Ranking Warriors' Priorities for 2022 NBA Free Agency

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 12, 2022

Ranking Warriors' Priorities for 2022 NBA Free Agency

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    The Golden State Warriors will have a busy 2022 NBA offseason.

    What they'll find out over the coming months is whether they'll be attempting to keep a championship roster together or be searching for the final pieces to get over the hump.

    With several key contributors entering free agency—and one eligible for an extension seemingly growing pricier by the second—let's break down the top priorities for this front office to tackle.

1. Jordan Poole's Contract Extension

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    While Jordan Poole wasn't named this season's Most Improved Player—he shockingly didn't even crack the top three—it would be hard to argue that many players showed more growth over the course of this campaign.

    Last season, it took him multiple months and a G League deployment before he was able to lock down a regular rotation role. This year, he has vaulted to third on the offensive pecking order while flashing handles, off-ball movements and volume shooting that all look like they were lifted from Stephen Curry's personal bag of tricks.

    After averaging 18.5 points in the regular season, Poole pumped it up to 21.9 through his first nine career playoff games. More impressively, he simultaneously elevated his efficiency, too. Entering Wednesday, his postseason shooting slash sits at a Curry-esque 54.3/43.6/89.7.

    Poole is extension-eligible this offseason, and a nine-figure contract feels imminent. While the Warriors could wait to pay him until next summer when he enters restricted free agency, they risk both hurting this relationship and letting the market ink him to a contract offer sheet with team-unfriendly terms. The smart move is probably paying him now and positioning him at (or at least near) the center of their next chapter.

2. Keeping Kevon Looney

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    While it's possible Golden State goes big-game hunting at the center spot this summer—the Dubs have already been mentioned in the Rudy Gobert sweepstakes—the club might be better off keeping the rock-solid Kevon Looney in that spot.

    Sure, the Warriors might find bigger names and numbers elsewhere, but they should first consider this age-old inquiry: If it ain't broke, why fix it?

    Looney fits his lunch-pail role like a pair of compression socks. He sets hard screens. He stays active on the glass. He finishes from close range. He won't force the issue if he doesn't have an opening.

    This is his seventh season at Golden State University, and he could probably knock out a dissertation on coach Steve Kerr's system in a matter of hours. The chemistry and continuity alone might be worth the cost of Looney's next contract, and the information he can provide to sophomore center James Wiseman could be invaluable.

3. Choosing Between Payton and Porter

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    You could make the argument Golden State should have interest in retaining all of its free agents. If the Warriors cap this campaign with a championship run, it might be impossible to argue against the idea.

    But that, of course, neglects all of the forces that are outside of the organization's control in free agency. You know, like the fact the market could have such an interest in the Warriors' players—if the Dubs want to keep them, other teams probably covet them, too—that running them back isn't financially feasible.

    Tough decisions seem unavoidable, and perhaps the toughest could be deciding which raise they want to cover: the one going to Gary Payton II or the one slated for Otto Porter Jr.?

    If the Warriors can only afford one, then godspeed to whoever has to make that call. Payton is the best guard defender on the team (one of the best in the league, by the way) and utilizing him as a small-ball big on offense has finally given him a helpful niche. Porter is the proverbial three-and-D swingman who has predictably proved an effortless fit in this system.

    Both are deserving of big raises, which probably forces the Warriors to choose one or the other.