There is little chance of Chris Paul cracking the Warriors’ starting lineup, as his primary role is etched in stone: Provide stable leadership to a second unit in dire need of it.
All of Paul’s minutes will be at point guard and most are expected to align with wings Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, as well as forward-center Dario Saric. The splendid specialist, Gary Payton II, is, like Paul, slated to split minutes between the starters and a second unit that often will feature starting shooting guard Klay Thompson.
The Warriors are 10 deep before they get to veteran point guard Cory Joseph, rookie shooting guard Brandin Podziemski and rookie center Trayce Jackson-Davis. Joseph’s minutes are directly linked to the health of Stephen Curry and CP3; if both are available and the game is competitive, he’ll sit. The rooks will have to crash their way onto the floor.
This leaves little to no playing time for whoever nabs the team’s vacant 14th – and anticipated final – roster spot or the two remaining two-way slots.
The derby is underway. The Warriors are at that point of the summer when they open the gym to free agents still on the market. As reported by The Athletic on Monday, six players have lined up workouts. There could be more, I’m told.
With so little playing time available, the deciding factor regarding the 14th man is fit within the culture. He must be an asset in every way on and off the court. Can’t be even the slightest distraction. Andre Iguodala, a practically perfect fit, filled the seat last season.
Here's a look at the six already on the calendar, from toughest to smoothest culture fit:
Golden State Warriors
Dion Waiters: The 31-year-old shooting guard is the most talented player of the bunch, capable of amazing scoring sprees. His confidence borders on delusional. His gifts make him intriguing, but he tends to wear out his welcome. Waiters spent his first eight seasons on four different teams and has been out of the NBA since 2019-20. Unlikely fit.
Tony Snell: The 31-year-old wing with a solid reputation is known for being a quiet soldier with a reliable 3-point shot (39.4 percent over his nine-year career), particularly from the corners. He was diagnosed last year with autism, which helps explain his reticence.
Trey Burke: The 30-year-old has managed to make a career out of being a small (6 foot, 180 pounds) backup point guard, in no small part due to an engaging personality. He has an itinerant history, having played nine seasons, with five different franchises and being traded four times. Out of the league last season. The Warriors won’t keep three backup point guards. Culture fit, roster misfit.
Harry Giles: The 6-foot-11 center was a five-star recruit who landed at Duke and was a first-round pick in 2017. He’s only 25, but his skills have been stolen by an incessant run of injuries, including surgeries to both knees. His size is appealing, as is his desire to keep chasing his dream. A culture fit, but his most likely route with Golden State is a two-way deal.
Kent Bazemore: Now 34, the 6-foot-5 wing has had two stints with Golden State, first as a rookie (2012-13) and eight years later. Once a terrific defender with a streaky 3-ball, he has lost some of the quickness that defined his best work. KB is an excellent culture fit, but how much does he have left?
Juan Toscano-Anderson: A homegrown player from the Bay now 30 years old, the 6-foot-6 wing spent his first three NBA seasons with Golden State and contributed on and off the court. He’s a grinder who took a tough path to the league. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green love him. He’s an excellent culture fit.
The Warriors are less than two months away from opening training camp on Oct. 2. Their plan is to study these six and a few more in the coming weeks. Lester Quiñones earned one of the three available two-way contracts. The Warriors are committed to filling one more roster spot.
A ticket to training camp could lead to a ticket to the league. It should be known, however, that it’s no guarantee of playing time with this team.