Mike Dunleavy

Which Bay Area GM faces more pressure: 49ers' Lynch or Dubs' Dunleavy?

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A window of opportunity can close in a hurry, sometimes quicker than an outstretched arm can snatch its descent. The weight of greatness, singular or collective, is a burdened opportunity that’s power is in the beholder. 

Therein lies the difference between the 49ers and Warriors right now. 

Which general manager is under more pressure: John Lynch of the 49ers or Mike Dunleavy Jr. of the Warriors? Either can make a strong case for their team, but there’s one right answer because of one ultimate factor. 

“I think a lot fell on Steph [Curry’s] shoulders,” Dunleavy said at his end-of-season press conference less than two weeks ago. 

The 49ers have felt the Lombardi Trophy on the tip of their tongue in recent years, still waiting to actually taste all the NFL glory. The Warriors won their most recent NBA championship two years ago – their fourth in eight seasons, and one where they did so three years after the departure of a superstar (Kevin Durant) that also started the clock on a homegrown star (Klay Thompson) missing two straight seasons to injury – won by the same coach (Steve Kerr) and same original Big Three (Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green) that led a run of five straight trips to the NBA Finals, with three titles coming home. 

San Francisco has been home again to the Warriors for only four-plus years, yet it has seen a parade and ring ceremony more times for Dub Nation than the 49ers Faithful in a span that now has reached nearly two decades. For Dunleavy, for Lynch, for the Warriors, for the 49ers, for today and for the here and now, those celebrations aren’t the reason why Dunleavy is under more pressure than Lynch this offseason. 

It’s Curry, despite being an organization’s dream for having a superstar. As currently constructed, the 49ers have more collective talent than the Warriors. They don’t have Curry’s singular greatness and the responsibility that comes with his remaining years wearing a Warriors jersey. 

All seven of the 49ers’ All-Pro selections are back after losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime of Super Bowl LVIII in February. Most of their top players still are in their prime, and they lucked into finding a franchise quarterback, Brock Purdy, with the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, a year after a historic miss in the draft at the same position when the 49ers traded up for Trey Lance. The biggest challenge Lynch faced this offseason was deciding if he’d have to trade one of his two star receivers, Brandon Aiyuk or Deebo Samuel, an idea Lynch said Friday that he “didn’t entertain.” 

His answer instead was powering up now while preparing for the future. The 49ers took a receiver (Ricky Pearsall) in the first and fourth rounds (Jacob Cowing). Their three new skill position players on offense are a direct correlation of what happened in the Super Bowl, adding the fastest running back at the combine, Isaac Guerendo and his 4.33 40-yard dash, and two receivers who ran a 4.41 and 4.38, respectively. 

Dunleavy now has to decide if it’s time to break up the best shooting backcourt in basketball history and move on from Klay Thompson, or if the two sides can come to a deal that makes sense for both in free agency. Dealt with a Big Three decision last offseason, his first as GM, Dunleavy brought Green back on a four-year, $100 million contract that made Curry a happy man. He also showed his willingness to stir the pot for any chance to make the Warriors better when he traded Jordan Poole for Chris Paul the morning of his first draft sitting at the head of the table. 

Lynch and 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan have had their fair share of draft blunders and roster decisions. The pain of second place on the biggest stage undoubtedly causes sleepless nights and a never-ending scroll of what-ifs.

And it’s not like Dunleavy was responsible for the James Wiseman draft or the many other misses. Nor can he be seen as the orchestrator of the Warriors dynasty. He knows exactly what he signed up for taking over for his predecessor Bob Myers. All the challenges included. 

"It's just a lot for him to burden,” Dunleavy said of Curry. “We've got to find a way to help him out on that.”

The Warriors once were light years ahead because a baby-faced Steph Curry was basketball’s revolution. Countless tries haven’t created a clone. Duty follows dealing with greatness.

It’s easy to say the game has passed the Warriors by when watching these NBA playoffs. The only assurance of what’s next is the remaining two years on Curry’s contract, aligned with the two-year contract extension Kerr received during the season. Dunleavy holds the keys to which direction the Warriors will go, making it up to him if the waning road will be more burden than powerful opportunity.

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