Projecting Landing Spots for Warriors' Top Free Agents

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 14, 2022

Projecting Landing Spots for Warriors' Top Free Agents

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    The Golden State Warriors are preparing for what they hope will be a long run in the 2022 NBA playoffs.

    Is it too early, then, to look ahead at their upcoming free-agent class? Not at all.

    Decision-makers are surely doing just that, and not only the ones who reside in the Bay Area.

    The Warriors should have plenty of coveted free agents this summer, so we're spotlighting the top three and making educated guesses about where they might wind up.

Kevon Looney

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    The Warriors won 73 games in Kevon Looney's first season and world championships in his second and third. He'd have a hard time finding reasons to leave assuming the money is relatively equal.

    And it just might be.

    The 26-year-old may not be a centerpiece in the way Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are, but he is nevertheless a pivotal piece of what the Dubs are doing.

    He's a solid screen-setter, a reliable finisher, an active rebounder and a sneaky-good passer. It's hard to overstate the importance of his consistency in light of the year-plus absence of 2020's No. 2 pick, James Wiseman.

    Looney understands coach Steve Kerr's system inside and out on both ends of the floor, and he knows where Curry, Thompson and Green work best. The Warriors have his Bird rights, so they can pay whatever is needed to keep him, and it's tough to imagine him receiving an offer so rich that they let him go.

    Prediction: Looney re-signs with the Warriors.

Gary Payton II

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    How much do the Dubs value defense? Find that answer and you'll find out the likelihood of Gary Payton II sticking around.

    The 29-year-old already had a strong defensive reputation entering this season, but this year sealed it. He had a full-time rotation gig for the first time and didn't slip one inch as a stopper. In fact, FiveThirtyEight's Defensive RAPTOR ranked him fifth overall and second among all backcourt players.

    Payton hadn't previously added enough offensive value to handle major minutes, but the Warriors found ways to increase his utility at that end. They maximized his impact as an above-the-rim finisher and helped him find his touch on the corner three-ball. The results were a blistering 61.6 field-goal percentage and a personal-best 35.8 percent splash rate from the perimeter.

    That type of production will get the Oregon State alum noticed, but Golden State should have the flexibility to keep him if it wants.

    As The Athletic's Danny Leroux noted, the Warriors have Payton's early Bird rights, which allows them to pay him up to roughly $10 million. That should be more than they need to keep him during an offseason in which few teams have significant spending money.

    Prediction: Payton re-signs with the Warriors.

Otto Porter Jr.

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    Otto Porter Jr. has just about seen it all over his nine-year career, collecting everything from max money to his current veteran's minimum salary along the way.

    His experience, intelligence and two-way versatility all made him a logical fit in Golden State, and the pairing has played out as expected with the 28-year-old pairing an efficient 46.4/37.0/80.3 shooting slash with his most games played since 2021-22.

    "Training staff here has a plan," Porter told The Athletic's Anthony Slater. "It's worked wonders for me."

    Coming together proved mutually beneficial for the Georgetown alum and the Warriors. He stayed healthy and surely increased his value ahead of his return to the open market, while they filled a critical role by finding a trusty veteran who could help them play small-ball as a spacer, versatile defender and rebounder.

    Still, it's hard to see this last beyond this season, unless Porter wants to give them a discount or they want to give him a chunk (or all) of their mid-level exception. Chances are, he can find more money (and, if he remains healthy, probably more minutes) elsewhere.

    Prediction: Porter signs with the Portland Trail Blazers.