Which Warriors are returning next season? The 2022 DNHQ Free Agency Guide
All things must pass, especially in Kerr's egalitarian offense
Last year’s Free Agency was filled with analysis of how to get the complementary role players after Kelly Oubre showed the importance of (scheme) fit.
This year is all about how to keep a championship formula going and how to keep it current to face new challengers.
When Is Free Agency?
Free agency signings will be announced starting Day 1 of the Moratorium period (Thu Jun 30, 3pm - Wed Jul 6, 9:01am).
For context, in 2021:
within the first few hours of Day 1, half the Warriors’ free agent targets had already been signed by the Lakers. (Excuse me while I smile and smile about this from the comfort of summer 2022.)
Otto Porter Jr’s signing news came at 9pm of Day 1 (Aug 2 2021)
Nemanja Bjelica’s signing news came around 9:30am of Day 2
Andre Iguodala signing news came Aug 6, after the moratorium.
The Actual Rules
In THEORY and by rule, teams cannot start negotiating with players until:
June 30, 3:00pm Pacific. Official start of league year and free agency moratorium when no agreements can be made. Teams can start negotiating with players and not before. The moratorium gives all teams a chance to meet with any free agent, so it’s not a race.
July 6, 9:01am Pacific: Free agency moratorium ends; teams officially can begin signing players and complete trades.
In reality, free agency negotiations are happening at all times, through intermediaries. The league turned a blind eye to this because of the difficulty of enforcement, but teams flouted the rules to ridiculous extents. Regularly, reports would come out on free agency agreements in the first minutes of the moratorium. The league finally had to crack down on MIL for announcing a sign-and-trade within minutes, and MIA and CHI for a complex three person sign-and-trade.
The practical result of this is to expect most free agency signings to be announced starting Day 1 of the moratorium.
These moratorium agreements are not binding of course, but it’s major news if someone backs out of the agreement (for instance the absurdly funny DeAndre Jordan situation in 2015, still my favorite NBA Twitter real-time saga).
Who Needs To Be Re-signed?
Patrick Baldwin Jr. (2022 #28 pick)
Ryan Rollins (2022 #44 pick) (probably minimum, but potentially a Two-Way)
2nd Rd picks have no special cap exception to sign, so GSW has to use:
the minimum salary exception, restricted to two years or less
or the TPMLE, which allows them to sign for THREE years
A minimum for a zero experience player would be cheaper than a roster spot to a player with any NBA experience, so GSW could save a little money indirectly.
A Two-Way is not counted as Team Salary, so the MLE will not be needed for that in any case.
Lester Quiniones (Two-Way)
That makes 10 players and 1 Two-Way.
Restricted Free Agents
Juan Toscano-Anderson ($2.1M qualifying offer to have right to match outside offers)
Nico Mannion rights ($1.6M QO)
Restricted Free Agents - Two Ways
Quinndary Weatherspoon ($1.5M QO)
Chris Chiozza ($1.9M QO)
Unrestricted Free Agents
The Warriors can re-sign them with, depending on the player’s team history:
Bird rights (up to league max)
Early Bird rights (up to 175% previous salary or ~$10M (105% of the average salary))
Non-Bird (120% of previous salary)
or the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception (MLE) of $6.3M team total (can be split between players).
These numbers and statuses came from Spotrac (except the GP2 info).
Gary Payton II (Early-Bird $10 M)
Spotrac, like many people, have the wrong info on this. It’s confusing because GP2 was on so many short contracts, but I trust Leroux on this.
Damion Lee (Bird)
Kevon Looney (Bird)
Nemanja Bjelica (Non-Bird $2.9M)
Otto Porter Jr (Non-Bird $2.9M)
Andre Iguodala (Non-Bird $2.9M)
Other Teams We Are Bidding Against
In brief, there aren’t many teams with cap space today and most would not be interested in our free agents.
There are only six teams (DET, IND, OKC, ORL, SAS, NYK) today that have cap space. Other teams would need transactions to get under the cap. DET, OKC, ORL, and IND are all rebuilding teams and probably won’t be heavily pursuing older free agents like Looney, Payton, Bjelica and Porter. It’s hard to predict what SAS will do. NYK looks like they are clearing cap space for a big offer to someone like Jalen Brunson.
