Warriors must go fishing in free agency to fully build title contender

Monte Poole
·4 min read

Warriors now need free agency to finish building contender originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Following the misfortune of losing Klay Thompson for the season with the euphoria of drafting the coveted James Wiseman, the cruelest, greatest week in recent Warriors history turns its final corner Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. when the NBA’s free-agency bazaar opens.

The ride so far has been all love and hate, but they want to finish building a team capable of competing for the only goal they’ll ever have. A championship.

The Warriors have responded wonderfully to the sorrow of Thompson’s injury, reloading for now while simultaneously finding a pillar for the future. The addition of Wiseman and the expected acquisition of small forward Kelly Oubre Jr. through trade on Friday is Grade-A work by president/general manager Bob Myers, at the behest of CEO Joe Lacob.

It’s conceivable that at some point in the season, perhaps early, both tyros will join Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins in the starting lineup.

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But the construction continues because there is more to be done. As the Warriors were limping through last season, the Western Conference grew new fangs.

The Los Angeles Lakers, never a factor during Golden State’s historic five-year run, are defending champions. The Denver Nuggets reached the Western Conference finals -- after ousting the favored Los Angeles Clippers, whose disappointing end led to a coaching change. The Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz are perennial playoff teams. The Dallas Mavericks matter again. The young Memohis Grizzlies barely missed out, and the younger Phoenix Suns added in Chris Paul the kind of veteran that youngsters follow. Only the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma Thunder anticipate a drop.

“My job, our job ... time's not going to wait for the Warriors,” Myers said Thursday. “I think people feel bad for us, but the league doesn't stop for us. We need to try to do what we can to get ready for next season.”

The expectation is that through free agency they will add no less than one veteran big man and one more experienced perimeter player. Depth was a hallmark of the great Warriors teams of 2015-2019, and the need now is not only to refill but to do so with quality.

After using their traded-player exception, worth $17.2 million, to add Oubre, the Warriors still have at their disposal the taxpayer-midlevel exception ($5.7 million) and veteran’s minimum slots. They’ll apply for and likely receive the disabled-player exception that comes with losing Thompson. That’s a $9.3 million slot, and they have until April to use it.

It’s going to cost, but Lacob is bracing to pay.

“We've actually had those conversations,” Myers said. “We had to await kind of what the severity of the injury was to go down that road. But we should have that answer soon and see what optionality that provides.

“A disabled player exception roughly means you lost a player for a year. You never want it for any player, certainly not for a Klay Thompson. Potentially it's another vehicle to look at.”

RELATED: How Warriors can best maximize season after losing Klay

After seven consecutive years in the postseason, the last five reaching the NBA Finals, the Warriors are accustomed to success. They are in no mood to take even one step back, as Lacob told Tim Kawakami of The Athletic on Tuesday that anyone in the front office thinking of giving up on next season to “get it off your mind.”

Once the Oubre trade -- for a 2021 protected first-round pick -- is official, the Warriors should be a top-six solid playoff team. The postseason is scheduled to open with play-in games on May 18-21, with the traditional first round starting on May 22.The Warriors know May basketball. They know June hoops. The goal for 2021, however, is to make their July debut. If the schedule holds -- obviously there are contingencies during a raging pandemic -- that’s when The Finals are scheduled to begin.

There is no way the healthy Warriors miss the playoffs, but what happens over these next couple days almost certainly will impact how far they go once they get there.

Aside from 2016, when they lured Kevin Durant to the Bay Area, the Warriors haven’t had an offseason they felt the need to make a splash in the offseason. The Durant deal was a matter of ambition.

In November 2020, it’s a matter of need, of polishing a roster already with infinitely more promise than it had in the hours immediately after Thompson went down.

About realizing the difference between being a dangerous playoff team and one that patched itself up well enough to win a championship.