Warriors free-agency preview: Which veteran minimum options make sense?

The biggest free-agency drama surrounding the Warriors this week involves Draymond Green. Nothing is more crucial in their quest to jump back into contention for the final years of Steph Curry’s title window.

Jordan Poole for the Chris Paul trade heightened the need to get a Green deal done, but also signaled to the world that the Warriors are confident a multi-year extension will be inked in early July. You’re not mortgaging part of the future and clearing the necessary salary cap clutter to then let your win-now power forward go over a few million, even once multiplied by the tax.

Green, of course, has the last word. He is an unrestricted free agent when he officially declines his player option later this week. Teams can come chasing. Some will. Speculation has surrounded the Kings, who have upwards of $30 million in cap space after a draft night deal.

But Sacramento has other relevant businesses. Some of that cap space could be needed to sew up a Domantas Sabonis extension, while another portion could be used in pursuit of either a Harrison Barnes reunion or a younger scoring wing like Kyle Kuzma. They also need money to bring over Sasha Vezenkov from Greece and keep Trey Lyles. A unique green contract complicates the bigger picture.

The Warriors appear to be operating under the firm belief that Green will be back. That would give them 11 committed roster spots: Curry, Paul, Brandin Podziemski, Moses Moody, Klay Thompson, Gary Payton II, Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga, Trayce Jackson-Davis, Green and Kevon Looney.

New GM Mike Dunleavy Jr. has already indicated the Warriors don’t expect to carry a 15th, leaving it open to trim the tax bill. So you’re talking about three openings and only one kind of contract to offer: minimum. With the incoming collective bargaining agreement, the Warriors (above the second tax haven) no longer have the taxpayer’s mid-level exemption.

My sense of the Warriors’ overall desire entering free agency would be to fill the final three spots like this: big man who can stretch the floor, extra guard who can score it at multiple levels and an extra wing. But the market will dictate what they can actually get done.

Let’s take a look at a handful of options, both ambitious and realistic.


Dunleavy has hinted publicly, and many others in the organization have privately reiterated, that another frontcourt option who can shoot it is a top priority. They have been hunting for the exact prototype for at least the last two summers, following up on Otto Porter Jr. with JaMychal Green. Porter was a homemaker. JaMychal was a ground out to second base.

Saric checks a lot of boxes. He’s a 6-foot-10 stretch forward with the necessary feel, passing ability and defensive smarts to fit into Steve Kerr’s system. He’s a career 36 percent from 3 and made 39.1 percent last season, his first since an ACL tear. The second season after that injury is typically better, especially when he’s still on the right side of 30. Saric doesn’t turn 30 until April.

Would he fall through free agency and take the minimum? That has to be decided. After he was traded to the Thunder at the deadline last season, the Warriors had buyout interest. There was at least some sniffing and some mutual interest. But the Thunder, still in the playoff hunt, kept him and he helped their second unit. He is a steady stabilizer and in the age group – not too young or too old – the Warriors lack.

Love fell out of the Cleveland rotation early last season, but moved right into Miami’s rotation and actually averaged 18 minutes per game. game in the playoffs, making 37 percent of his 3s, threw his body around on the defensive end — a charge magnet — and at least appeared to have some life left to give in the league.

You know the Warriors veterans would welcome that. They just green lit the Paul move. Why not bring the love into the locker room? Russell Westbrook is a free agent, right? Other rivals from the Dynasty days?

Love would certainly fit as a playoff partner with Draymond Green in short stretches, spreading the floor, zinging passes and relying on Green to mask the defensive deficiencies. The problem: Love’s stint in Miami went so well that it’s hard to imagine a team prying him away from the Heat at a minimum. Maybe the addition of Paul can help the sales pitch. There is something appealing about chasing a title with a core of respected peers.

Here’s the simplest goal for the Warriors this week: Find someone on the market that the entire viewing public and gossip league are moaning about, “They got him at the minimum??” when the signature comes through. There was a bit of that with Porter. There was a lot of that with DeMarcus Cousins ​​back then.

Niang is likely to get more than the minimum. So are a handful of other players on this list. The Sixers should have him back. Niang hit 310 combined 3s the last two seasons for them.


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The Warriors are not expected to extend a qualifying offer to Lamb or Ty Jerome this week, per league sources, making them both unrestricted free agents. But there is still some interest in perhaps bringing back one or both, depending on how the market materializes. Put more simply: neither are the first options, but both remain final options.

Lamb made 37 percent of his 199 3s for the Warriors last season. He played 1,195 minutes. Kerr relies on him in specific lineup combinations. They were a cumulative plus-32 with him on the floor. Their analytics department often highlighted Lamb as a positive frontcourt fit with Kuminga. His return may not excite fans, but it is on the table.

Trey Lyles

There are rumblings that the Kings plan to keep him. That takes him out of the Warriors’ limited price range. Lyles bounced back with a strong season off the Sacramento bench, then made nine 3s during an efficient first-round series. Someone should give him some money. If he somehow slips through the cracks, he’s a perfect stretch candidate with youth, versatility and upside.

