Warriors Analysis

Warriors poised to avoid roster turbulence from last season

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As the hours tick down and anxiety mounts, the only substantive concern the Warriors have on the eve of free agency is getting Draymond Green’s signature on the dotted line. Everything after that is garnish.

If Draymond signs, first-year general manager Mike Dunleavy and longtime coach Steve Kerr are practically assured of avoiding the annoying roster turbulence of last season.

From frequent injuries to excused absences, from load management to sheer desperation, one of the dirty truths about the 2022-23 Warriors is that continuity was a rumor. Kerr trotted out 25 different starting lineups in the regular season, five different lineups in 13 playoff games.

No serious contender is relying on two-way players getting significant minutes in crucial games, but that was the case with Anthony Lamb and Ty Jerome. Not because Kerr and his staff adored them but because they were desperately filling roster gaps and those two had earned more trust with the veterans than their younger teammates.

If Kerr lost a few hairs and added a few worry wrinkles, it might be related to spending 95 games riding ceaseless waves of rotation roulette.

That has been addressed so carefully and quickly that next season’s rotation, assuming Draymond’s inclusion, is fairly set three months before training camp: Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson at guard, Andrew Wiggins and Green at forward, Kevon Looney at center.

Furthermore, the bench already has Chris Paul as its point guard, Gary Payton II as its defensive ace and utility man, Jonathan Kuminga as its hyperathletic wing and Moses Moody as its facile guard/forward.

Golden State has a nine-man rotation before either rookie – both of whom Dunleavy anticipates being on the 14-man roster – touches the floor.

First-round pick Brandin Podziemski projects as a shooter and second-round pick Trayce Jackson-Davis brings a defensive mentality and the ability to finish in the paint.

“Our roster is in a good place I'd say,” Dunleavy said last week. “We don't have too many decisions to make.”

Understand, now, this was the new GM’s assessment before the draft – and while knowing but not acknowledging that dynamic guard Jordan Poole would be a valuable trade asset.

Free agency, then, is about filling in the edges. It’s about finding veterans with at least one identifiable skill and getting them to sign a minimum contract. Sure, there’s always chance, maybe a good chance, one or two could displace one of the previously mentioned nine players and crack the rotation.

But it’s highly unlikely that the Warriors, staring at a luxury-tax bill that will push the payroll beyond $400 million, will do anything splashy. Unless that is, negotiations with Draymond hit an irreconcilable wall.

Assuming they don’t, Kerr’s only concern will be managing minutes and load for his over-30 club. Paul is 38, Curry 35, Thompson and Green each 33. None likely will exceed 75 games, and Paul projects closer to 60.

Which points to the lone projected caveat: Mileage. With mileage/age comes regular maintenance and increased injury risk. Dr. Rick Celebrini, whose management of Otto Porter Jr. two seasons ago was nothing less than spectacular, will be as valuable as any player on the roster.

Celebrini’s history is enough to give the Warriors faith in his process.

If Mike Dunleavy appears a bit too comfortable for someone promoted 10 minutes ago, it’s because he’s confident in what the roster will look like with Draymond.

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He’s also confident that CEO Joe Lacob won’t sit on his hands in the unlikely event Draymond goes elsewhere.

“A lot can be made of all the challenges that are coming our way, whether it be aging roster, the new CBA with some of the limitations there, anything else you can bring up,” Dunleavy said last week. “We're aware of all those things.

“But we also feel like we're in a great place because we've got a competitive owner willing to spend, a group that's tied in, has good synergy, good processes, good, sound decision-making. We feel confident we can navigate it.”

Put simply, the Warriors can look at their current roster and know they have but one big objective in the coming days, and that is securing Draymond.

Do that, and let training camp separate those who will be in the rotation from those providing bench decoration.

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