The Warriors are stuck between a rock and a hard cap.
Golden State has very little in the way of salary cap room and roster flexibility as a result of the sign-and-trade for D'Angelo Russell. With the preseason in full swing and the regular season fast approaching, The Warriors were already going to have to make some tough decisions, and that was before Marquese Chriss fell into the Dubs' laps.
The decision the Warriors now face is even tougher, but only because they lucked out.
Through the first two preseason games, it's evident that Chriss is far too talented to let out of their grasps. A former lottery pick, Chriss offers the combination of youth and talent that Golden State needs so desperately on its pivoting roster. With the injuries to Kevon Looney, Willie Cauley-Stein and Alen Smailagic, Chriss has the look of an important big-man contributor, both in the present and down the line. Quite simply, he needs to be on the regular-season roster.
If only it was that simple.
The Warriors don't have enough room under the salary cap to sign Chriss to a guaranteed contract -- which, at this point, he's certain to command from another team if not Golden State -- so in order to get him on the roster, someone else would have to depart. The simplest solution would be to release Alfonzo McKinnie, as the small forward's salary doesn't become fully guaranteed until Jan. 10. However, that's not the only possible solution.
McKinnie has an elite skill -- rebounding -- which is more than one can say for second-year guard Jacob Evans. The No. 28 overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft underwhelmed in his first professional season, averaging 1.3 points per game over 30 appearances while struggling with his shot. Drafted with the intention of being Klay Thompson's future backup at shooting guard, Evans has already undergone somewhat of a position switch, as he's now the default third point guard behind Steph Curry and Russell.
Golden State Warriors
Evans might thrive in that role and prove to be a critical member of Golden State's roster this season. He could provide Curry and Russell with the occasional breather, while using his now-superior length at the '1' to be a staunch defender. That's the ideal realistic scenario, and Evans certainly does still offer some promise. His shot appears somewhat improved. But that is precisely why he should be traded.
If the Warriors cut McKinnie, they get nothing. You could argue he's more expendable to Golden State than Evans is, given the presence of Glenn Robinson III, Alec Burks and Damion Lee (to an extent), all of whom potentially could play the '3'. However, both Robinson III and Burks are newcomers to the organization, and the Warriors can use all of the retained experience in Steve Kerr's system that they can get. McKinnie might not be an All-Star, or even average, but no one can say for certain that he isn't Golden State's best option at small forward.
If the Warriors aren't going to cut someone to make room for Chriss, then a trade is the alternative method. Golden State could try to find a taker for big man Omari Spellman, as Chriss could help the Warriors cover from a positional standpoint. However, with Smailagic still very raw, the Dubs might be better off prioritizing depth at center.
Spellman was the No. 30 overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft, taken by the Hawks two selections after Golden State took Evans. As such, the two second-year players have nearly identical salaries, as well as team options for the next two seasons beyond this one.
If the Warriors are going to give something up, they might as well get something in return. Of the aforementioned options, Evans would likely bring back the largest return. Granted, it won't be large whatsoever. It's bound to be extremely minimal, along the lines of a future second-round draft pick, several seasons into the future.
But, that's something. And right now, the Warriors need to be accumulating assets that will help rebuild the franchise in the wake of significant offseason losses. Chriss is one of those assets. As for Evans, he might be more of an asset to Golden State if he's on another team.