Long before they doused one another with champagne over championship euphoria, Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers and coach Steve Kerr shared a couple of of their insecurities on whether that might even occur.
As Kerr told Myers before the NBA playoffs began: “I don’t know if this can be a championship team.”
Forget the assorted NBA pundits who expressed doubt over the Warriors’ ability to win their fourth NBA title in eight years. Kerr conceded he envisioned the Warriors becoming “a conference finalist, perhaps not further than that” amid overlapping injuries to their stars (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green) and mixed progress with the core’s young players.
“We were laughing about that. We said, ‘Well, what can we know?” Myers said now that they proved themselves unsuitable. “We had a reasonably high bar, I suppose, for what we were comparing it to.”
That’s since the Warriors could not lean on Kevin Durant to raise them toward an NBA title, as he had twice in three straight Finals appearances (2017-19). But unlike that pre-playoff conversation about potential, the franchise now appears more emboldened after winning its first NBA title since Durant’s free-agency departure (2019).
“My experience is whenever you win a championship, you get well the subsequent yr,” Kerr said. “For those who keep going after that, it starts to wear you out. That third yr for us, attempting to get a three-peat in ’19 was brutally difficult. But whether I used to be a player or now as a coach, you win that first one, there’s a freedom that comes with it. There’s an excitement, and that carries over into the second yr.”
That presents the Warriors with what Myers termed “a high-class problem.” Only one week after defeating the Boston Celtics in a decisive Game 6, the Warriors have decisions to make that might determine in the event that they can keep the championship train rolling.
When the 2022 NBA Draft takes place on Thursday (8 ET, ABC/ESPN), that decision-making process begins because the Warriors look to seek out some dependable young talent with their three draft picks at No. 28, 51 and 55.
Will the Warriors comply with early extensions for 2 players who helped lead them back to the highest (Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole)? Will they keep key free agents like Kevon Looney, Gary Payton II and Andre Iguodala?
With lead assistant coach Mike Brown departing for Sacramento to educate the Kings, can the Warriors find an appropriate alternative for Kerr’s coaching staff?
Can the Warriors proceed to depend on their star trio while nurturing young talent (James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody)?
1. Add more prospects
The Warriors will attempt to upgrade their roster by adding young NBA prospects to their team, just as they did in 2019 — once they used their No. 28 pick to pick Poole, who has since flourished right into a rotation player. But the identical can’t be said when the Warriors used that very same first-round pick in 2018 on Jacob Evans, who barely cracked the rotation. Consider that amongst all of the No. 28 picks in draft history, San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker represents the lone gem. Otherwise, the No. 28 pick historically has featured 11 role players that lasted at the very least 10 years, 28 to play fewer than that and five who never appeared in an NBA game.
“A man like Poole, it shows you ways priceless it’s to get it right,” Myers said.
2. Retain key free agents
But Golden State has more control in terms of retaining its own players, so what does the longer term hold for Wiggins and Poole?
Myers called it a “big priority” to sign each Wiggins and Poole to extensions. After Wiggins earned his first All-Star appearance during this ninth NBA season, his third with Golden State, the veteran swingman is eligible for an extension of as much as 4 years at $172.2 million. Poole, who excelled a scorer, playmaker, and defender in his fourth NBA season, became eligible for an extension value as much as $190 million over five years.
Technically, the Warriors have time to barter a deal even through next season, with each Wiggins and Poole remaining under contract until then. While Myers doesn’t expect to achieve these deals as soon as free agency begins on June 30, he hopes to achieve a resolution well before next summer. If the Warriors don’t secure an extension on either player, Wiggins will turn into an unrestricted free agent and Poole, a restricted one.
“We’re going to make every effort to maintain each those guys,” Myers said. “They were huge for us.”
The Warriors said the identical thing about most of their seven pending free agents.
Kerr described Looney as “a championship center and modern-day defender” after helping the Warriors with rim protection, rebounding, screens and hustle plays each as a starter and reserve. Despite spending most of his seven-year NBA profession struggling to remain healthy, Looney became one in every of only five NBA players this season to seem in all 82 regular-season games.
“He’s an enormous component to our success,” Kerr said. “All of us want him back. We are also rooting for him personally to get a extremely good contract, so hopefully, it’s from us.”