Green has upgraded to a small ball later in his career. He earned $4.5 million as a rotation player for the Nuggets this past season and is likely ticketed for a return to the champs. But he’s worth pursuing if available.

Landale outplayed Deandre Ayton in the playoffs. The Suns are expected to pursue a reunion. He is nowhere near the slider or floor spacer like the above options. But he has experience against Nikola Jokić in a playoff series and was teammates with Paul last season. He would bring the required size.

Plumlee always gets more than you would expect on the open market. His career earnings are $73.7 million. He probably still lives above minimum territory and doesn’t shoot it well at all. But he would give the Warriors a bigger bench body and some need for rim protection.

Center names with honorable mention: Jaxson Hayes, Thomas Bryant, Robin Lopez, Montrezl Harrell, Alex Len, Paul Reed, Mo Wagner.


Perhaps my favorite of the semi-realistic shielding options. He made $4 million the last two seasons in Sacramento, and a return to the Kings is plausible, but they may have to waive his rights if they secure a big-ticket free agent after the bell rings.

The Warriors have a crowded backcourt when they are loaded. Curry, Thompson, Paul and Moody don’t leave much room for playing time. But how many collective regular-season games will Curry, Paul and Thompson miss? There is no longer a Poole to step in and carry a massive offensive load.

They need an extra guard with some shot-making ability. Davis has flashed it plenty. He sat on the fringes of the Kings rotation at times last season, but randomly erupted for nights of 31, 22, 22, 21, 20 and 19 points when called upon. He can light up and guard with energy, but also sink into the background and clear nights outside the rotation. That fits the job description for a fourth Warriors guard.

Terence Davis and TJ Warren (Sergio Estrada / USA Today)

No way, right? He wouldn’t discount the Warriors for chasing a ring with his brother, would he? Seth has turned down that opportunity in the past and probably has bigger offers in his future. But at least it’s worth a courtesy call.

Austin Rivers

An extended member of the Curry family who fits more cleanly in the minimal market, Rivers is a combo guard with some fading juice as a bench scorer. He guards with energy and would be welcomed in the dressing room.

Might as well keep the family trend going. Lee and the Warriors parted ways last summer because Moody was believed to be stepping into his role. It didn’t go as well as expected. Even if Lee rejoined, he would be relegated to the pecking order behind the (slowly rising) Moody. But it’s a clean fit — on the court and culturally — and he hit 44 percent of his 3s last season.

Smith revived his career last season. He’s also friendly with Curry through an Under Armor connection. He would provide some defensive juice in the backcourt, but is under 30 percent from 3 in his career.

They checked in after his buyout at the previous deadline. Maybe they’ll check in again. But he does not fit the need as an additional fullback scorer.

He was at the minimum for the Lakers last season. It was an extreme trade. He looks set to return to the Lakers. He’s also likely to get a raise that the Warriors couldn’t offer, either in Los Angeles or elsewhere.


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You Jerome

Jerome played 45 games and made two starts on a two-way contract for the Warriors last season. His numbers: 6.9 points, 3.0 assists, 39 percent from 3, 49 percent from the field. He patiently operates out of the pick-and-roll and has a sneaky effective floater. He is extremely well-liked in the locker room and has already proven that he can step in capably when Curry rests. This is a real option on the regular list. He is no longer eligible for a two-way contract.

Lester Quinones

The Warriors are expected to extend him a qualifying offer on a two-way contract, per league sources. Assuming he doesn’t get a minimum offer elsewhere for the regular roster. I would expect him back on one of the Warriors’ two-ways.

Guards with honorable mention: Derrick Rose, Raul Neto, Goran Dragić, George Hill, Reggie Jackson, Cam Payne, Justin Holliday, Dylan Windler, Kendrick Nunn.


Ingles has playoff experience and showed enough of a recent drop-off after his ACL tear that it’s at least likely he could slide below mid-level money and into the minimum range. He would have great value for that number.

Watanabe made 44 percent of his 3s last season on high volume for a 16-minute-per-night player and is deadly from the corners. Another one of the obvious Kerr system fits.


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Crowder brings toughness on the wing and can add size to a small-ball front court and spread the floor next to Green. He could have pushed himself into the minimum range after missing most of last season due to a dispute with the Suns. Crowder, who turns 33 in July, never found a rhythm in Milwaukee after the trade and didn’t crack the playoff rotation.

They are extra scorers who can theoretically shoot it, but both struggled last season from deep after being traded to the Suns. There is fair value here at minimum. Phoenix is ​​severely limited in its roster-building tools and will likely try to keep both with rotation spots to offer.

Honorable mention wings: Will Barton, Cam Reddish, Hamidou Diallo, Troy Brown Jr.

(Top photo by Georges Niang and Jeff Green: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

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