Amid a critical offseason for the Golden State Warriors, there’s an essential distinction for fans to make:
It’s not what the Warriors want to do with their roster this summer. It’s what they can do.
It’s fun to imagine moves the Warriors can make to put the team in a better position to win a fifth title under Steve Kerr and Steph Curry. I’ve spent plenty of mental bandwidth on the subject. I’ve even written some of it down.
But, as is often the case, reality is far more limited than one’s imagination.
And with the Warriors, there are layers of restrictions in place that lead me to believe that this offseason will leave the team in a significantly similar place to where they entered it.
The first limitation is that the Warriors lack an appointed top decision-maker in basketball operations. That’s a big deal when you’re trying to make big deals.
Yes, Bob Myers is still technically the team’s president of basketball operations and general manager, titles he will hold until the end of this month. And yes, Mike Dunleavy Jr. appears to be running the show in the interim. But significant decisions with long-term ramifications aren’t going to be made by an interim boss or a committee of top internal candidates.
Trading a player like Jordan Poole — who signed a four-year, nine-figure deal less than a year ago — or Draymond Green — a Steve Kerr favorite (still), one of the greatest Warriors of all time — would unquestionably reach that status.
Until an actual head of the basketball ops department is made, it’d be malpractice for the Warriors to entertain anything but the status quo with the roster. Interim leaders can draft a few players, and add some guys to the league minimum (all the Warriors can do this offseason, other than trades), but handing out big extensions or letting a future Hall of Famer leave is unquestionably out of the purview.
Ignoring that issue, another one for the Warriors: they can’t trade their first-round draft pick before June 22.
Because of the Stepien Rule, which forbids teams from not having a first-round draft pick in back-to-back drafts, and the Warriors’ trade of Andre Iguodala to Memphis, which sent a conditional first-round pick in 2024, the Warriors cannot attach their 2023 or 2025 first-round draft picks to any deals at the moment.
Now, once the Warriors pick at the NBA Draft on June 22, they can trade that player, but logically, that would diminish the value of the pick, no?
Don’t forget, the Warriors are in a position where they are trying to sell diminished assets. A first-round pick could be a good make-weight in a Poole trade. If the Warriors can’t sweeten the pot with a top-30 selection, such a deal would be even more challenging.
By the way, many teams are in a similar jam to the Dubs regarding draft picks. In a league where clean player-for-player(s) deals are rare, the pool of possible Poole trade partners is likely no more than three or four teams.
The NBA trade landscape has never been more complicated, and the Warriors’ situation is dire. If they stand pat, they’re too expensive, but if they make big moves — especially if Green departs — they’re unlikely to compete for titles.
It’s more prudent to cut the check and let things play out. One final year of Green and Klay Thompson (who is entering the last year of his contract). A season for Poole and Jonathan Kuminga to improve their value to the team — and the rest of the league. A big, possibly half-billion dollar check for a chance at some real flexibility next summer — an opportunity for the team’s new GM to make their imprint on the team.
It’s the NBA. Absurdity is the norm. But looking at the landscape, it seems ever more likely that the Warriors of the 2023-24 season will look an awful lot like the Warriors from the 2022-23 campaign — for better or for worse.