NBA Free Agency

Warriors' allure faces stiff test in NBA free agency

NBC Universal, Inc.

The Warriors wade into NBA free agency with the re-signing of Draymond Green as their top priority, and they believe they have the goods to meet that goal. Once that is settled, one way or the other, the deeper mystery begins.

That’s when the rest of the free-agent market will peek at the smallest wallet in the league and tell the Warriors where they stand.

There was a time when the answer was known. The Warriors’ success generated a fascination, if not a mystique. With an attractive location, a positive team environment, a new-age coach, a credible front office and aggressive ownership, they were the NBA’s undisputed version of royalty.

For the first time in more than 50 years in the Bay Area, the Warriors had become one of the most inviting destinations in American sports.

After the events of the past nine months, how much, if any, of that allure remains?

Draymond Green’s blow to the face of Jordan Poole last October made the absolute wrong impression on the team’s young players and slashed a gash into the overall environment.

The departure this month of general manager Bob Myers, two-time Executive of the Year winner and owner of four championship rings, puts new GM Mike Dunleavy Jr. and his lieutenants on probation.

The aggressive ownership, led by Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, has been neutralized by the most punitive clauses of the old collective bargaining agreement (which began in 2017) and the new one that goes into effect on Saturday. The luxury tax constricts the wallet.

Golden State’s royalty designation, some of which was reaffirmed with the 2022 NBA Finals victory, was demolished by the 11-30 road record, the No. 6 playoff seed in the Western Conference and a second-round dismissal from the postseason.

The Warriors are, once again, in search of the gold dust that made them special – and it’s that much harder for them to sell themselves.

Team touchstone Stephen Curry has overcome a lot during his NBA career, but profiting from his presence isn’t as easy now as it was a few years ago – when so many franchise inducements were at his back.

It was Curry who led the delegation that journeyed to the Hamptons in 2016 and persuaded Kevin Durant to sign with the Warriors. What followed was a procession of effective veterans willing to sign minimum contracts. David West. Zaza Pachulia. JaVale McGee.

With West, Pachulia and McGee gone after the 2018 season, DeMarcus Cousins saw an opportunity to align with royalty. He phoned Myers and agreed to come aboard on a minimum deal.

The first cracks came in the summer of 2019. When it was evident that KD wouldn't be on the roster and Klay Thompson wouldn't be healthy, Myers engineered a sign-and-trade involving Durant that brought D’Angelo Russell to Golden State. What followed were minimum deals for Alec Burks, Glenn Robinson III and Willie Cauley-Stein. All veterans under 30. Only Burks was in the NBA last season.

The minimum-deal market was no kinder to Golden State the following season, when Kent Bazemore and Brad Wanamaker were the chosen vets who came through the door behind big-ticket trade acquisition Kelly Oubre Jr.

Not until the 2021-22 championship season, when the Warriors were hoping to rejuvenate their brand, did they find minimum-deal veterans that paid off. Otto Porter Jr. and Nemanja Bjelica, both trying to rejuvenate their careers, made significant contributions to a championship season.

The Warriors were back, champagne and a parade. On top of the world.

That surely provided bait for aging vet JaMychal Green to sign a minimum deal and young vet Donte DiVincenzo to accept a two-year taxpayer mid-level exception contract with a player option for year two. Both arrived with championship dreams.

This time around, though, the Warriors are back among the league’s JAGS: Just Another Good Squad.

The addition of Chris Paul, who brings a complicated reputation, might help. Might. He can chafe the nerves of teammates, but he has a knack for gifting them with relatively easy buckets. That can influence someone seeking a season loud enough to snag a considerably larger contract next summer.

Those operating out of Chase Center offices are confident they can regain what was lost. That puts a lot of burden on the shoulders of coach Steve Kerr, who concedes he didn’t always have his best stuff. It puts even more on Dunleavy, who can’t cite his previous successes.

RELATED: DiVincenzo reportedly declines player option, to enter free agency

Post-Draymond, it’s a minimum-contract bazaar for the Warriors. Truly attractive free-agent vets tend not to linger on that shelf – even if it means joining a group going all-in for the big win.

Wish them a touch of recruitment magic. They’re going to need it.

Download and follow the Dubs Talk Podcast

Contact Us