Warriors Players Who Need to Boost Free-Agency Value in 2021 Playoffs
Did the Golden State Warriors just become the scariest team in basketball?
Sure, they elicited an appropriate fear all season because Stephen Curry remains one of the most explosive offensive weapons in the entire NBA. But what is going on around the MVP candidate is what might be turning Golden State into the proverbial team no one wants to face.
Keeping the attention on the supporting cast, let's spotlight three players who could hit the open market this summer and perhaps earn a good chunk of change before that based on their play in Golden State's postseason run.
Kent Bazemore (Unrestricted)
Kent Bazemore's past two trips to the free-agent market were dramatically different.
In 2016, when just about everyone had money to spend thanks to a new broadcasting deal, he scored a four-year, $70 million pact from the Atlanta Hawks. When that expired in 2020, he returned to the Warriors (his first NBA employer) for a one-year deal at the veteran's minimum.
With his 32nd birthday looming in July and free-agent funds at a premium, he won't find his way back to an eight-figure salary regardless how the postseason plays out. But if shows some extra pep at the offensive end, he might not have to settle for minimum money this time around.
He is long and hyperactive on defense, and he usually stays in his lane on offense. However, his shooting and scoring can come and go. If he's often left unattended as teams throw a comical amount of attention at Curry and can't make them pay, Bazemore might be left lingering in the bargain bin again.
Kevon Looney (Player Option)
If you're going by Kevon Looney's per-game contributions of 5.1 rebounds and 4.0 points, you might assume it's a no-brainer he will pick up his $5.2 million player option for next season. But if you're searching for his impact on the stat sheet, you're looking in the wrong place.
"It's never gonna show up in the box score," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Looney's impact.
Looney is the kind of player who must be seen to be appreciated. And if the Warriors are around long enough for other teams to watch, they could easily talk themselves into an experienced big man who sets solid screens, cleans the glass, finishes from close range, keeps the ball moving when he doesn't have a shot and always rotates to the right place at the right time.
This stage suits him well, which is normally a good thing. But if Golden State can't get past the play-in tournament or doesn't put up a fight against its first-round opponent, then Looney's free-agent sales pitch might fall flat.
Kelly Oubre Jr. (Unrestricted)
Kelly Oubre Jr. will be a polarizing choice for a couple of reasons.
For starters, he's by far the most polarizing player on the roster. Tabbed to be the stand-in for the injured Klay Thompson, Oubre has delivered the necessary defensive versatility in the backcourt. Offensively, though, his numbers have fallen across the board, and he hasn't seemed to fully grasp the system (or reap the rewards of it).
Second, and maybe more importantly, it's not clear whether Oubre will be ready to go for the postseason. He hasn't suited up since April 27 after aggravating a left wrist injury that includes "a small avulsion fracture and ligament tear of the wrist," per ESPN's Nick Friedell.
If Oubre can give it a go, though, all potential 2021 spenders will keep close tabs on him. There have been rumblings of a $20 million annual salary, which seems sky-high for what he has given to Golden State. But that is the going rate for a wing who can defend multiple positions, make open threes and finish at the basket. Oubre has been that kind of player before, and if he finds that form again, he will collect a fortune in free agency.