Every team can offer our free agents the $6.4M Mid-Level Exception. Some teams below the tax can offer a $10.4M Non-Taxpayer MLE. Teams under the cap can also offer contracts up to that cap space.
Detroit Pistons: $34m - $44m
Indiana Pacers: $26m
New York Knicks: $16m
Oklahoma City Thunder: $23m
Orlando Magic: $28m
San Antonio Spurs: $29m
Everyone else is above the cap. Other teams could clear cap space through trades or other roster maneuvers.
Here is Yahoo’s list of top free agents available:
Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns (restricted)
Miles Bridges, Charlotte Hornets (restricted)
Anfernee Simons, Portland Trail Blazers (restricted)
Jalen Brunson, Dallas Mavericks (unrestricted)
Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers (restricted)
My best guesses for who will re-sign
(I’ve included some comments by Connor Letourneau, the Chronicle beat writer, and John Hollinger who has his own odd formula for valuing players — it’s not a prediction of what they will be offered)
Gary Payton II - GSW keeps GP2.
GP2 is great within the Warriors offense, but for other teams he is either a guard who can’t create off the dribble or shoot, or the world’s smallest power forward. He’s had one year in the NBA and had multiple injuries.
I believe that Hollinger has the details wrong and GSW has the early Bird rights (see above), which lets them pay GP2 up to 105% of the league average salary in 2021-22, which is about $10M. But it’s still interesting.
Connor Letourneau thinks GP2 will get offers of between $6M and $8M.
What position do I even list him under? The Warriors’ bouncy, positionless, definition-defying glue guy perhaps rates at a lower valuation than you might expect, in part due to a low minutes expectation as a result of his frequent injuries and limited playing time before this season. Payton also is 29, so one can question how his bounciness will hold up as he ages. That said, the Warriors probably can’t do better with their taxpayer MLE than bringing Payton back and could structure it as a one-plus-one with a player option that would allow him to re-sign with full Bird rights a year from now if he has another good season. …Other teams will be lurking, but Payton’s game isn’t an automatic fit with every roster.
Kevon Looney - GSW keeps Looney using Bird Rights
Looney is decent in the Warriors offense, and fantastic as a big defender who can switch to the perimeter and also bang for plus rebounding and block some shots. But to other teams, he’s a slow power forward with negative vertical leap who can’t shoot or score in the post, and who had an extremely poor injury record before becoming iron man.
GhostRidingTheInjuryCart found this nugget: "There is growing pessimism, league sources say, among teams interested in pursuing Kevon Looney about the ability to pry Looney away from the newly minted champions in Golden State. Looney is increasingly expected to re-sign with the Warriors on a multiyear deal after playing a vital role in their fourth title run in a span of eight seasons."
I did a double-take when I first saw Looney’s projected value. Then the playoffs started.
With proof of concept as one of the league’s best switchable bigs, not to mention as an inhaler of rebounds, Looney has proven he’s worthy of being paid as a third big and sometime starter. He also answered questions about his recurring health issues by appearing in every Warriors game this season.
Looney still has offensive limitations that will prevent him from getting the big bucks — he’s a non-threat in the post and limited from the perimeter. (He often let it rip at UCLA, but that hasn’t been part of his pro identity.) With Golden State’s free-flowing cash spigot, the Warriors are likely to lock him up for a couple more years as their sometimes-center.
Nemanja Bjelica - GSW re-signs for minimum if GSW can’t find a vet they like better for his spot and he can’t get a better offer elsewhere
He was good in the Warriors motion offense with his passing and occasional spacing, and he was able to survive against the iso wings like Doncic and Tatum (but not Ja). But to other teams he’s an old stretch 5 who isn’t a rim protector and whose outside shot comes and goes.
Hard to imagine him being offered more than the minimum at his age and performance.
Hollinger: One of the few times the Golden State-to-Sacramento pipeline ran in reverse. Bjelica resurrected his career as a backup five at age 33 after he became too slow to reliably guard 4s. He survived shockingly well on switches in the Finals, however, which likely gives him some contractual juice entering the summer. He’s also a stretch big (36.2 percent from 3 in 2021-22, 38.4 percent career) who can pass and handle the ball. As a result, he may have suitors for more than the minimum this offseason.
