SAN FRANCISCO – By saying on numerous occasions that he wants to spend his NBA career with the Warriors but opting out of the final year of his contract, as expected, Draymond Green dropped the matter into the four hands responsible for maintaining the team’s front office.
Those hands, two belonging to CEO Joe Lacob and two belonging to new general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr., planted their flag of hope on Monday, mere hours after Green’s decision was revealed by his agent, Rich Paul.
“I will say, (coach) Steve (Kerr) has said it and I will reiterate it: We really want Draymond back,” Dunleavy said. “What he means in terms of this organization and this team, winning at the highest level, we feel like we have to have him.”
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Lacob was emphatically appreciative while assessing Draymond’s past contributions but less so regarding the future.
“Look, he's been a spectacular player for us,” Lacob said. “We would not have these championships without his involvement, no question. I think everyone understands that in this room. He's meant a lot to this franchise.
“He's a bit of a controversial player perhaps in some corners around the league, certain things that have happened over the years. He knows that. We know that. But the good overwhelms the bad. He probably needs to improve, just like we all do, get better at certain things. We probably need, as Mike said, to improve as an organization in some ways, for sure. He's meant a lot. If he does come back, he will be very important to our success certainly going forward in the next few years.”
There’s a lot between the lines of Lacob’s statement, including an early negotiating tactic and awareness of the team’s stratospheric payroll. He sets the spending limit and wisely is preparing for the possibility of a stalemate that could toss the matter back into the hands of Draymond and Paul.
Golden State Warriors
There is at least one other factor in the recesses of Lacob’s mind – and perhaps that of Dunleavy, too. The Warriors this summer could reach a point where they might have to choose between Jordan Poole and Draymond Green.
There was the oft-publicized instance in which Draymond walked up to JP and slugged him in the face during a preseason practice last October. There is the possibility that breach of brotherhood might never be closed. There is the fact that JP’s contract, which could be worth as much as $140 million (with two layers of incentives) over four years -- larger than any contract Green ever signed -- is a massive investment in the future of the Warriors.
Poole is on Golden State's books and will stay there unless he is traded. And, yes, that is very much in the realm of possibility.
Green will go off the books at the start of free agency in two weeks, with the hope of a new deal that puts him back on the books for at least three years.
Poole represents a valuable asset today with the potential to grow into much more tomorrow.
Green represents an essential component of Golden State’s past glory that, at age 33, almost certainly will provide diminishing returns as Poole enters his prime.
Golden State’s “right now” list includes JP and, hopefully, Draymond. The “down the road” list includes only JP.
Dunleavy, for now, leans hard toward having both on the roster next season -- which likely doesn’t happen unless Draymond gets a multiyear contract.
“First and foremost, like it's been said, to be able to get Draymond back would be huge,” he said. “From there, we would love to make improvements to the point of can we add some more shooting? Versatility? Can we add some connectivity, whether that's through ball handling, passing, veteran experience?
“We've heard, talked to the coaching staff, talked to our players, we have a good sense of kind of what we need to do.”
If this summer follows the signal of last winter, it’s conceivable the Warriors commit to Draymond and find a way to move JP. The trade of James Wiseman in February, essentially to reacquire Gary Payton II, was a signal that the franchise was betting on the immediate.
The front office, the coaching staff and the influential veterans on the roster last season felt enough urgency to make a risky move to maximize the remaining seasons of the accomplished veteran core trio, with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson alongside Green.
The Warriors are, according to several league sources, open to trades. Poole’s age (24) and talent and contract make him someone who can yield an immediate contributor in return.
Might both Green and Poole be on the roster when training camp opens? Yes. But if only one shows up, it’s because the Warriors stayed with the timeline adjusted only four months ago. They will have found a way to meet Draymond’s price.