SAN FRANCISCO – The trade speaks for itself right now, largely because the Warriors can’t say anything about the surprise deal sending Chris Paul to the Bay Area and Jordan Poole to the Wizards until after. it becomes official on July 6.
Yes, just flipping a 24-year-old mercurial on a long-term deal for a Hall of Fame-bound curmudgeon 38-year-old on a very short-term deal says a lot about the state of the Warriors. of mind and financial parameters right now. Add to that the drafting of two rugged prospects, Santa Clara guard Brandin Podziemski and Indiana big man Trayce Jackson-Davis, and there’s a strong theme that’s hard to miss.
New GM Mike Dunleavy Jr., Joe Lacob, Kirk Lacob, Steve Kerr and all the others don’t have to say the words: they still love their dynastic core of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, but after the struggles and strains from last season, they knew they had to make some significant changes to the rest of their roster. They want to toughen up. Stronger in the face of adversity. More effective and consistent in playoff situations.
The Warriors don’t have to say the words. But after Friday’s press conference to introduce Podziemski and Jackson-Davis, and days before anyone on the team was allowed to discuss Paul’s acquisition, Kerr explained the general terms of the company’s goal. Warriors offseason.
“We’re going to be very different,” Kerr told me. “The last thing I’m going to do is say anything about a team that just won a championship a year ago and then battled through a tough season. I’ve had a hell of a run at the end of this year. I loved this group that we had for the past two years.
“But the biggest point is that we felt we needed a change. That didn’t mean we needed an overhaul, but we needed some change. I think everyone in the organization felt it. And it feels like we’ve made quite a big change without giving up our identity and our sense of who we are as a team. I think overall it’s a very positive change.
There are obviously a lot of risks involved. Just eight months ago, the Warriors brass were unanimous in favor of handing Poole a four-year, $123 million contract extension that won’t start until next season… when he’ll likely score more 30 points per game in Washington. Even Friday, no one from the Warriors I spoke to expressed regret about the deal.
But the Warriors needed to change a few things both stylistically and financially to try to catch up with the Nuggets champion and the rest of the Western Conference powerhouses and give themselves a way out of the dreaded second pay deck by the next offseason. The Poole-for-Paul deal (which includes the Warriors also sending 2022 first-rounder Patrick Baldwin Jr. to the Wizards) subtracts nearly $100 million from future salary commitments — which would have been multiplied multiple times by tax penalties luxury if that money stayed on the books in future seasons — and also gives the Warriors their best secondary perimeter playmaker since Shaun Livingston. Beyond that, if Paul suffers another injury-plagued season, the Warriors can exit his unsecured $30 million in 2024-25 or flip that contract for another high-paying player.
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Paul, too, is a notable scowler and scrapper in the field; he had his tense moments with the Warriors, just like he had with just about everyone. He also rarely turns the ball over, struggles on defense and is just the kind of adult the Warriors crave this offseason after their experiences with Poole, James Wiseman and several other teenage rookies.
Thursday night after the draft, here’s what Dunleavy said when I asked him if he was aiming to acquire the kind of players that will make the Warriors tougher next season:
“Yes, I would say ‘competitiveness’ – there is a competitiveness,” Dunleavy said. “We drafted a few guys with really good track records. Obviously, four-year-old Trayce (of college play); Brandin really only played one year, 21, but guys who have a sample of going out and doing things. At the top, kind of a competitive/difficult factor which was something I think, taking into account feedback from our team, from our coaches this year, we kind of had to go back to it.
Podziemski is a smaller, hard-shooting guard who led the rebounding WCC (8.8 per game) last season and said he hopes to average a triple-double in his NBA career very soon. Jackson-Davis is a bit of a big, undersized, non-jumping man who was a Naismith Defensive Player of the Year finalist and blocked 2.9 shots per game last season. There’s plenty of tape from both of their college careers and none of it suggests they’re backing down from anything.
“I like that both have a lot of college experience,” Kerr said. “I think it’s really helpful. Trayce played some 120 college games. It is significant. It just means you are ahead when you get here. This means that you are more advanced than you otherwise would be. The guys of the last two years are doing a good job, they are investing. But they need to catch up to the level an older player is already at.
“We feel like we have a very good competitive squad. And there will be places available. Everyone will get a good jolt to save playing time.”
Of course, everything has to work on the basketball court as well. The Warriors have a unique style of play with Curry, Klay and Draymond, and they’ve done it incredibly well. This is based on ball and player movement, loops, cuts and screens. Nobody dominates the ball. Everyone moves it to the open guy. Which isn’t very similar to anything Paul has run for many years, when he flourished as a ball-dominating pick-and-roll player who isn’t often seen cut and run. move away from the ball to open up spaces for others or to set a catch-and-shoot from distance.
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But the Warriors can make adjustments in game segments. Kerr has done that before, especially in the Kevin Durant years (when the Warriors made up other isolation sets at Durant’s suggestion) and when Livingston was in charge. the second unit during Curry’s rest minutes. Plus, as Kerr pointed out on Friday, it’s not like they’re totally opposed to pick-and-roll basketball. Next season they will have an extra ball handler extremely capable of doing that when Curry is out or being available as an alternate option when Curry is in.
“If you think about the Lakers series and maybe the last game of the Sacramento series, we’ve run high pick-and-rolls about a hundred times over and over and over again,” Kerr said. “Steph is obviously deadly with this. But it also limits what you’re capable of in terms of generating offense elsewhere and that puts a lot of stress on Steph’s shoulders.
“Obviously we’re going to be more able to handle that style if we want to. But also to remove Steph from the ball. One of the most powerful strengths we’ve had on this team is Steph’s versatility to play with or without the ball.
The idea is to give the Warriors another way to challenge the defense. Paul can run his attacking style with the second unit (maybe trigger Jonathan Kuminga’s rim-running game) and then he can eventually close the halves alongside Curry and Klay and let them both sprint around the screens away from the ball as Paul probes and pressures the defence. in his way.
“One of the things Steph said…I thought his most telling quote after the Lakers streak was that we didn’t have enough variety in how we could score,” Kerr said. “And everything was very pick-and-roll with Steph. This whole series. We just couldn’t create enough. When we were at our best, this team had a lot of great passes, a lot of connectors, a lot of guys who figured out how to play with Steph and release him and use his gravity to slide for layups or create shots on the other side of the floor.
“We have to maintain that type of variety in our game somehow. We lost some of that this year. So hopefully we can get some of it back next year. …When we had to have a bucket, we relied on the high pick-and-roll, Steph/Draymond. It’s our best game. It’s our 98 mph fastball. But if you throw it in the middle enough, someone hits it in McCovey Cove. And that’s what happened against the Lakers, we just didn’t have the variety. We didn’t get the change, as Steph said.
As Dunleavy and Kerr point out, the Warriors still have several spots available on the roster, which is exciting for them but also a bit scary as they are currently quite thin on the front line. They’ll be worse off if Draymond doesn’t re-sign in July, but the Warriors expect him back in the fold.
So they just cut a lot of future money with the Poole and Baldwin subtractions. (I’m told the Warriors are now planning something close to $420 million in payroll commitments next season, which is a bit more than was suggested earlier this week, but, of course, things Next season he could drop to $320 million or less, if they want to.) They feel more versatile and tougher with Paul. They have some talented recruits who could earn Kerr’s trust pretty quickly. They are a little leaner. They are much older. They are different. And the Warriors, with a new general manager and mounting pressure to try for one more title in the Curry era, were definitely aiming for different things this offseason.
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The Chris Paul trade is the gonzo move for a Mike Dunleavy Jr title.
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