Otto Porter Jr - GSW gets outbid.
Excellent shooter on the catch, can create a good percentage midrange jumper, can play well off ball, decent defender though hobbled in the playoffs, underrated excellent rebounder.
Main concern is injuries and load management. GSW played him 22.2 MPG in 63 games, plus 19.5 MPG in the playoffs.
However, GSW can only offer OP the $6.4M MLE, and someone will offer more than that.
Porter won’t command this high a salary because of concerns about his frequent injuries. In the last four seasons, he’s missed nearly as many games (140) as he’s played (162), and even in his “healthy” year for Golden State in 2021-22, he only played 63 regular-season games.
But a credible defender at the two forward spots who knows how to play and shoots 39.8 percent career from 3 should have considerable value, especially since he’s still only 29.
While I don’t expect anybody to roll the dice on a longer deal given the continued questions about his physical well-being, a “one-plus-one” type contract for the non-taxpayer midlevel exception — signing him for 2022-23 with a player option for 2023-24 — would be a smart move for a contender below the tax line.
Andre Iguodala - retires to run his venture capital fund and occasionally hang out in practice
Quinndary Weatherspoon - GSW does not re-sign.
No Qualifying Offer, becomes Unrestricted FA. Eligible for a second Two-Way, but a long shot.
UPDATE. I was wrong.
Chris Chiozza - GSW does not re-sign.
No QO, becomes UFA. He has had two years of two-way contracts, so he is ineligible for another. Long shot to be back on a minimum.
Nico Mannion - No QO, becomes UFA
Damion Lee - no QO, becomes UFA.
Might come back on a minimum if GSW has open spots after the FA hunt.
4 yrs in the NBA means he is ineligible for a Two Way.
Juan Toscano-Anderson - no QO, becomes UFA.
Might come back on a minimum if GSW has open spots after the FA hunt. Might come back on a Two-Way if he has no other offers.
Eligible for a Two-Way, with his 3 yrs of NBA service (4 max.)
UPDATE: Connor Letourneau thinks GSW will extend the Qualifying Offer. It would make me happy to be wrong about this.
That would make the depth chart 13 players plus 1 two-way.
PG. Steph / Poole / Rollins
SG. Klay / GP2 / Moody / Quinones (two way)
SF. Wiggs / Kuminga
PF. Dray / Bjelica / Baldwin
C. Looney / Wiseman
A full roster is 15 players plus 2 two-ways. That leaves 2 roster spots plus 1 two-way spot. Of course if some of Bjelica, Payton, Looney fail to resign, that would leave more spots.
Thus GSW can sign up to 2 Free Agents and 1 Two-Way.
Which free agents are we seeking?
This is a question I haven’t investigated well. I have invited Perks from GSWReddit to write another piece on free agent targets, but Perks might not have time to finish it.
If that’s the way it breaks, what would the Warriors need to finish off their roster? They could use a veteran big wing in the Porter mold in case Kuminga isn’t quite ready to do it. They probably need the insurance veteran center they never added last season, just in case Wiseman can’t give them big minutes. They could use a third point guard, the role Chiozza played for much of last regular season, but like Chiozza this season, that could also be filled by a two-way guy.
Connor Letourneau thinks:
In addition to Porter, Golden State will take a hard look at Nicolas Batum, JaVale McGee, Robin Lopez, Isaiah Hartenstein and some others on the mid-level. But ultimately, the Warriors might decide that they’re better off freeing up minutes for their young players and saving the money. …
“Vets who sign on veteran-minimum deals still want to play, and Golden State just isn’t going to have much playing time available,” Smith said. “On top of all the guys who were big in this title run, the Warriors need to play Wiseman, Kuminga, Moody and maybe even a recent draft pick or two.”
Free agents who could fit the “ring chaser” billing include Blake Griffin, Paul Millsap, Rodney McGruder and Tony Snell. But if it’s between one of those players and someone like Bjelica or Lee, the Warriors might opt for continuity.