No question, the Golden State Warriors were not able to start the season on the right foot. Through their first five games, the Warriors were 2-3, with all three losses coming by 25 points or more.
Golden State began the season behind the proverbial eight ball as All-Star guard Klay Thompson tore his right Achilles on NBA draft day. Even worse, rookie center James Wiseman, who they drafted the day of Thomspon’s injury, plus former Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green both missed training camp after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Those absences forced other Warriors’ reserves into more minutes, which could be one of the reasons for their lackluster play. Others would be the shooting struggles from three of their starters, including two-time MVP Steph Curry, young wing Andrew Wiggins and newly acquired Kelly Oubre Jr., as well as their obviously growing pile of injuries.
Just two weeks ago, backup center Marquese Chriss suffered a broken leg, meaning the Warriors will have to rely even more on 6-foot-9 forward Kevon Looney and undersized forward Eric Paschall, listed at 6-foot-6, to play more minutes at center.
While both contributors have provided valuable backup minutes in prior seasons, it might be a tall task asking them both to guard some of the NBA’s more skilled big men on a nightly basis behind Wiseman. That quandary could bring Warriors general manager Bob Myers to make another decision about signing a free-agent center. On that topic, here are four current free agents, in no particular order, that Golden State should consider.
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1. Jordan Bell
Former Warriors center Jordan Bell is a good fit. The 26-year-old last played for the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2019-20 season and only participated in two games before being waived. This past offseason, he was signed by the Cleveland Cavaliers on a two-year deal before ultimately being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Javale McGee. Bell was later waived by the Lakers in November.
Already having familiarity with the offense, and with Curry and Green from his time as their backup center, Bell could provide a spark on the defensive end while having a regulated role on offense to attack the glass to provide second-chance opportunities. He may only be 6-foot-8, but provides hustle, and an extra body.
2. Tyson Chandler
Journeyman Tyson Chandler last played for the Houston Rockets and traveled with the team to the NBA’s restart in Orlando. Prior to his stint in Houston, Chandler was a Laker, playing minimal minutes as their reserve center. Prior to this, he spent three seasons in Phoenix averaging over 24.5 minutes a game for the Suns. In total, Chandler has played for eight different NBA teams over his 19-year career.
Why is Chandler on this list? Some may look at his extensive NBA resume and see someone who hasn’t fit on a roster in a long time. However, others may see a veteran presence and savvy that a young team like the Warriors could desperately use. With his 7-foot, 235-pound frame, Chandler could easily battle with heftier centers around the league when need be. He also can help the development of Wiseman and the Warriors’ other younger forwards, showing them intricacies that have helped him to last nearly two decades in the league.
Green has already spoken at length, via ESPN’s Nick Friedell, about how Wiseman has been “a sponge” and asking a lot of questions. The same could be assumed if another heady veteran of similar size was brought in to teach Wiseman.
3. Marreese Speights
Speaking of veterans who can contribute and help the development of the Warriors’ younger talent, former NBA champion and leading bench scorer for Golden State, Marreese “Mo Buckets” Speights would be a great addition. Speights is playing in the Chinese Basketball Association for the Guangzhou Loong Lions and would need to find a way out of his contract there to return to the NBA.
While there in the 2018-19 season, the 33-year-old averaged 22.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and shot 35% from the three-point line — the exact same shooting percentage he posted in the NBA. When playing against the Washington Wizards during the 2018 preseason, his offensive prowess was on full display in a dominant, 41-point effort.
Given how much the Warriors have struggled this season shooting the ball, Speights could be a refreshing addition, providing another pick-and-pop partner for Curry or Wiggins as Wiseman continues to develop his perimeter jump shot.
Additionally, teaching the next generation is something that is very much on-brand for Speights. He recently decided to open his own basketball academy to help provide a second opportunity for those who need it. Not only would this be a quality pickup for the Warriors, but also a very uplifting PR story.
4. Larry Sanders
Last and certainly not least, is former Milwaukee Bucks sensation Larry Sanders. Sanders was drafted No. 15 overall by the Bucks in the 2010 NBA Draft. In six seasons, he averaged 6.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 19.5 minutes per game in 238 contests (113 starts).
Sanders’ last stint in the NBA didn’t end well as he was unceremoniously released by the Cavaliers. Their GM David Griffin, now in the same role for the New Orleans Pelicans, was quoted, via The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd, saying Sanders was “much further away [from contributing] than we thought. And by his own admission, he would tell you he was. He knew he was.”
Yet Sanders has grown since then. Last June, Sanders spoke to TMZ Sports and insisted that he has matured and feels that the time is now for him to be able to compete at a high level for an NBA team.
“I think with things shifting a bit, me still young, I feel like I’m in the prime stage, I can definitely contribute,” Sanders said. “I would just love to contribute to a team and help them win and give my knowledge, give my defensive presence and just being able to play basketball and cope with life the way I cope with life. That’s ideal for me. That sounds like heaven.”
Sanders’ 6-foot-11, 235-pound frame is on par with Chandler, minus one inch, though at 32 years old, he is much younger and can impact the team almost immediately. As he stated, he’s willing to provide a defensive presence to any team. That would be monumental for the Warriors, who currently rank in the bottom five in the league in points and rebounds allowed.
Furthermore, this could be looked at as the last possible chance for Sanders to have a shot in the NBA, hopefully motivating him to play at a high level. A similar signing worked out well for the Lakers last season with veteran forward Dwight Howard.
While a championship may not be in the cards in 2021, fielding a competitive roster this season would be the best step forward for the ailing Warriors. Making one of these moves might be the next thing to get them back on track.