Dunleavy faces daunting offseason after Warriors' disappointing season

Dunleavy faces daunting offseason after Warriors' disappointing season originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO – General manager Mike Dunleavy knows he’ll have his hands full as he helps the Warriors navigate through what is shaping up to be one of the most critical and pivotal offseasons in recent franchise history.

There’s decisions to be made on soon-to-be free agent Klay Thompson and whether to keep Chris Paul at his current price tag of $30 million or part ways with the 12-time All-Star who primarily was a high-paid backup during his first season in Golden State.

The Dubs also have to prepare for the NBA draft for which they currently don’t have a first-round pick, while at the same time trying to decide how active to be in free agency.

Dunleavy basically is facing a laundry list of to-do items that come when a team carrying a $400-million payroll fails to make it to the playoffs.

And the second-year GM is ready to embrace whatever challenges it brings, whether that means tearing down and trying to rebuild or trying to enhance what already is in place.

“I think I probably operate off the saying there's never a bad time to make a good decision,” Dunleavy said Thursday. “Doesn't mean it's not tough and you stir over it, but my job is to have the best interests of this franchise and the direction of this franchise when I make a decision or we make a decision. So that's what I'm going to do.

“I think the overarching emotion right now is disappointment. We're still sort of settling in on what happened. But on the whole, we knew this season, no matter how long it went along, was going to end at some point probably disappointing us. But as far as what we need to do, it's pretty straightforward. It's to get better. I think that presents a really good challenge for everybody. Whether it's the players, the front office, the coaches, the performance staff, everybody rowing in the same direction and figuring it out.”

With apologies to Thompson, the team’s resident master of the seas, if the Warriors are in a boat rowing in any direction, Dunleavy clearly is the captain.

It’s a given in professional sports that any time when a team fails to reach its potential someone has to pay the price, whether it’s a player, coach, executive or owner.

For the Warriors, it’s Dunleavy who will have to pony up in the coming months while attempting to get the franchise back on track.

At times this season, the Warriors flashed signs of still being the potent dynamic dynasty that Bay Area fans have grown accustomed to for most of the last decade. At others, like Sunday’s lopsided loss to the Sacramento Kings in a play-in game, they looked completely out of sync and appeared to be a team in need of a massive overhaul.

Dunleavy has to determine which way he views it.

“For me, we're closer to the top than we are the bottom even though we finished 10th in the standings,” Dunleavy said. “That's kind of the way I see it, but that can change. The teams that didn't make the playoffs this year you're looking on outside in with Houston, Memphis, San Antonio, I don't see a way for those teams to get worse. They're only going to get better. And this is a tough conference and this is why we’ve got to improve. We’ve got to get a lot better, too.”

Dunleavy was able to get through his first year as an NBA general manager fairly smoothly. He was one of the forces behind the decision to trade for Chris Paul in exchange for Jordan Poole, then helped the Dubs maneuver successfully through the draft while acquiring key players like Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis.

Dunleavy also worked closely with owner Joe Lacob to ink Steve Kerr to a contract extension during the season that made Kerr the highest-paid coach in NBA history.

But that was all minor compared to the complex situations that Dunleavy and the Dubs face this offseason.

It wasn’t that long ago that Warriors fans were accustomed to average or so-so seasons. But that thinking doesn’t fly around these parts anymore.

Golden State’s success over the past 10 seasons has established a standard that won’t go away any time soon.

“I think the way we'll look at it is seeing what we can do, what's out there, seeing what we project of the guys we have on our roster, how they can improve,” Dunleavy said. “Talking through it with Steve and what he's looking to do to change things, and really getting a hard look at like, ‘OK, this is where we can be.’ Then to go to Joe with my recommendation of what the appropriate spend is on all that. That's what it's going to come down to.

“Frankly, it's probably not going to happen next week or next month. A lot of this stuff leads up to the draft and right up to the bell of free agency. So there may not be a lot of conclusions and solutions in the short-term, but that's what we'll lead up to.”

The offseason definitely will be a tricky one for Dunleavy and the Warriors.

It’s clear that there has to be some sort of changes made in order to build the Warriors back into contending status. That might be through additions or subtractions to the roster.

Then there’s the cost factor.

Lacob never has been shy about opening his wallet and paying for players, but at the same time, he wants some sort of return on his investment. The idea of spending $400 million on a team that already is home making vacation plans before the playoffs officially begin can’t sit well with anyone.

So Dunleavy is faced with the task of making the roster better while trying to maintain a reasonable payroll.

“It's a part of the puzzle,” Dunleavy said. “I wouldn't say we're at a point now where we're saying we got to be out of the tax or we got to be under a certain apron or anything like that. We're going to look at everything. I think if you've got a team that you feel can contend for a championship, you do what it takes financially. So we'll look at everything, we'll balance it out.

“It's hard to say right now in terms of like what it's going to look like and all that, because this is April. This stuff goes into June and July. But you know how Joe is with his willingness to spend and compete. I don't think there will be any restrictions, but we'll also be prudent. I mean, to put a team out there that can't make the playoffs, like we spent 400 million dollars this year, I wouldn't recommend that. So we'll figure it out, but I don't think we have anything set in stone in terms of parameters we got to live by.”

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