Long before they drenched each other in champagne due to the euphoria of the tournament, Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers and coach Steve Kerr shared some of their concerns about whether could until it happens.
As Kerr told Myers before the start of the NBA playoffs, “I don’t know if this is a championship team or not.”
Forget the NBA pundits who expressed doubts about the Warriors’ ability to win their fourth NBA title in eight years. Kerr admitted that he envisioned the Warriors becoming “a conference finalist, perhaps no further” amidst staggering injuries to their co-stars (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green) and a mixed progression with young key players.
We were laughing about it. We said, ‘Well, what do we know?’ Myers said now that they were proven wrong.
This is because the Warriors can no longer count on Kevin Durant to lift them towards the NBA title, as he has appeared twice in three consecutive Finals (2017-19). But unlike the pre-game finale conversation about potential, the franchise is now looking even bolder after winning its first NBA title since Durant’s departure from free agency (2019).
“My experience when you win a championship, it gets better next year,” Kerr said. “If you keep going after that, it starts to tire you out. In that third year for us, trying to get three peats in 2019 was really tough. But whether you’re a player or as a coach now, you’re going to win the first title, there’s the freedom that comes with it. There. exciting, and that carries over into the second year.”
This presents the Warriors with what Myers called a “high class problem.” Just one week after defeating the Boston Celtics in a Decisive 6 match, the Warriors have decisions to make that could determine if they can maintain championship training.
When the 2022 NBA Draft takes place Thursday (8 ET, ABC/ESPN), that decision-making process begins as the Warriors look for some young talent they can count on from their three picks in draft 28, 51 and 55.
Will the Warriors approve of the early extensions of the two players he helped bring back to the top (Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Ball)? Will they keep major free agents like Kevon Looney, Gary Payton II and Andre Iguodala?
With Assistant Head Coach Mike Brown leaving to Sacramento to train the Kings, can the Warriors find a suitable replacement for the Kerr training device?
Can the Warriors continue to rely on their triple star while nurturing young talent (James Wiseman, Jonathan Cominga, Moses Moody)?
1. Adding more possibilities
The Warriors will try to upgrade their roster by adding young NBA prospects to their squad, just as they did in 2019 — when they used their 28th pick to pick Poole, who has since blossomed into a rotating player. But the same couldn’t be said when the Warriors used the same 2018 first-round pick on Jacob Evans, who barely broke the spin. Keep in mind that of all the #28 picks in draft history, San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker is the only gem. Other than that, the 28th selection historically has featured 11 players who have lasted at least 10 years, 28 for playing less than that and five who did not appear in an NBA game.
“A man like Paul, shows you how important it is to get it right,” Myers said.
2. Keep keyless proxies
But Golden State has more control when it comes to retaining its players, so what does the future hold for Wiggins and Poole?
Myers called it a “big priority” to sign both Wiggins and Poole to the extensions. After Wiggins earned his first All-Star appearance during his ninth NBA season, his third with Golden State, the veteran replacement is eligible for a four-year extension at $172.2 million. Paul, who excelled in goal scorer, playmaker and defender in his fourth season in the NBA, is now eligible for an extension of up to $190 million over five years.
Technically, the Warriors have time to negotiate a deal even through next season, with both Wiggins and Poole remaining under contract until then. While Myers doesn’t expect to hit those deals once the free agency goes live on June 30, he’s hoping for a solution well before next summer. If Warriors doesn’t secure an extension for either player, Wiggins becomes an unrestricted free agent and Poole, a leash agent.
“We’re going to do everything we can to keep these two guys,” Myers said. “It was huge for us.”
The Warriors said the same about most of their Seven Suspended Free Agents.
Kerr described Looney as “the center of the tournament and defender of the modern age” after helping the Warriors protect the edge and bounce, screens and hustle playing as a starting and reserve player. Despite spending most of his seven-year NBA career struggling to stay healthy, Looney became one of only five NBA players this season to appear in all 82 regular season games.
“It’s a huge component of our success,” Kerr said. “We all want him. We are also personally encouraging him to get a really good contract, so hopefully it will be on our side.”
