Warriors' Early 2022 Free-Agent Targets

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 21, 2022

Warriors' Early 2022 Free-Agent Targets

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    The Golden State Warriors are knee-deep in an NBA playoff run that they hope will last for multiple months.

    As far as this locker room is concerned, looking forward is not an option.

    But the rules are different for the front office. Decision-makers who aren't planning for the future won't be decision-makers for much longer.

    It's on the players and coaching staff to punctuate this season with a championship run. It falls on the front office to assemble the puzzle pieces capable of producing more titles down the line.

    The good news is that most of Golden State's heavy lifting is done, as the core is locked in place. The not-so-great news is that the heavy lifting comes with a colossal cost, meaning the Warriors will feel a financial crunch even before free agency opens.

    That limits what the Warriors can do (or even hope to accomplish) and probably points them toward mostly in-house shopping, although the mid-level exception and minimum contracts offer avenues to external additions if the front office finds the right fit.

Kyle Anderson

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    Kyle Anderson spent his first four NBA seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, and he continues displaying the high-level hoops IQ and ball-movement skills we've come to expect from the Silver and Black.

    Since Warriors coach Steve Kerr is a protege of longtime Spurs skipper Gregg Popovich, the appeal here should be obvious—and possibly substantial.

    Save for explosive agility, Anderson's bag has it all. He's a clever shot-creator, a smooth operator with the basketball and a versatile enough defender to pester small-ball centers and survive perimeter switches. He isn't a great shooter from distance (career 33.4 percent), though last season's 36 percent splash rate was perfectly palatable.

    If the Memphis Grizzlies prioritize financial flexibility, with big paydays for Ja Morant and Desmond Bane coming down the pike, they might not have the funds left over to retain Anderson. If he is up for grabs, he's the type of external target Golden State could seriously pursue.

Kevon Looney

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    Kevon Looney squeezes every ounce of internal oomph that he can out of his 6'9", 222-pound frame. Still, he can't make himself any bigger, so there are always going to be certain matchups with hulking centers that will worry the Warriors.

    That's perhaps why Golden State invested 2020's No. 2 pick in James Wiseman and why everyone seemingly waited for the Warriors to snag a center during trade season.

    But look where the Warriors have gotten, and look who's still manning the middle. Looney, a 2015 Warriors draft pick and rotation regular for the past half-decade, remains their best option to throw at bruising centers. His 7'4" wingspan helps him play bigger than his size, his motor perpetually remains full-throttle and, at this point, he might have a doctorate in the Dubs way.

    With Wiseman nothing more than a 7-foot question mark so far and Golden State limited in its options to pursue a front-line frontcourt player, Looney arguably presents the most compelling case to be the Warriors' starting center again next season.

Gary Payton II

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    Gary Payton II finding his offensive niche delivered a slew of career highs for the six-year veteran. His 7.1 points per game nearly doubled his previous best (3.9), and he made more threes this season (43) than he did during his first five seasons combined (23) while converting them at a 35.8 percent clip.

    Still, it's possible (if not outright accurate) to dub him a defensive specialist. The fact that he shines brightest at the game's less glamorous end means he might remain in the Warriors' price range despite engineering a breakout season.

    FiveThirtyEight's Defensive RAPTOR placed Payton fifth overall and second among all backcourt players. His 5.2 deflections per 36 minutes were second-most in the entire league, per NBA.com. He's a pest on the ball and a disruptive presence away from it, while his strength and instincts allow him to handle a wider range of defensive assignments than one would expect from a 6'3", 190-pound guard.

    Add insatiable energy and transition attacking to the mix, and you get why Golden State would want to bring him back—provided an outside suitor doesn't deem him worthy of a significant splurge.