Warriors Warned to ‘Watch Out’ for East Rival in Star’s Free Agency

Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole (right) of the Warriors

Getty Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole (right) of the Warriors

In the end, if there is anyone who is likely to be chopped out of the mix of the Warriors’ upcoming contract decisions—and there are many decisions ahead—it could be the young one who gets the axe. It’s not the most pleasant thought for a team, coming off the high of an NBA championship, but it’s the reality the Warriors will soon confront.

It’s difficult to imagine Golden State proceeding through the remaining productive years of Stephen Curry’s career without Klay Thompson and Draymond Green on board, after all, and the postseason performance logged by Andrew Wiggins this spring showed that the team really can’t move n from him, either.

Poole, though, is a guy the Warriors can live without, especially as players like Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody develop. And with weighty luxury-tax bills looming as the deadline for an extension for Poole nears (October 18), the hard choice the team must make on whom to keep appears a bit easier—Poole, whose flashes of brilliance are tempered by inconsistency and defensive flaws, is not likely to stick with the Warriors if he wants the contract in the $25 million per year range he seems to warrant.

The Warriors can pass on an extension for Poole if they choose, allowing him to become a restricted free agent next summer. If he gets there, one league executive speculates that we can expect at least one team with cap space to be ready to pounce.

“I’d watch out for the Magic to be ready to make an offer if he’s restricted, knowing there’s a good chance Golden State is not going to match,” one Eastern Conference executive told Heavy Sports.

Magic Would Be an Ideal Fit for Poole

The Magic could have almost $60 million in salary-cap space in the summer of 2023, and will be eager, after two years of rebuilding plus next season, to begin a turnaround in the standings. They are very high on the prospects of big man Paolo Banchero, the No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA draft.

“They’re going to establish something with Paolo in the frontcourt, with his passing. But they’re going to need a top-level perimeter scorer, too. If you put Poole with Paolo and Franz Wagner, it’s an exciting young team,” the exec said.

That might prove to be a good opportunity for Poole, who is 23 and just wrapped up his third season. He could find himself squeezed for minutes between Thompson in his final NBA seasons and Moody, who showed promise during the regular season and playoffs if he stays with the Warriors.

Poole averaged 18.5 points last year, shooting 44.8% from the floor and 36.4% from the 3-point line, but saw his minutes dwindle during the championship run because of his defense. He played 32.9 minutes in the first nine games of the postseason, but only 23.8 minutes in the final 13 games.

Warriors Can’t Shoulder $400 Million Payout

But Poole might not get an extension, because, under NBA base-year compensation rules, it becomes very difficult to trade him until next year.

The Warriors do have the option, under NBA rules, of paying all the major players they have coming up for new deals. But doing so could push the team’s payroll to around $225 million and put the total outlay over $400 million with the luxury tax.

No one expects that the Warriors, who are projected to have the second-highest payroll in the league this year ($194 million) behind the Clippers ($195 million), will pay that much.

“They bring in a lot of money,” the executive said. “They can do things most other teams can’t as far as keeping their talent in place. But even with that there are some limits. They made a choice with (Gary) Payton. They’re going to go through that again here.”

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