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GSW Free Agent Targets 1: Ballhandlers
A series by Perks from @GSWReddit
This is a planned four part series by Perks from GSW Reddit. I’ve been bugging him to contribute to Dub Nation HQ for a while and he finally kindly agreed. An earlier draft of Part 1 of this series has appeared on Reddit. - Eric
2021-22 Depth Chart
Nico Mannion (RFA)
The point guard position on paper looks filled up, but the Warriors will most likely still be looking to add a solid two-way guard who can play behind Steph Curry.
Jordan Poole had a very strong sophomore year and will look to build on that as a mainstay in the rotation moving forward. However, he projects as more of a combo-guard and mostly played backup point guard out of necessity this season. Steve Kerr will probably want to add a more natural, defensively solid ballhandler to supplement Poole in the second unit.
Gary Payton II was solid in limited minutes and stylistically does fit a need for the Warriors. He’s an exceptional defender, who can move the ball, move without it, and so far has knocked down his shots. The question will be if he’s good enough, especially offensively, to contribute to this team consistently and carve out a spot in the rotation. He’s on a non-guaranteed deal that partially guarantees for $659k ten days into free agency, then guarantees for another $659k on opening night, before fully guaranteeing in January. Depending on what the Warriors do in the draft and during free agency, Payton might have a chance of making the roster if they don’t address their PG depth elsewhere and can’t find someone they like better on a minimum contract.
Nico Mannion showed some flashes during his rookie year and is still a very young prospect at 20 years of age. The Warriors seem to like him, and it would be surprising if they don’t extend a qualifying offer for him on August 1st to bring him back on another two-way contract. Mannion’s chances of being a part of the rotation next season are slim, but he can be a developmental project at one of the two-way spots and play heavy minutes in the G League.
Point guard is probably not their biggest priority depending on how comfortable they feel about Poole, but we should expect the Warriors to try to upgrade at that position if possible.
So the Warriors will be looking for a ballhandler who is capable of running the offense. Someone with good playmaking abilities, decision-making, and passing. Ideally, that player should also be a capable defender, who can knock down open shots. A big bonus would be if they can also create their own offense and get buckets.
The draft has a lot of interesting ballhandling prospects who the Warriors could consider with their lottery picks (Davion Mitchell, James Bouknight, Josh Giddey, Tre Mann, Sharife Cooper, Jared Butler, etc). Depending on what the Warriors plan to do with their picks they might look to address this need through the draft.
However, given the need for a veteran, it’s reasonable to assume that the Warriors will attempt to bring in an experienced ballhandler during free agency who can slot in next to Poole. The Warriors would probably prefer to use their MLE ($5.9M) on a more pressing position, but given that the free-agent market is fairly barren for ballhandlers, they might be forced to in order to obtain a quality player.
Tier 0 | Priced Out: T.J. McConnell, Alec Burks, Derrick Rose, Alex Caruso, Reggie Jackson, Lou Williams
These are all high-end quality role players who will surely command more than the Warriors are able to pay. However, if any one of them were to become available, they are quality options that should be pursued.
Tier 1 | MLE: Patty Mills, Cam Payne, Garrett Temple
Mills' availability will largely depend on whether or not his time with the Spurs has come to an end. It’s not hard to imagine him re-signing on a bloated one-year deal as a trusted veteran for their young roster, but maybe at this point in his career he’d rather have one last run at a championship. If that is the case, Mills would make a lot of sense for the Warriors as an experienced point guard who can run their second unit and provide some spacing. Payne has had a renaissance with the Suns and has been playing like a premier backup point guard this season. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly the market will look like for him given his resurrection, but after an impressive playoff performance, he should see significant offers on top of the Suns prioritizing re-signing him. Temple is not a traditional point guard, but he could occupy the Iguodala sort of wing-playmaking role on this team. A tenured and well-respected veteran, he’s the type of player who would fit both the Warriors ethos and playstyle. However, he has already expressed his desire to return to the Bulls so the Warriors would have to put together a significant offer.
Tier 2 | MLE-Minimum: Austin Rivers, Raul Neto, Ish Smith
Rivers has been someone the Warriors have reportedly been interested in for a while now. He’s a sort of combo-guard who can play on/off-ball, knock down open jumpers, and play some defense. As an experienced playoff performer, it’s not hard to imagine his fit on this team and he should be obtainable through a chunk of the MLE. Neto had a fairly productive season and outperformed his counterpart, Smith, in some aspects. Depending on which of the two the Wizards prioritize, the assumption would be Neto, the other one could become available. Both should expect to see offers a little above the minimum, although the Warriors could try to sell them on a minimum contract with a significant role on a playoff team. While both of them are undersized guards, Neto would be a good fit as a floor-spacer and Smith could provide some much needed scoring off the bench.
Tier 3 | Minimum: Jeff Teague, Elfrid Payton, Langston Galloway, Tyler Johnson
Teague has struggled a lot this season and he’s getting up there in age, but if the Warriors want to bring in an experienced veteran with some playmaking ability without using any of their MLE, they don’t have a lot of better options. Payton has been a mainstay in a defensively sound Thibodeau Knicks team, much to the dismay of Knicks fans. While Payton’s defensive metrics have been solid, his offensive production hasn’t been great. Assuming the Knicks prioritize Rose and other players, Payton should probably be available at the minimum, and while not an ideal fit, at least an upgrade on his namesake, Gary Payton II. Neither Galloway nor Johnson are traditional point guards, but they are both experienced, can handle the ball, and should be affordable additions.