The Warriors praised Gary Payton II for his shooting, defensive tenacity and resiliency. Payton, a sixth-year guard who hung out with 4 different teams before sticking with Golden State, showed his toughness in one other way throughout the playoffs.
“I hope that our players will give us a likelihood to answer a suggestion,” Myers said. “They don’t owe it to us, but that’s what you get in the event you win and also you create a great environment.”
As for NBA veteran Iguodala, who reunited with the Warriors at first of 2021-22 on a veteran’s minimum deal, each Kerr and Myers expressed uncertainty about any potential extension of his 18-year profession.
The 2015 NBA Finals MVP, Iguodala faced a limited on-court role this season amid various injuries that sidelined him for 12 playoff games and 50 regular-season games. Nonetheless, the Warriors praised Iguodala’s behind-the-scenes mentorship. Kerr argued a big turning point within the playoffs happened when Iguodala told his teammates during their first-round series against the Denver Nuggets that “as a way to win a championship, you will have to enhance from round-to-round.”
No wonder Kerr said that “we’d like to have him back on the roster.” But how about as an assistant coach? Kerr mused, “I feel he’s way too smart to take a seat next to me and are available to all our coaches’ meetings and do that.”
3. Replace Mike Brown
On one hand, the Warriors expressed relief that Kenny Atkinson will return for his third season after reportedly changing his mind about accepting the Charlotte Hornets’ coaching position. Kerr considered Atkinson “a incredible development coach” due to how he handles players and the way he analyzes numbers.
However, Myers predicts Atkinson will receive other coaching offers soon. The Warriors are within the midst of discussing tips on how to replace erstwhile associate coach Brown, who organized the team’s rotations and defensive game plans. Myers said “we prefer internal” on tips on how to address that emptiness, however the Warriors haven’t ruled out any external candidates.
Amid those discussions, the Warriors don’t appear anxious concerning the potential impact on their already league-leading payroll.
Golden State spent about $346 million in combined salary and luxury taxes last season and are positioned to be $24.6 million over the tax within the upcoming campaign. They will spend over the cap to retain Looney and Payton, but cannot do the identical for veteran Otto Porter Jr. after he accepted a veteran’s minimum deal. The Warriors also could produce other roster vacancies with three other unrestricted free agents (Nemanja Bjelica, Chris Chiozza, Damion Lee) and restricted free agents (Juan Toscano-Anderson, Quinndary Weatherspoon).
Still, majority owner Joe Lacob has proven he’s willing to spend for 2 reasons: Since the Chase Center is a privately-financed arena, the Warriors receive revenue each from their home games and other entertainment events. Lacob has considered this variable as the associated fee of doing business — to an extent.
4. Keep a great thing going
The Warriors’ success also is dependent upon how much they make with what they’ve.
After Curry, Thompson and Green won their fourth NBA title together, Myers observed “they’re looking in pretty fine condition now.” The Warriors expressed optimism that Thompson will play more consistently next season after returning in the course of 2021-22 following a 2 1/2 yr absence with injuries. And with Curry collecting his first Bill Russell Finals MVP, Kerr is confident he can proceed to steer the Warriors in future playoff runs.
“He absolutely peaked within the playoffs,” Kerr said. “I feel it’s going to be harder for him next yr at 35 and the next yr to place together an 82-game season like he did seven years ago. But within the playoffs, whenever you’ve got day off in between games and also you’re really locked in? This was the most effective I’ve ever seen him when it comes to his two-way performance.”
As for the kids, they are going to receive clarity this summer on their potential. After playing sparingly during their rookie seasons, center Jonathan Kuminga and guard Moses Moody are expected to play in either the California Classic (July 2-3) or the Las Vegas Summer League (July 7-17). Possibly each. The identical applies to third-year center James Wiseman, who missed his entire second season while rehabbing his surgically repaired right knee. Myers said all three could play significant minutes next season.
Kerr will worry concerning the roster later.
“I’m excited for a vacation,” Kerr said. “But I’m excited to come back back and coach again next yr.”
That’s because Kerr not envisions the Warriors falling wanting an NBA title. This time, he is likely to be correct.
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