LOS ANGELES — With the final games out, the Warriors’ flame hasn’t been so scanty. They edged out the upstart Kings in the first round and fell in six games to a rookie Lakers in the second round, presenting as a team that would still be at least on the edge of a realistic rivalry if the right roster adjustments are made.
As the key decision makers of the franchise convene again in the coming weeks to chart the way forward, that’s important. They face an expensive tax bill, mounting penalties from the new collective bargaining agreement for living in that financial ballpark, and because of that, challenging choices about how much and who to pay.
But in discussions with those pulling organizational levers in recent weeks, this has been made abundantly clear: There is still an inner belief that this aging, solid core can compete for titles because Stephen Curry is still one of the five best players in the NBA and Draymond Green. And Klay Thompson showed no signs of a sharp decline. Green made the All-Defensive team again this season and Thompson, despite a brutal shooting streak against the Lakers (34.3 percent) that included shooting just 3 of 19 in the playoff game, led the NBA in 3s made this season. Curry’s ability to keep these Warriors competitive year after year gives the franchise every drive to maximize their prime years – even as the 2022 NBA Finals MVP 35 turns in March.
You can’t break up Stephen Curry and the Warriors because it will never be like this again
Controlling owner Joe Lacob must give the go-ahead to all financial options. He has shown his unease in the past about letting his total salary and tax bill exceed $400 million. If everyone is kept, including Green, who has a player option worth $27.6 million, he’ll stretch it even further.
But Lacob is hungry for trophies and the front office has been reminded again this season of Green’s indispensable value to the endeavour. Lose the green and you will likely lose any realistic path to achieving this ultimate goal.
That’s why the Warriors intend to discuss a new multiyear contract with Green, either via a sign-up and extension or an entirely new deal after he opts out, sources familiar with the matter say. the athlete. Green has leverage: He is expected to have several teams competing in the final if he enters the open market. But Green and the Warriors seem intent on discussing extending their partnership, if the price is right. He just finished his eleventh season with the franchise.
After the sixth game, Green said, “I want to be a Warrior for the rest of my life. I want to ride with the same guys I rode with.”
The bigger question is whether President of Basketball Operations Bob Myers is the person to have a conversation with Green and his representatives. With the entire league watching, Myers is expected to take some time in the coming weeks to make a decision about his future. His contract expired on June 30, but clarity should be needed sooner. The draft on June 22.
Lacob has stated publicly and privately that he hopes to retain Myers as the face of the Warriors’ front office and has offered him a new deal. Those inside the front office—under and around Myers—echo that sentiment, a collective desire to keep the anchored structure in place. But there’s also an acknowledgment that Myers could walk out the door, even if Lacob reaches the necessary number in contract negotiations.
Why the Warriors Are in Danger of Losing Bob Myers
If Myers leaves, the broad expectation is an internal promotion rather than an external search. The Warriors have a strong belief in the front office leadership ladder below Myers. Mike Dunleavy, Jr. has been linked by many as the natural heir. His appearances and responsibility have grown in the past two seasons. After losing Game 1 to the Lakers, Dunlevy was seen with Myers in the weight room where he had a lengthy debriefing conversation with Curry & Green, the latest outward sign that he was being groomed for the position.
Kirk Lacob and Kent Lacob hold high-profile positions in the franchise. Kirk’s strength extends throughout basketball and business operations. It offers more of an owner profile than a future general manager. Kent is a rising voice on the basketball team, who has gained recognition through international scouting and the G-League.
Sean Livingston is a trusted voice with a bright future in the executive world, should he choose to stay on that path. Nick Oren, Johnny West, Ryan Atkinson, Larry Harris, Papil Sidhu (Analytics) and Onsi Saleh (Cover Expert) are other well-established members of a built front office structure.
But no one has ownership rights or relationships with players like Myers. If he’s gone, no one will be able to replicate the delicate, powerful chord he can strike with Curry, Green, and Thompson, a vital feature when the dialogue turns to negotiations about contracts, menu options, and the value of a lucrative brand the players have mostly built.
Thompson is eligible for an extension this summer. He’s making $43.2 million in the final year of his next season deal. If he stretches out with the Warriors this summer, it is expected that he will have to accept his salary, as Andrew Wiggins did last summer. This request and explanation is softer from Myers rather than from the front office led by Lacob.
There has been an unspoken tug of war for the two-step the past few years, with the roster under Curry’s core loaded with young men with an eye on the future. It had reached a turning point this season and James Wiseman’s trade for Gary Payton II was seen as a necessary concession, a reprioritization of the present.
But some tension remains. Jonathan Cuminga has had an encouraging second season, emerging as the kind of one-on-one defender and angled winger who should have a lengthy NBA career. He was great throughout the regular season, helping the Warriors get into the playoffs while Andrew Wiggins was away from the team for two months. Kuminga averaged 13.2 points in 24.2 minutes in 21 games after the All-Star break.
But Wiggins came back and Payton got into the lineup and Kuminga was pulled out of the playoff run, frustrating a young player trying to finish his career and a front office not viewing him as a failed draft pick.
There is an acknowledgment from Warriors decision makers that some amount of rotation retooling is needed this summer. This could put Kuminga’s future into question. It was difficult to fit him into groups from the lineup with both Green and Kevon Looney – two non-pitchers – and the stalemate in front of him is expected to remain in place.
Representatives for the Warriors and Kuminga are expected to discuss his future this season, league sources say. Golden State will need to determine if Kuminga will receive a full-time role moving forward, and if not, league sources say the No. 7 pick in the 2021 NBA draft will want him to be in a place where he can play more.
But Jordan Paul’s future is the bigger question. His contract was extended the next season at $27.4 million. This height, along with Green’s retention, would put the Warriors in a luxury tax class that might be Lacob’s start. They also now have other roster-building restrictions, including the loss of the mid-level exception, which allowed them to acquire Donte DiVincenzo last summer.
If cost reduction is required, it is considered the most likely candidate. Paul had a turbulent fourth season, starting when he took an infamous preseason punch from Green during training camp practice. Paul kept it professional in the aftermath, and tensions eased enough for the two to work together. But the relationship was never fully mended, and Paul’s mood struggles didn’t help, culminating in a tough qualifying match that saw his efficiency drop and minutes drop.
There is still hesitation to move it. Paul has averaged 20.4 points this season and has a solid offensive ability that is lacking in the roster below Curry and will be needed as the base ages. And is it wise to walk away when its value is at 12-month lows? Will the money crisis dictate it?
Steve Kerr is also in the final season of his deal. But Kerr only expressed his desire to stay on as the team’s coach and is energetic for the career — he’ll be the coach of Team USA for the next two summers. So all indications are that he will return, although it is too early to tell if extension talks will start.
This is one of the simpler topics in what would otherwise be a convoluted off-season for the Warriors as they wait for the official word on whether Myers will be the one pulling the string on these core decisions.
“Draymond. Clay. Steve. “Our key players, they’ve got a lot to offer,” Kerr said after losing Game 6. “It’s not like this is the end of the road. The organization has some decisions to make. We will eventually get to that point.”
(Top photo by Stephen Curry: Harry How/Getty Images)
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