Golden State Warriors
2021-22 record: 53-29
Key additions: Donte DiVincenzo, JaMychal Green (free agency); Patrick Baldwin Jr. (2022 draft)
Key subtractions: Gary Payton II, Otto Porter Jr., Juan Toscano-Anderson & Damion Lee (free agency)
Last season: The fourth championship in the Stephen Curry Era was secured when Curry bulldozed the Celtics in the NBA Finals with a heap of 3-point shots and all-around dazzle. It was an elite performance by a superstar who, at times during a season where he became the all-time 3-point king, was uncharacteristically inefficient. Nonetheless: Curry won the All-Star MVP, Western Conference finals MVP, and Finals MVP. There was also the welcome return of Klay Thompson after missing two straight years with leg injuries, the emergence of Jordan Poole as a quality option, and the postseason breakout by Andrew Wiggins with impact play on both sides. All told, the Warriors returned to the throne as soon as Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green were whole again, like they’d never left.
Summer summary: The biggest news to emerge from the defending champs was actually no news. Kevin Durant demanded a trade from the Nets and the Warriors became a logical possible destination.
Can you imagine the tremors, had the Nets and Warriors struck a quick deal and KD was reunited with the franchise he helped win back-to-back titles? The Internet would’ve exploded and 29 other teams would’ve cried foul.
Alas, nothing materialized. Though you wanted to be a fly on the wall in the front office when or if there were deep internal discussions about the possibility. Such a deal would’ve involved trading Poole and Wiggins … and perhaps James Wiseman and multiple first-rounders. You wonder if the Warriors, who actually like their team — and why not? They did win the championship — would’ve hesitated a bit. Remember, the Warriors refused to unload young players and lottery picks over the last few years when opportunities to get immediate help in trades were presented to them. Ownership stated they’d rather keep those assets for the chance to win now and later.
The goal, though, is to win as many titles while Curry remains in his prime and while the Warriors are paying through the roof in luxury taxes and repeater penalties. It appears the Warriors will enter next season in defense of their championship with a rotation that’s been tweaked, not overhauled.
They did lose a few valuable role players in Otto Porter Jr. and Gary Payton II; each had solid moments during the postseason but, as is the case in sports, you can’t pay everyone. Besides, once those two players grabbed their first championship ring, securing the bag became more important. This isn’t unusual among championship teams; defections among rotational players are the norm.
In Payton’s case, he had yet to cash a multi-year NBA paycheck and signed with the Blazers for a number that would’ve amounted to a near-max once tax implications were factored in. In Porter’s case, the championship contributions tripled his salary and earned a player option with the Raptors.
The Warriors did well to replace both of them. Donte DiVincenzo is a frisky, energetic combo guard who had to shake the injury bug the last few years. He had good spurts in Milwaukee prior to setbacks. He can gobble the minutes left behind by Payton, though conceding some on the defensive end.
JaMychal Green is one of those reliable veterans every team craves. He’s a solid option in the paint, plays hard, and rarely costs his team with reckless play. Green should become a fixture in the rotation and gain fans in the locker room and on the coaching staff with his attitude and approach.
The other order of offseason business was paying center Kevon Looney, who more than held his own during the playoff run. Of course, all that did was hike the luxury tax penalty even higher, but what’s a few million more to a championship team that owns its shiny new arena? Looney will cash his biggest payday, $22 million over three years.
Otherwise, the summer was silent in the Bay Area. The Warriors are thrilled about their roster because there’s upside; Poole (who’ll be up for his money next summer) is just getting started, and Wiseman is set to return after missing his second NBA season due to injury. Plus there’s Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, a pair of recent draftees pushing for increased playing time.
No KD? No problem. The Warriors are built to win, as they showed in June, as they’ve shown the last decade.
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