Warriors praised Gary Payton II for his shooting, defensive tenacity and resilience. Payton, the sixth-year-old goalkeeper who spent time with four different teams before joining Golden State, showed his strength in another way during the playoffs.
“I hope our players will give us a chance to respond to an offer,” Myers said. “They don’t owe us that, but that’s what you get if you win and create a good environment.”
As for the NBA veteran Iguodala, who reunited with the Warriors at the start of 2021-22 on the veteran’s minimum deal, both Kerr and Myers have expressed uncertainty about any potential extension to their 18-year career.
Iguodala, in the 2015 NBA Finals, faced a limited role on the field this season amid various injuries that kept him out of 12 playoffs and 50 regular season games. However, the warriors praised Iguodala’s behind-the-scenes guidance. Kerr argued that a significant turning point in the playoffs occurred when Iguodala told his teammates during the first-round series against the Denver Nuggets that “in order to win the championship, you have to improve from round to round.”
No wonder Kerr said, “We’d like to bring it back to the list.” But what about as an assistant coach? Kerr reflects, “I think it’s very smart to sit next to me and come to all the coaches’ meetings and do that.”
3. Replace Mike Brown
On the one hand, the Warriors have expressed their relief at the return of Kenny Atkinson for his third season after he reportedly changed his mind about accepting the Charlotte Hornets coaching position. Kerr called Atkinson a “great development coach” because of the way he treats players and how he analyzes numbers.
On the other hand, Myers expects Atkinson to receive other coaching offers soon. The Warriors are in the midst of discussing how to replace former assistant coach Brown, who has orchestrated the team’s tournaments and defensive playing plans. “We prefer the internals” on how to handle the vacancy, Myers said, but the Warriors have not ruled out any outside candidates.
Amid those discussions, the Warriors don’t seem to be concerned about the potential impact on their already leading salaries.
Golden State spent about $346 million in total payroll and luxury taxes last season, and is expected to increase $24.6 million in tax in the upcoming campaign. They can spend the maximum to keep Looney and Payton, but they can’t do the same for veteran Otto Porter Jr. After he agreed to the veteran’s minimum deal. Warriors can also have other vacancies on the list with three other unrestricted agents (Nemanja Bjelica, Chris Chiozza, and Damion Lee) and restricted free agents (Juan Toscano-Anderson and Quinndary Weatherspoon).
However, majority owner Joe Lacob has proven willing to spend for two reasons: Because Chase Center is a privately funded arena, the Warriors receive revenue from their home games and other entertainment events. Lacobe viewed this variable as the cost of doing business – up to a point.
4. Keep up the good work
The Warriors’ success also depends on how much they make with what they have.
After Curry, Thompson and Green won their fourth NBA title together, Myers remarked, “They’re in pretty good shape now.” The Warriors have expressed optimism that Thompson will play more consistently next season after returning in mid-2021-22 after a two-and-a-half year absence due to injuries. With Curry receiving his first MVP award at the Bill Russell Finals, Kerr is confident he can continue to lead the Warriors into future playoffs.
“It peaked in the playoffs,” Kerr said. “I think it will be difficult for him next year at the age of 35 and the next year to collect 82 matches as he did seven years ago. But in the playoffs, when you have a break between matches and you are really locked in? It was the best I’ve seen in my life in terms of His duo performance.
As for young people, their potential will be demonstrated this summer. After playing sparingly during the junior seasons, quarterback Jonathan Kominga and goalkeeper Moses Moody are expected to play in either the California Classic (July 2-3) or the Las Vegas Summer League (July 7-17). Maybe both. The same goes for third year player James Wiseman, who missed his entire second season while rehabilitating his surgically repaired right knee. Myers said the three could play important minutes next season.
Kerr will worry about the list later.
“I’m excited for a vacation,” Kerr said. “But I’m excited to be back and training again next year.”
This is because Kerr can no longer imagine that the Warriors have not reached the NBA title. This time, he might be right.
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Mark Medina is a writer and senior analyst at NBA.com. You can email him, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
The opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect those of the National Basketball Association, its clubs, or Turner Broadcasting.