Stephen Curry is doubtful for tonight’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, who will also be playing without their star, Joel Embiid. In a season fraught with uncertainties and less than perfect outcomes, it’s no wonder that my mind wanders past the outcome of tonight’s contest.
As a .500 team, the Warriors have gone 3-5 in the month of March, and are 3-3 since the All-Star break. For the first time in a long time, the franchise faces questions about their floor, as often as they do about their ceiling. Without Klay Thompson, and missing Marquese Chriss, as well as a slew of other players throughout the year, many people were able to predict that this season was going to be as rough as it has been.
But one of the things becoming clear this season is how much climbing the Warriors will have to eventually do in order to regain their spot atop the NBA hierarchy. The return of Klay Thompson next season will help a lot, but even if you think that’s enough on it’s own, Golden State still has plenty to figure out.
The trade deadline is Thursday at noon. Warriors options are all complicated.
In a scene from Avengers End Game (which I have (crudely) photoshopped into the header image for this article), Dr. Strange goes into a meditative state to “look forward in time, to view alternate futures, to see all the possible outcomes.” Only, instead of a calm meditation you’d expect from his lotus-crossed legs, the doctor twitches so fast his face blurs. He sees exactly one instance of victory in just over 14 million realities.
This is how the Warriors front office must feel right now. So many options, so many ways to screw it all up.
The Warriors have a few valuable roster movement tools at their disposal, and the next six months or so are some of the most important in franchise history. The easiest, a $9 million+ Disabled Player Exception - which allows them to add a player on the final year of their contract, or sign a free agent - is also sort of worthless on it’s own. Any player freely available at this point isn’t a definitive roster upgrade, and those that can be obtained quickly become a profit/loss equation because the Warriors value their upcoming picks so highly.
Notably, as Patrick Murray notes in the video above, using this contract vehicle would add around $50 million dollars to the Warriors’ tax bill. As much as I’d love to have someone like Glenn Robinson III back on the roster, that seems like a steep cost - even though it’s not my money.
So the Warriors have two days left to make a trade - and then another window during the offseason, of course. The targets available (reportedly) are somewhat less than ideal.
None of the names on that list would seem to warrant inclusion of Wiseman, but you can see a pattern (looking for offense) that would seem to point towards prioritizing this season.
But as always, there’s a matter of cost. Would you want Golden State to give up this much for Aaron Gordon?
Or maybe you do? It’s becoming increasingly clear that making a major - or even significantly meaningful - improvement is going to take a lot. While it may be hard to stomach the idea of throwing away two shots at an elite young player, that appears to the market rate for a player that fits the Warriors’ needs.
Kelly Oubre, Andrew Wiggins, and the next big move
If option number one is to trade spare parts for a major star, then I’m in. But barring some unforeseen availability of Joel Embiid, there are two major moving parts that the Warriors can fiddle with.
Oubre, brought in via a special contract exemption, is a rare grab for a team as cap-constrained as the Warriors. He’s as intriguing as he is wildly inconsistent, but his length, defensive versatility, and grit mean that he’d be a welcome addition on any team.
Andrew Wiggins is a similar situation, just bigger. His contract is enormous, a concession that the Warriors made knowing he’s still a workable player on the court. But he also represents a max contract slot - one of three on the Warriors.
It seems like the paths ahead of Golden State are to run it back, or cash out what they can now.
ESPN's Zach Lowe, said on Monday morning that the Warriors are “listening to lots of potential offers on Oubre:
"They don't seem to feel much urgency to move Oubre.
"On the flip side, Golden State seems to be taking a pretty honest view of what this particular roster can do this season -- and might be willing to move Oubre for something that helps it in the future."
As Patrick Murray stated in the video we did, that could run the Warriors’ out of pocket expenses up towards $450 million - an astronomical value. Here’s Murray, in an article released shortly after the video was recorded, where he spells out the variables and potential outcomes in play:
Even if they just keep Oubre they’ll be paying out $450m. Considering up until this season they haven’t once passed the $200m mark, that appears pretty unrealistic. Letting Oubre walk for nothing, or perhaps executing a sign-and-trade where the Warriors get a future pick back, drops the bill to a little over $340m, but it makes them a worse basketball team in that critical 21/22 season.
In thinking about these issues, it’s much easier to see the obstacles. If there’s a deal to be made before Thursday’s trade deadline, I can’t see it right now. But the Warriors are in a situation where doing nothing could be more damaging than making a wrong move.
I get why the Warriors could be silent ahead of the trade deadline, even as the pressure to do something increases.