NBA Free Agency

Dunleavy, Warriors willing to trade youngsters for right player

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SAN FRANCISCO – Though the Warriors have long resisted the notion of making Jonathan Kuminga available in trade, that stance lost some of its power Thursday afternoon.

Kuminga and fellow members of Golden State’s young core – Trayce Jackson-Davis, Moses Moody and Brandin Podziemski – might not be on the market – but general manager Mike Dunleavy made it apparent that none is untouchable.

That any or all of them might be moved for the right return.

“It would have to be something that we felt would unequivocally change the trajectory of our franchise,” Dunleavy said.

Like, say, adding a nine-time NBA All-Star. Or someone voted six times to the All-NBA team. Or, maybe, a four-time All-Defensive team member.

Paul George is all those things in one. And the Warriors, according to league sources, are monitoring the George’s status with the Los Angeles Clippers. He can decline his $48.8 million player option for next season and become an unrestricted free agent.

And the Clippers, according to president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank, are bracing for that possibility.

“We’ve had ongoing conversations with Paul and Aaron Mintz, his agent,” Frank told reporters Thursday afternoon in LA. “We love Paul. We very much want to retain Paul.

“But we also very much understand and respect the fact this is a business. And players have a finite amount of time to be able to not just make the most amount of money but to be able to pursue whatever they want.”

George, who turned 34 last month, would be the most attractive available UFA on the market. LeBron James is not leaving the Los Angeles Lakers – not with his son, Bronny, coming aboard. Philadelphia’s Tyrese Maxey is a restricted free agent. James Harden simply is less attractive than George.

“We hope Paul’s decision is to be here,” Frank said. “He’s been awesome. He’s been an All-Star three of the five years. He’s one of the best two-way players in the league. He’s a terrific person, got a great family. We hope he’s here.

“But we also respect the fact that if he chooses to opt out, that’s his choice. He’s earned it. And we’ll see how things play out.”

So, will the Warriors. After finishing sixth in the Western Conference in 2023, they tumbled to 10th last season. They’re angling for a big splash.

That means adding an established star with the gifts to complement and bolster veteran leaders Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, both of whom are in their mid-30s.

George, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound wing, is one of few potentially available players who fits the bill.

The Warriors don’t have the cap space to pursue George as a free agent, so their only path to acquisition would through via sign-and-trade deal. That can’t happen until the new cap year begins on July 1.

There are other hurdles to such a transaction, all of which can be navigated if all parties are willing.

And it’s conceivable to believe the Warriors would be willing to sacrifice some of their future to put themselves in position to compete for a championship.

Losing any of the four youngsters would be painful. But Kuminga would be the toughest to part with, particularly after he made appreciable improvement last season.

“We like those guys,” Dunleavy said. “We think they’re going to be really good, so it would have to be something that makes us a lot better than that.”

Paul George brings enough skill to immediately make the Warriors a lot better than “good.” Of all the players who might be available, he might be the only one about which that can be said.

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