Tier 4 | Pass: Dante Exum, Matthew Dellavedova, Tim Frazier
Exum is still fairly young, but he can’t stay healthy and isn’t worth the gamble. Dellavedova is an experienced veteran, but just doesn’t offer enough at this point and has already signed overseas. Frazier similarly just isn’t intriguing enough as a player.
Non-Unrestricted Free Agents
A couple of non-Unrestricted Free Agents who might hit the market:
Dragic and Iguodala have been relatively good for Miami, but not at those salaries so it seems like a given that both of their options will be declined and Miami will instead consider re-signing them at a lesser price. Dragic is getting up there in age, but as a playmaking guard who can knock down the 3-ball, he could be worth the MLE. Iguodala obviously has a connection to the Dubs, so it’s not hard to imagine if his option is declined the Warriors would reach out to see if he would be interested in returning. However, is Iggy’s love for Steph and the Warriors enough to take a minimum for one last hurrah or would they have to spring for the MLE?
Joseph and Satoranský are both solid backup guards, but a bit overpaid given their production. If they get waived by their respective teams they should both be somewhere around the MLE range on the open market. Satoranský would be a good fit as a big playmaking guard. while Joseph would be an experienced ballhandler who could stabilize the second unit.
Winslow has been a poor fit in Memphis and it would be surprising if they picked up his option. He should hit the market and be available as a defensive, playmaking wing around the MLE range. The Warriors do love their playmaking wings, but they probably pass on Winslow as they don’t really have time for young reclamation projects on this roster, especially for anything above the minimum.
Neither Ntilikina nor Smith Jr. should get their qualifying offers extended. Hard to say what their value would be on the open market, but again it’s difficult to see the Warriors being interested in two young and flawed reclamation projects given their need for a dependable veteran.
Bradley doesn’t fit Houston’s timeline, and they are expected to turn down his option. The Warriors have expressed interest in him in the past and he would be a solid addition around the MLE range as a defensive specialist who can handle the ball and knock down a three.
Things haven’t really worked out for Dunn in Atlanta as he’s struggled with injuries and has been out of their rotation only appearing in 5 games. Realistically he picks up his player option since he shouldn’t be able to get a similar offer on the market, but if he wants a fresh start and to rehabilitate his value he could be an intriguing pickup on a close to a minimum deal as a defensive specialist.
Arcidiacono should be available at the minimum if the Bulls choose to part ways with him as a decent depth point guard option who can playmake and hit a three.
The ballhandler market is fairly weak, especially around the minimum level, but there are a couple of viable candidates out there if the Warriors are willing to dip into their MLE to acquire them or if a player is willing to take a significant pay cut to come to Golden State. It will be difficult to find a candidate that ticks all of the boxes of: veteran, playmaking, defense, shooting, and scoring but they should be able to find someone who ticks at least 2 to 3.
Given what we can expect the market to look like and assuming the Warriors use their MLE on a more pressing position a likely scenario for next season does seem like Poole as the backup point guard with Payton II as a situational, defensive third option behind him if they don’t use one for their draft picks on a ballhandler. We should still expect the Warriors to try to bring in a veteran at least on a minimum, although they should try to avoid another Wanamaker situation.
Ideal Target: Patty Mills
Mills is exactly the type of veteran guard the Warriors would covet. Although he’s a bit undersized, he’s an experienced playoff performer, who could run their second unit, score in bunches, playmake, and space the floor. It’s not hard to see him fitting in with the Warriors ethos and style of play. The biggest question will be whether or not Mills will be available for the Taxpayer MLE, with the possibility of the Spurs re-signing him and teams with the Non-Taxpayer MLE taking a look at him.
Realistic MLE Addition: Austin Rivers
Assuming Mills is out of their price range, Rivers would be the most feasible addition the Warriors could get with their MLE. As a bit of a combo-guard, he can play with and without the ball, giving his most likely backcourt mate, Jordan Poole, plenty of possessions to handle and create off-the-dribble. He’s capable of knocking down the three-ball, is a solid defender for his position, and an experienced playoff performer. It’s no surprise the Warriors have considered him in the past and now might be their best opportunity to acquire him.
Realistic Minimum Addition: Raul Neto
Assuming the Warriors don’t want to use their MLE on a point guard and want to bring in a veteran on a minimum if they could convince Neto to do so, he would be a sensible addition for them. While he is undersized and would occupy a role as more of a third guard than the lead backup, with his ability to stretch the floor and playmake, he would be a very nice bargain addition.
Buy-Low Candidate: Kris Dunn
If Dunn were to opt-out of his player option after an injury-plagued season in order to move to a new team to try to rehabilitate his value, it might be worth the Warriors to take a flyer on him. Although Dunn is limited offensively, on a minimum deal he would be an intriguing pickup as an athletic, defensively solid ballhandler who would at the very least be an upgrade over Payton II.
What are your thoughts on the PG position? Will Poole be the backup moving forward? Will the Warriors draft a PG? Will they bring in a veteran? Will they use the MLE to do so? Or try to rummage the bargain bin for a minimum-level addition?