who doesn’t want a 7’3” player who is cute as a cupcake, totally hilarious and moonlights as a villain in John Wick?
And TT? Well, long before Draymond hit Jordan Poole, he got into an argument with Thompson NBA finals, only to later be beaten by Khloé Kardashian’s serial cheating on-again, off-again boyfriend at a club in Hollywood. They’re supposedly friends now that LeBron James remains the big broker, but it would still be fun to see them as teammates.
The Faithful Veterinarian: Markieff Morris
Morris wouldn’t be a huge get, but let’s be real: we’re talking veteran minimums here. There’s only so much you’re going to get unless a ring fighter jumps on board, and vet-min ring fighters aren’t really a thing.
Morris probably isn’t the player people dream of when they’re calling for the Warriors to make a big signing since he’s “only” 6’9. But he’s tough as nails, he defends, rebounds and screens bigger than his size, and he shot 39.4% on threes last year.
Is he good? No not really. But he does a lot of things well, could fit in a handful of different lineups, and is a veteran who has been around long enough not to make dumb mistakes.
Honorable Mentions: Taj Gibson, Frank Kaminsky
Gibson and Kaminsky are more traditional bigs than Morris, although they can both shoot a little bit (Kaminsky in particular). Neither would expect to be a force off the bench, but they would provide veteran stability and leadership.
Now we wait and see what happens.