Warriors' 2022 Free Agents, Targets and Draft Needs After NBA Finals WinJune 16, 2022
Warriors' 2022 Free Agents, Targets and Draft Needs After NBA Finals Win
The 2021-22 season was the first time in three years that the Golden State Warriors resembled the team they were built to be, and it paid off in the form of an NBA championship.
Klay Thompson made his much-anticipated return Jan. 9 after a two-season absence. Stephen Curry began the season playing at an MVP level before falling back to the pack. Draymond Green was arguably the front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year when he was able to play.
Injuries were still a problem for the Warriors' trio during the season. Curry missed the final 12 games of the regular season with a foot issue. Green missed 36 games, including 29 straight from Jan. 11 to March 12 with a back injury.
Even with those issues for their top three stars, the Warriors still finished third in the Western Conference thanks to some surprising performances. Andrew Wiggins was voted an All-Star starter and shot a career-high 39.3 percent from three-point range. Jordan Poole came into his own with 18.5 points per game in his third NBA season.
This was the first time since losing to the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 NBA Finals that the Warriors made the postseason. Their 53 wins were also their most since the 2018-19 campaign.
Here is a look ahead at what Golden State's front office has to think about for the roster heading into the 2022-23 season after capturing yet another NBA title.
Unrestricted Free Agents
Kevon Looney, PF
Damion Lee, SG
Andre Iguodala, SF
Otto Porter Jr., SF
Nemanja Bjelica, PF
Gary Payton II, PG
Chris Chiozza, PG
Restricted Free Agents (Qualifying Offer Value)
Juan Toscano-Anderson, SF ($2.127 million)
Quinndary Weatherspoon, SG ($1.576 million)
Qualifying offer values via Spotrac.
One by-product of the Warriors going all-in to retain their main core in order to maximize this window of contention is it leaves them with little cap flexibility.
Even with seven unrestricted free agents, they have $171.1 million in cap commitments to eight players next season. They will have a $52.8 million luxury-tax bill, per Spotrac. No other team is projected to have a bill over $20 million.
Among the unrestricted free agents Golden State could look to retain, Gary Payton II would seem to be high on the list. The 29-year-old had a positive impact on offense with 7.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in 71 appearances, but he really earned his money as a top-tier defensive player.
James Wiseman's recovery from a torn meniscus that kept him away from the NBA team all of last season could determine if general manager Bob Myers wants to bring back either Kevon Looney or Nemanja Bjelica.
Andre Iguodala, who signed a one-year deal to return to the Warriors, could be brought back on another minimum contract if he wants to stay with the team. The 38-year-old could also decide to end his career this summer.
Speaking to Jonathan Abrams of the New York Times in August, Iguodala said the opportunity to return to the Warriors and "end it here, was just something special."
Potential Free-Agent/Trade Targets
Despite being severely limited by the hard cap, the Warriors are never shy about at least exploring ways to upgrade their roster.
Given the uncertainty around Wiseman's health, as well as Looney and Bjelica being unrestricted free agents, one rumor that made the rounds before the start of the postseason involved Golden State potentially pursuing Rudy Gobert.
Per Sean Deveney of Heavy.com, one Western Conference executive suggested some Warriors players could push for the front office to acquire Gobert if he becomes available.
The dynamic between Gobert and Donovan Mitchell is always a major storyline for the Jazz, and Quin Snyder's departure along with their early playoff exit could play a factor in Utah making a blockbuster move.
There is a path for the Warriors to trade for Gobert, who is owed $38.2 million next season. However, the easiest way to facilitate a potential deal would be to center a deal around Wiggins ($33.6 million salary in 2022-23), though that's far less appealing after his stellar postseason performance.
Outside of a potential trade, Golden State won't be much of a factor in free agency. It will either re-sign some of its lower-level players or try to find free agents willing to take a cheap one-year deal for the chance to play for a possible title contender.
The Warriors have made the draft a priority in recent years. The front office has made no secret of its desire to find high-ceiling young players who will allow them to remain one of the best teams in the Western Conference after Curry, Thompson and Green begin to decline.
Wiseman and Jonathan Kuminga are still the main sources of long-term optimism in Golden State.
Picking at the back end of the first round does make it difficult to find potential stars, but there are some players available who could be valuable additions to the Warriors roster.
Kansas guard Christian Braun would fit in nicely with this Golden State team. He's a 6'7" guard with athleticism and versatility to play multiple positions at the next level.
B/R's Jonathan Wasserman, who projected Braun to be the No. 27 pick in his most recent mock draft, noted the Jayhawks star turned himself into a potential first-round pick by improving his "shooting efficiency from deep (39.2 percent), finishing (54.6 percent 2PT) and ability to make plays off the dribble (81st percentile pick-and-roll ball-handler)."
Given how much attention Curry and Thompson absorb from opposing defenses, and Green's passing ability, Braun's shooting touch could make him an effective scorer early in his career.
If the Warriors want to draft more for need, Arizona center Christian Koloko could be on their radar. Wiseman has only played 39 games in his first two seasons. No one really has any idea what he's going to be at this stage of his career.
Koloko averaged 12.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in just 25.4 minutes per game as a junior in 2021-22. Wasserman noted some NBA teams compare Koloko to Nic Claxton because of "his size, mobility and versatility to protect the rim and cover ground."
One encouraging sign for Koloko as an offensive player heading into the NBA is his improved free-throw shooting. He went from making 35.0 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe as a freshman to 73.5 percent last season.
The Warriors are going to need size, especially with the concerns about Wiseman's durability. Koloko has the potential to be a solid starter in the NBA, and he's refined his game in three seasons at Arizona.